What do a pony named Blaze, a sheep named Peep, and a rabbit named Basketball have in common?
They all live safely and contentedly with Keri Wilson, owner of Blazing Saddles Pony Parties and Petting Zoo in Dartmouth, and they are all available for visits to area parties and events.
“I love caring for them,” admits Wilson, who has been an animal enthusiast since childhood. “I love being around them and grooming them. It takes all my stress away.”
Wilson’s menagerie includes horses, ponies, a mini-donkey, a mini-cow, guinea pigs, a chinchilla, goats, sheep, rabbits, chickens, ducks, cats, dogs, and a tortoise. All are rescues, once unwanted and sometimes abused, who might not have survived without her intervention.
Wilson’s deep commitment is clear from the impressive condition of her animals. They live in specially designed and meticulously maintained pens that extend throughout her spacious yard. They also receive regular consultations from a devoted veterinarian.
On any given morning, Pepper the pot-bellied pig can be found rooting around in the grass with gentle grunts. Shelby the tortoise might be gingerly but determinedly traversing the lawn, while Bean the black cat perches on the walkway, surveying her surroundings.
“It’s a lot of work,” Wilson admits, “seven days a week, three hours in the morning and three hours at night.” She and her husband both work full-time jobs, so animal care is part of an already busy schedule.
Wilson’s genuine concern for the happiness and dignity of these creatures is also apparent in their demeanor. They are calm and friendly, and co-exist peacefully with one other.
“All of them have an identity,” claims Alexis, Wilson’s 20-year old daughter, a passionate animal-lover and advocate just like her mother. “That’s what makes our animals so special. They care about everyone they meet, because they are so loved here.”
Wilson started Blazing Saddles three years ago as a way to help defray the significant costs of caring for the animals she was rescuing. She began with pony parties, and her offerings now include petting zoos and nursing home visits.
When a pony party is scheduled, Wilson and Alexis spiff up the animals for the event, braiding their manes and tails. Clients may ask for particular animals as their guests. For example, ponies and bunnies were hired for one recent birthday party.
Blazing Saddles then transports the animals to the requested location. “There needs to be space, but it doesn’t have to be huge,” Alexis explains.
Participants in the celebration, often young children, are always excited when the animals arrive. “They are waiting for us!” Alexis smiles. “They are peeking inside the trailer.”
Blazing Saddles sets up a pen for the animals, and the children can then step inside and pet them. “They like to sit on the mat with the animals and feed them,” Alexis says.
All ages can climb into the saddle, one at a time, and a pony-drawn cart is also available to give rides.
Once in a while, the animals are even hired for unexpected jobs, such as an acting gig! Wilson’s goats recently took part in a school play in Newton, when the students were putting on a production of Shakespeare. After attending a series of rehearsals, the goats took their places on stage along with the speaking actors, much to the delight of the audience.
Wilson also takes her animals to area nursing homes, including the Sarah Brayton Nursing Center in Fall River. Here residents seem to be deeply affected by their mammal visitors.
“They cry, they sing to us,” Wilson says of the residents’ reactions. “They remember their childhoods. They remember the animals they had in the past.”
These visits can even trigger breakthroughs among the elderly. “It can incite them to speak,” Wilson reveals. A nurse recently informed Wilson that one of her usually silent patients began to talk again after his contact with Wilson’s animals. “She told me, ‘I’ve never heard him speak before.’”
Wilson also holds summer camps for the town of Seekonk, where kids in kindergarten to fifth grade can meet and pet the animals and learn about their care.
Inspired by the enthusiastic response she has received so far, Wilson plans to expand Blazing Saddles’ calendar in the future. She hopes to organize programs that would involve her animals in paint nights, yoga classes, children reading aloud, and LGBTX outreach.
She is now initiating a program that she calls Buns on A Mission, which would place rabbits as permanent pets in nursing homes. This way, residents could bond with them on a regular basis, with Wilson instructing the staff in proper care techniques.
“A big part of what we do is connecting our community through the animals,” explains Alexis. “We get to show them how to care for and use the animals to de-stress. It’s the most rewarding work we have ever done.”
For more information about Blazing Saddles Pony Parties and Petting Zoo, call 617.838.8045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Details are also available at their website, BlazingSaddlesPonyParties.com, and on their Facebook page.