Through the parking lot of Fairview Assisted Living in Spokane, the calming cadence of a horse’s trot echoes off the building and into the hearts of the residents. The horses are part of the Spokane C.O.P.S Mounted Patrol, and at the reigns, you’ll find Traci Ponto.
“Horses are therapy animals. There’s something about the smell of a horse’s neck that puts you at ease,” said Traci, President of the C.O.P.S. Mounted Patrol.
The mounted patrol has been part of the Spokane Police Department off and on over the years. But, in 2018, Spokane C.O.P.S, a non-profit dedicated to improving neighborhoods and reducing crime, re-started the program now run by volunteers. Typically, you can find the horses in several parks over the warmer months, but with COVID, Traci knew they could do more.
“With COVID, things just look different. We had the idea to take the horses to retirement and assisted living homes because they weren't able to see their families,” said Traci.
Last year, the mounted patrol visited four assisted living facilities.
“We hosted a mini-parade, took our horses and walked a perimeter of assisted living houses, and got to talk to residents thorough open windows. It was fantastic; they were so excited, so amazing,” said Traci.
As Traci will tell you, the horses bring up all sorts of good memories for the residents. They will often recall childhood stories and share them with the mounted patrol volunteers.
“They smile, and for some who are non-verbal, their hands start shaking and fluttering. We usually bring trading cards; you see the excitement. It’s beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” said Traci.
At Fairview, residents enjoyed the beauty of the magnificent horses and, for a moment, found comfort in their heart-warming eyes.
“It’s almost like words can’t describe it. You’ve known when you’ve done the right thing. Bringing horses to our community is the right thing to do. At the assisted living, just knowing it brightens their day. It just really impacts our volunteers; they get choked up. You know you’re doing the right thing,” said Traci.