Animals raise spirits at Laguna Honda Hospital

Dan Ashley Image
Thursday, January 26, 2017
Animals raise spirits at Laguna Honda Hospital
Animals star in residential therapy at Laguna Honda Hospital, creating happiness and helping patients along the way.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It's feeding time at a farm that just happens to sit square in the middle of San Francisco. And the hungry goats and famished sheep are part of a menagerie started nearly 40 years ago, when someone donated two ducks to the Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center.

A nursing director approved a small temporary shelter, which grew like a kind of urban Noah's Ark.

"Goats, sheep, ducks, geese, rabbits and guinea pigs chickens and cats," says activity therapist Henry Cortez.

There are 32 animals in all. The site, near Mt. Sutro actually began as a farm before the gold rush and was eventually turned into a home for the poor, where residents helped grow their own food. Now history has come full circle, with the animals serving a different purpose.

"The fun part is just watching them interact with the residents," says Cortez.

Once inside the hospital, the animals are the stars of a residential therapy program. Patients, limited in their ability to move and communicate can often connect on a different level with their calming companions, according to activity therapy supervisor Cho Tai.

"For a lot of our patients who aren't able to talk a lot With the animals we're able to help them feel normalized again," says Tai.

And he says, help relieve the stress of a hospital environment for visiting families. Arlisa Rayford looks forward to seeing her granddaughters.

"Yes, It's fun to have the animals and the kids to see," says Rayford.

Some of the animals are donated or rescued, while others are purchased for the program. Donations also help maintain the site, with its greenhouse and vegetable gardens.

All supporting a unique kind of farm, designed to grow happiness.

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Written and produced by Tim Didion.