TAMPA, FL – There are few things that can bring a smile to the faces of hospitalized children faster than a couple of miniature pot-bellied pigs wearing birthday party hats.
Or so it seemed on Friday, March 2 when Tampa General Hospital’s first therapy pigs paid a visit to the hospital so patients could help them celebrate their first birthday.
While the patients and staff pigged out on porcine-decorated cupcakes, therapy pigs Thunder and Bolt relished the abundant supply of back scratches and belly rubs from those gathered to greet them in the hospital’s rose garden.
The piglet brothers were born on March 2 of last year and adopted by Heather and Bennett Barrow of South Tampa and their children, 11-year-old daughter, Claire, and 9-year-old son, Hill.
It was Claire who proposed getting the little pigs certified to be therapy pigs for hospitals and nursing homes.
Although she was just a toddler at the time, Claire clearly recalled the therapy dog that visited the hospital when her mother was hospitalized prior to the birth of Claire’s brother.
The therapy dog would visit Heather Barrow’s floor on Wednesdays so Bennett Barrow made a point of bringing his daughter to visit her mom on those days.
Claire said it gave her something to look forward to and made the visits to the hospital less frightening. Now, years later, she hopes her friendly pigs will help make the hospital a little less frightening for other children. She took charge of socializing and training Thunder and Bolt so they could meet all the requirements to become certified therapy pigs.
Thunder and Bolt were an instant hit during their first trip to Tampa General Hospital in December. Now the two pigs have an open invitation to visit the hospital.
When they aren’t visiting hospitals and nursing homes, the pigs enjoy a leisurely life eating, sleeping, swimming and lounging by the pool. They also enjoy dressing up for photo and video sessions for their Facebookand Instagram pages where their antics are followed by more than 45,000 fans.
Images via the Barrow family