By KATHRYN DANIEL, WEAR
PENSACOLA, Fla. (WEAR) - Therapy dogs and horses are quite common, but how often do you hear about therapy pigs? A retired first responder has moved to the Pensacola area and is training a whole herd of special hogs to help local military veterans.
As Floridians in the region are out and about this spring, they may run into "The Pig Lady."
Kay Gabriel smiled, "I plan on being everywhere. If I can go to the dog park, I'll be at the dog park. Down the beach, I'll go to a festival in Pensacola."
Why will she be so visible? Gabriel explained it's to help further socialize her swine and to spread the word that she is training them to help local veterans deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Thirty years ago, the retired paramedic rescued potbellied pigs. Gabriel noticed that they calmed her and were a preventative measure against the pressure of her job as a first responder.
She elaborated, "I was able to work through it and with the help of my pigs, I worked through it. And I noticed other people having problems."
Gabriel says all pigs are smart, but the Kune Kunes are an especially brilliant breed. They're native to New Zealand.
"A Kune will sit there like, 'OK, what can I do to make it better?' They think, 'Why is this person doing it?' They don't get absorbed in being afraid, too," she elaborated.
Gabriel said comfort pigs learn faster and live longer than dogs and adds that they are also cognitive thinkers.
She said, "These pigs will actually analyze what's going on and they'll know if there is a danger, too."
Ted Brown is Gabriel's' realtor-turned-friend and is now therapy pig supporter.
Brown said, "San Francisco Airport has been using pigs to calm passengers, apparently it's worked marvels."
Brown is a veteran and knows combat vets who could benefit from a working with the Kune therapy pigs. Gabriel is reaching out to local therapists and groups to bring her herd in for sessions.
She explained, "He's gonna be a physical therapy pig for veterans who've lost their limbs and learning to walk."
Through months of work and bonding, the Kune Kune therapy pigs have learned to find calm in chaos and are obedience- and house-trained.
"If someone is homebound and they need it, we can take 'em there, we can put a pig on lend," Gabriel smiled. She hopes that's just what local doctors order.
To learn more, visit Gabriel's Facebook page, Kadoosis Military Veteran Therapy Pigs.