Elderly residents at a specialist dementia care home in Bridgwater, Somerset, couldn’t believe their eyes when two reindeer came trotting into their communal lounge yesterday afternoon.
With the bells on their harnesses jingling in traditional Christmas style, reindeer Winter and Comet were taken around to meet the delighted individuals who live at Avalon Nursing Home by professional reindeer herder Sarah Sutton.
While Comet is silver and super-fluffy, Winter’s coat is pure white. Only one in ten thousand reindeer are born white, and they are considered to be lucky charms in their native Scandinavia.
Everyone at Avalon had the opportunity to meet one of the reindeer, and some were thrilled to have them nuzzle into their hands to take specially provided reindeer snacks.
Many of the residents also enjoyed a cuddle with one of the fluffy Samoyed ‘snow-dogs’ who normally live at the reindeer ranch, and love to be petted by the public.
Avalon resident Clarice Dodden said: “I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would see a reindeer in real life, and so close! It was magical.”
Sarah Sutton, who is a member of the British Reindeer Herders Association and qualified in reindeer husbandry, said: “I really feel we spread some Christmas joy today – the residents were so thrilled to meet Winter and Comet.”
Animals from Sarah’s Somerset Reindeer Ranch are mostly second generation calves born in the UK. They are regularly taken by Sarah to visit schools and nursing homes, or participate in street fairs and events run by the local council.
Both Winter and Comet are old hands when it comes to spreading Christmas spirit, and are very gentle beasts.
Other pre-Christmas outings by the reindeer have included Yeovil’s Christmas Fair and Glastonbury Abbey, and the ranch in Chilthorne Domer also runs ‘Meet Santa’ days.
Avalon’s activities co-ordinator, Lisa Priddice, said: “It was wonderful to see how happy our residents were to encounter the reindeer. None of them had ever met or stroked a reindeer before and they were really captivated by the lovely gentle beasts that Sarah brought in.”