UC Davis undergraduate, 4th year
Major: Wildlife, Fish, and Conservation Biology
Claire and Romeo venturing out into the world!
The beginning of this week consisted of harness training in the stall, some crate training, and a whole bunch of belly scratches. When I was finally able to work with others at the ranch after quarantine, Claire and I began to take the piggies out into the great big world beyond their horse stall! The pigs were definitely wary upon exiting the stall: the horses across the way were much larger than any human they'd ever come into contact with, and the smells and sounds were more intense outside their small bubble. Despite this initial shock, they adjusted quite well, and even seemed to enjoy it! Jelly Bean and Romeo charged their way along the perimeter of the ranch in their harnesses, rarely stopping to smell the flowers. Romeo was more sensitive to different surfaces, while Care Bear seemed to be a bit more timid, taking her time to sniff and inspect new things and occasionally getting scared by too-tall grass.
A content Care Bear (left) and Jelly Bean (right) relaxing for some mandatory belly scratches
It was eye-opening to watch the pigs in the open world and realize how small they are compared to everything else, but also to realize how much of an impact such a small creature can have on a person's mental and physical wellbeing. While being gone with covid for a week I truly reflected on this dynamic, and returning to the ranch made me realize how much the pigs affect my own mental health. They bring such joyous, silly energy into my week and being away from them was extremely difficult. I had felt detached from the project and from their progress, but upon my return I swelled with pride at how far they've come and crumbled at their cuteness. All of my worries about falling behind disappeared when I observed the determination and resilience of the piglets while out on their walks. These past two weeks have taught me so much about this lab's mission and have opened my eyes to the healing powers of animal-assisted therapy. I can say with certainty that these pigs have the ability to help people, whether it is with anxiety, patience, or a little spirit-lifter after a week of isolation.
Our next challenge will be to socialize the pigs more often with people they are unfamiliar with, both inside the stall and out on our walks. For now, we will continue to introduce the pigs to the world around them and acclimate them to their new environment! See you next week!
Green Care Blog
Here you can find blog posts from each Green Care Lab intern. We'll be talking about our research process, the benefits of Green Care therapy, and sharing pictures of our work. Follow along with us!