As we continue to live with the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health is discussed more openly, and that’s a good thing for countless people who continue to struggle. Of course, the pandemic is not the only health crisis that inflicts a toll on mental health. Other diseases and conditions greatly affect one’s ability to cope and find joy.

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In Calais, France, a former dressage horse and his owner are bringing comfort to adults and children who are being treated for cancer, some in palliative care. Peyo, a chestnut stallion, appears to have an understanding of human suffering. In a stunning editorial photo spread in The Guardian  the beautiful horse, his mane and forelock braided, is seen lowering his neck so that patients can stroke his face. In other photos, children sit on his back outside treatment rooms. The horse stands quietly in hospital corridors as if he is, like his nickname given to him by the doctors on staff, “Doctor Peyo.” There are even reports that Peyo’s comforting presence is so calming and reassuring that those suffering pain need less medication.

According to Peyo’s owner, Hassen Bouchakour, the stallion was always searching for human contact after competing. He tells The Guardian, “After shows, he would pick out people in the crowd, approach them and choose to stay next to them.” He continues to explain how he suspected that his horse was able to select people in the crowd who were “weakened morally, physically or psychologically.”

Bouchakour consulted veterinarians who concluded that Peyo’s brain seems to function in an extraordinary way. The photogenic Peyo is certainly extraordinary.

Bonita brightening lives at a long-term care home.

Closer to home in Port Dover, Ontario, the Welsh pony, Bonita, gave some cheer to seniors at a long-term care home this past Valentine’s Day. Owner Colleen Lindsay-Druyff shipped 16-year-old Bonita, to the home to pay an outside visit to lonely residents who remained inside.

Also known as “Boni”, the mare wore a red and black plaid winter blanket as well as Valentine’s Day embellishments on her halter, around her neck and pasterns. Her humans handlers wore red and white hats to keep with the theme. Residents waved, and some tapped on the glass to request the pony be led further back for a better view.

A member of the long-term care home’s staff thanked them for the visit. For Lindsay-Druyff, “it was a gift of love,” she told the local paper, the Maple Leaf. She had also shipped Bonita to another LTC in Brantford earlier in the week, where her own mother lives.