Akron Children's Hospital is mourning Petie the Pony, a 3-foot-3-inch tall Shetland pony, who passed away after spending the past 20 years visiting the health system's pediatric patients.
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According to Sue Miller—one of Petie's handlers and the co-owner of Victory Gallop, a therapeutic horse farm—the farm is seeking out another horse to succeed Petie. "I think Petie would be really disappointed in all of us if we didn't carry on his legacy," she said. "We have to carry that on."
How Petie came to Akron Children's
Around 21 years ago, Miller got the go-ahead from Akron Children's to bring in Petie for patient visits, provided Petie became a certified member of Akron's Doggie Brigade (a visiting program, mostly for dogs) and started at an outpatient facility before visiting patients at the hospital.
Once approved, Petie got two baths before each visit—at least one of which was with surgical soap—and a spritz of Listerine. His tail and hooves would then be scrubbed and wrapped to ensure they were clean until he entered the hospital.
According to Akron Children's, Petie was wildly popular in the hospital, with stuffed animals made in his likeness and fans—both patients and staff—frequently stopping him in the hallways. And Petie also made much-appreciated appearances at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland.
A 'hoof print on so many hearts'
Unfortunately, after roughly 20 years of helping patients, Petie had to retire from his visits in August. He had been diagnosed with cancer, and his owners had decided he wasn't quite up to his usual responsibilities. "He was just walking a little funny and being a little more depressed in personality, which wasn't like him," Miller said.
Petie's condition deteriorated until he was no longer well enough to get up in the morning, and earlier this week he was euthanized, the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Petie was nearly 30 years old, the equivalent to at least 75 years old in human years.
Petie's death was announced on both Akron Children's Facebook page and on Victory Gallop's, with many people talking about the profound impact Petie had on patients at Akron Children's and how they will miss him.
RIP Petie... You were a legend at @akronchildrens -- Making incredible positive impacts to so many patients. Your legacy will last forever. pic.twitter.com/3miWqJRvFa
— Randy Thomas (@ACHRecruiter) September 19, 2017
"Petie brought tremendous joy to our staff, patients, and families for the past 20 years," Vicki Parisi, director of volunteer and visitor services at Akron Children's, said. "It was a privilege to have him here."
Miller added, "We feel we were so blessed to be part of his life," adding, "It was an honor to be part of his world. He touched people the way we never could." In the Victory Gallop Facebook posting, Petie's owners added, "He always made a difference with his kindness and patience. He left his hoof print on so many hearts."
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, Victory Gallop is hosting a memorial service for Petie on Oct. 1, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Everyone is welcome to come and share their memories, Miller said (Lin-Fisher, Akron Beacon-Journal, 9/19; WKYC, 9/19; Schueler, Inside Akron Children's Hospital, 6/26/14).
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