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Guelph woman will get to keep Odin, her backyard therapy horse (2 photos)

Amy Lalonde, who suffers from PTSD, had been fighting for a year for the right to keep a therapy horse within city limits

Odin can stay.

After a year-long battle to win the right to keep a therapy horse in the backyard of her city home, Amy Lalone has been given the all clear by the City of Guelph.

“Best Valentine’s Day present ever,” said Lalonde, who got the news Feb. 14 via a message from the City of Guelph left on the answering machine at the Memorial Crescent home she shares with her husband and daughter.

“I cried. I just bawled my eyes out. My daughter just kept patting me on the shoulder,” Lalonde said.

“It’s just so nice to not have that hanging over my shoulder any more. There was always that thought that they could change their minds.”

Lalonde suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, the result of childhood abuse.

Lethargy, anxiety, depression and panic attacks were all regular part of her life for the past couple of years. Then along came Odin.

Lalonde credits the two-year-old Shetland pony/mini horse cross with her remarkable turnaround, one that has allowed her to return to work, live a more normal life and hopefully return to school in the future.

For her it serves the same purpose that service dogs do for many others suffering from PTSD.

“The idea of therapy animals being any animal is so new to people. People just don’t have an understanding of it,” Lalonde said. “They can do so much good, and horses live for 30 years.”

There had been some opposition in the neighbourhood, but Lalonde has been visited by bylaw officials and Guelph Humane Society officials to make sure the horse was healthy and properly provided for.

David Wiedrick, the city’s manager of bylaw compliance, security and licensing, confirmed the city has okayed Lalonde to keep the horse.

“Yes the case is closed,” Wiedrick said via email.

“After almost nine months of investigation and information from a number of professionals, staff have determined that the horse is a service animal and there are no other concerns,” Wiedrick said.

Lalonde would like to return to university to study psychology and become a therapist helping others through therapy animals.

She has already trained Odin to do a number of things and continues to work on others.

She already has other people visiting who are benefiting from Odin’s role, she says.

“I want to help other people with this,” she said. “It’s not rocket science.”

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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 30 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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