HAZLE TWP. — Just amble over to the corral and — even if you’re a stranger — Lakota, Cyprus and the other horses at Country Heart Farm will meet you at the fence, curious and content to have their muzzles stroked.
What’s all that scampering going on in the neighboring pen? Oh, Douglas the goat wants some attention too.
“He’s showing off,” Patricia Hudson said, laughing at the nimble creature as he showed off, jumping onto the back of his more placid pen mate, a pig named (Edgar Allen) Poe.
If this menagerie, living in a borrowed barn off Stockton Mountain Road, sounds like a large group of siblings, well, that’s how Hudson feels about them.
“I consider them family,” said Hudson, a nurse practitioner from Hazleton with a strong affection for animals.
She also considers them part of her team — a team that offers all sorts of help to many human beings.
“We have people come as individuals or groups,” Hudson said, explaining that children or adults who have suffered a trauma may find a kind of healing from bonding with an animal.
People in recovery, empty-nesters, couples who are going through couples counseling, and children who are having trouble learning to read are among the groups who have found comfort spending time with the animals of Country Heart Farm, which Hudson formed as a non-profit in 2016.
“They’ve had some kind of life wound,” she said, indicating that’s true of not only the clients but the animals, some of them rescues she adopted from shelters.
Anger management, grief therapy and bullying prevention are among the educational and therapeutic programs Country Heart offers, Hudson said, adding there are opportunities for Scouts to earn badge requirements at the farm and for second- through fifth-graders to have a day camp experience “outdoors and unplugged.”
Hudson’s friend John McGran said he is impressed by the way Hudson devotes her evenings and weekends to the farm in addition to working full time at her family practice in Hazleton and teaching at Misericordia University, where she is an adjunct faculty member.
“I am just blown away,” said McGran, who believes spending time with Country Heart’s animals has helped him lower his blood pressure and lose weight.
McGran is also impressed that Hudson worked her way from candy striper to nurses aide to nurse practitioner with a Ph.D. and that she doesn’t allow health problems to slow her down. She was diagnosed with heart failure in 2015 as the result of an infection contracted from a young patient but she just presses on, with help from a little cardiac-alert dog named Frank.
“He’ll start spinning around like crazy” if he senses a cardiac problem, Hudson said of the dog.
The seeds of the farm were planted years ago, Hudson said, when she found it was helpful for her son, Brandon, who is on the autism spectrum, to spend time with animals.
More recently, another of her five sons, Justin, who has been in recovery from addiction for a year and two months, has found it beneficial to spend time grooming and bonding with the horses.
“Some of them are really energetic, and maybe you want one that is more calm and peaceful,” Justin said, stroking Cyprus’ mane. “When you find one with the right personality, you kind of click.”
While the farm raises money through pony parties and other events, it has a long wish list ranging from funds needed to help with construction of a new barn to such day-to-day needs as horse feed and flea spray. For information about helping, check out the farm’s website at countryheartfarm.org.
“This is a work in progress,” Hudson said of the farm. “A labor of love.”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.