These pigs, seen here busily devouring carrots, have a very important job.
They provide Alzheimer's patients in Colorado with love, affection, and an ample dose of surprise.
Back in May 2015, USA Today spoke with the pigs' owner, Erin Brinkley-Burgardt, who brings them to Highline Place in Littleton, Colorado, to work with the seniors there. The memory care facility has kept up the program, its activities organizer told Welcometoterranova, with Sunday piggie visits planned at least through September.
According to Brinkley-Burgardt, many residents are skeptical of the animals at first (having a pig in your house is ... unusual, to say the least), but that skepticism very rapidly devolves (evolves?) into a total love-fest. USA Today explains:
"Boris and Pumba make their way around the halls of Highline Place in a little green wagon. Brinkley-Burgardt says the residents are always a little shocked when they first arrive, but warm up to the pigs quickly.
'It just takes the first person to warm up—then everyone else is like 'oh ok! I'll try it!' said Brinkley-Burgardt."
Because of the nature of Alzheimer's disease, the pigs are a constant, delightful surprise. As Brinkley-Burgardt says in the article, "The residents won't always remember the pigs — so it's really like a new experience every week — and it's a different experience every week — which is great!"
Therapy animals can be a godsend for patients suffering from all kinds of dementia — including Alzheimer's.
Some studies have shown that having an animal around can significantly decrease anxiety in people with older dementia patients and even help them regain the desire to socialize.
Usually these animals are dogs or sometimes bunnies. Therapy pigs are not quite as common.
Not yet, anyway.
But after watching video of Brinkley-Burgardt's pigs charm the pants off the Highline Place residents, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that perhaps they should be:
When reached for comment, Highline Place told Welcometoterranova that they are, unfortunately, discontinuing the program because the pigs have gotten too big and Brinkley-Burgardt is moving out of state soon, but Boris and Pumba will continue their weekly visits through the end of August 2015.
But, if you know anyone in the Littleton, CO area with a pair of adorable piglets looking for work...maybe give Highline Place a call?