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Photos: Visiting animals spark joy for assisted living residents

A resident at Mountain Plaza Assisted Living pets a horse after a Glenrock family brought their animals to the home on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. It was one of the first time some of the residents had seen outside visitors since the facility was locked down in early March to prevent the spread of coronavirus. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

CASPER, Wyo. – The residents of Mountain Plaza Assisted Living were clearly thrilled at the sight of a chicken, mini-mule, a big horse and a dog on Wednesday afternoon.

Usually it’s the chicken, HeiHei, who gets the most reaction during recent visits to other retirement homes, but today it was Zip, the energetic and loving family dog.

The animals belong to Cathy and Dan Holman, who with their five kids and multiple animals live on several acres in Glenrock.

Cathy is likely better known as the Prairie Wife In Heels, who runs a popular blog and hosts a morning show on MyCountry radio.

These days she’s doing her show from her makeshift kitchen studio as she and her family quarantine.

But it was the prospect of giving happiness to other people in quarantine during the COVID-19 era that brought her family and several animals to Casper.

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City)

She said her friend Mindy Marohn reached out to her about the idea of bringing the animals to show residents of Garden Square Assisted Living the animals through the windows a couple of weeks back. Marohn’s late mother had been a resident there.

Cathy was deeply moved by the experience.

“There were tears on both sides of the windows multiple times the first time we went,” she said. “We also saw a lot of emotion with our ‘Wyoming Strong’ sign we brought.”

Mountain Plaza Assisted Living Administrator Kenyne Humphrey said the experience helps moral and mood among the residents, who’ve been on lockdown in the facility since March 3.

“They need the fresh air, the sunlight…they need out of the building,” said Humphrey.

Humphrey saw Cathy’s blog on her other assisted living visits, and thought it was a wonderful idea. Then she got a call.

“They reached out to us,” she said. “This is a beautiful opportunity, there was no way we could turn this down.”

Staff carefully moved the residents to the front of the building. Everyone wore masks and hand sanitizer was applied almost obsessively during the visit.

“It offered the perfect opportunity to give them some joy and do it safely,” she said.

It was a rare diversion from weeks of quarantine, which has been difficult for the residents and their families. She says families often visit through windows and electronic media to stay connected.

“It’s still not the same as being together,” she said.

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.