The love for dementia residents at the Intermissions Program at Wind Crest in Highlands Ranch, CO, isn’t ham-handed. Residents are delighted when two pot-bellied pigs, Boris and Pumba, visit and provide affection.

Chelsea Beck, who oversees the Intermissions Program, started following high school classmate Erin Brinkley-Burgardt’s pig photos on Instagram and then invited her to visit. 

Beck notes how often the disease can cause isolation, and the pigs provide a fun way to try something different. 

“The cool thing about the pigs is that it’s a new experience,” she says.

Brinkley-Burgardt, the founder of the non-profit organization Hog Haven Farm, notes the pigs, which are very smart, are also “incredibly affectionate animals.” They particularly love tummy scratches.

Boris, who is a year old and under 50 pounds, and Pumba, who is 9 months old and 40 pounds, are reminders of how dementia residents can still experience joy, Beck says. Recently she said to one resident, “I’m going to tell your wife you want a pig.” The resident, who speaks very little, responded with, “I don’t want a pig; I want two.” 

“The relationship between a resident with dementia and an animal is kind of the most basic of love,” Beck explains. “When the pigs are on campus, the executive team comes down. Everyone loves to see the pigs.”