Albert spreads festive cheer
Little pony puts smiles on faces during visits
A pint-sized pony brought Christmas joy to sick children and care home residents across the area.
Albert, the knee-high Shetland pony, has been visiting elderly people in nursing homes and children with disabilities to spread some festive cheer.
The idea came when his owner Nikki Scott, a former animal welfare specialist, decided she wanted to give something back to the community.
“I think in some ways Christmas can be quite a selfish time,” Nikki told the Lennox Herald.
“We can forget that this time of year can be challenging for many people. I also have a degenerative spinal problem so I want to do as much as I can while I can.
“Taking Albert around and seeing the smiles on people’s faces has been great.”
Nikki, who lives in Renton, previously hosted pony parties at Children’s Hospices Across Scotland’s Robin House in Balloch and decided to give others a visit from Albert.
She said: “We’ve visited care homes, elderly people, after-school clubs and gone to some houses. We visited one boy who can’t come outside as he has cerebral palsy.
“I was worried how Albert would react but he was great and to see a big smile on the little boy’s face was all worth it. We also visited Lochside Nursing Home in Helensburgh and, without being prompted, Albert just went around and rested his chin on everyone’s knee. He is just brilliant with people.”
Eight-year-old Aaron Hunter from Alexandria, who has rare condition ROHHAD, also had a “magical” visit from Albert.
Aaron’s mum Lisa Hunter said the visit brought tears to her eyes.
She said: “Aaron adores animals and loves playing with them, but we do not often get the chance to take him out to see them. He was talking about it for days afterwards.”
Aaron’s friend Luca Pucella, aged 11, died in November from the same condition he has and Lisa says Albert has helped to raise Aaron’s spirits.
“It made him smile for a few days when before that he was really down” she added.
“Nikki wasn’t in a hurry to leave and said she would stay as long as Aaron needed. What she is doing is beautiful and she said Aaron can see Albert again.”
Albert has Type 2 Dwarfism meaning he is smaller than the average Shetland pony height of around 35 inches.
Due to his small size at just 28 inches, he suffered stomach problems and underwent a major operation last year.
Nikki said: “He is like a new pony. He loves people and is great at interacting with them. It’s almost like he has decided this is his new job now.”
Albert has become a hit with everyone he meets and Nikki plans to keep the visits up.