A 14-year-old stallion, Peyo, watches over patients at the palliative care unit at Le Centre Hospitalier de Calais. It’s no secret that horses sense human emotions and provide comfort, but we don’t know one in the world capable of detecting vulnerable people and showing empathy as regularly as he does, visiting the bedsides of patients in French hospitals undergoing experimental procedures.
Peyo is surprising. He decides when he wants to go inside the hospital – and whom he will see. At some point, without any explanation, he selects the patient he will comfort and bond with. Peyo has the gift of calming patients, sometimes succeeding when drugs fail. He provides additional support to the extraordinary work of caregivers. His presence brings serenity, smiles in terrible moments and a supplement of humanity.
This is the story of Peyo and Raymond, a survivor of 14 years of cancer treatments. Raymond had battled fiercely with the support of his wife Veronique when Peyo chose him and his journey toward the end of life. Raymond hadn’t been an equestrian or had any particular fondness of or closeness to horses prior to meeting Peyo. The two first bonded a few days before Salon du Cheval, which took Peyo away for ten days. Upon Peyo’s return to Calais, he had not forgotten Raymond; instead, he returned almost immediately to room 101 to visit his friend.
Peyo prefers to comfort patients one-on-one – everyone else must leave the room. He puts his head near Raymond’s face, watching over the lines and wrinkles wrought by the years, until a gentle peacefulness washed over Raymond.
In the end, Raymond wanted to go home to close his eyes one final time there. Peyo was there to say goodbye, following the stretcher down the corridor to the ambulance in one last act of love. As the ambulance doors closed and it pulled away from the hospital, Peyo turned around and returned to Room 101 – empty. He did not understand. Peyo went back to the parking lot where the ambulance had been parked. It, too, was empty. In one final effort, Peyo returned to empty Room 101.
Raymond passed away a few days later in the afternoon, but not before Hassen Bouchakour, Peyo’s trainer, made one last house call with Peyo to Raymond’s and Veronique’s home. Peyo made his way delicately into Raymond’s room, and later the two of them went on Raymond’s last walk in the garden. Raymond couldn’t stop smiling while Peyo was by his side, making his last hours on Earth more pleasant than painful.
At Le Centre Hospitalier de Calais, physicians and caregivers know that where palliative care ends and there’s nothing left to do for their patients, Peyo will be there to walk them to the finish line.
Story from La Cavaliere Masquee, adapted for use in Polo Lifestyles by Josh Jakobitz