Al­bert spreads fes­tive cheer

Lit­tle pony puts smiles on faces dur­ing vis­its

Lennox Herald - - NEWS - Tara Fitz­patrick

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.

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