County Fare: Martha Stewart magazine recognizes local therapy donkey


Billy Boy, a 25-year old Greek donkey from Blue Rider Stables in South Egremont, is featured in the January/February issue of Martha Stewart's Whole Living, a wellness magazine.

Billy Boy, a model therapy animal, is described as the country's first equine to earn Pet Partner status. Pet Partners are registered teams credentialed by Delta Society to provide animal assisted therapy to children and adults. Billy Boy and his Pet Partner, Robin Parow of Spencertown, N.Y., visited Berkshire County facilities including Berkshire Meadows, Fairview Commons and Great Barrington Rehabilitation and Nursing Centers.

The article, "Animal Magnetism," was written by Elizabeth Hess of Chatham, N.Y.

Hess, an animal advocate, accompanied Parow and Billy Boy to a Great Barrington nursing facility, and in this article recounts the duo's visit, during which Billy "worked the room," interacting with patients in wheelchairs and at bedsides.

Hess describes Billy Boy's extraordinary personality and trainability as an ideal combination for therapy work, something he has done for more than 20 years at Blue Rider Stables. The article also describes the work of other therapy animals including a Vietnamese pot bellied pig, bactrian camels, a pit bull, and a chicken.

"Billy was rescued at auction as a 5-year-old," said Christine Sierau, Blue Rider Stables' head riding instructor and executive director. "In his career at Blue Rider, he has provided opportunities for animal assisted therapy to countless students who have come to love and trust him here at the barn and on visits to facilities throughout Berkshire County."

Billy Boy has also been featured on Animal Planet with Parow for his therapy work in nursing facilities.

Founded in 1991, Blue Rider Stables is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating positive opportunities through holistic horseback riding.


Another Eagle alum makes good -- in this case, former City Editor Bill Bell, a Lenox resident who retired 20 years ago and turned to writing poetry as his second "career."

Bell, 85, won the sought-after Richard Wilbur prize from the University of Evansville (Indiana) last year. Wilbur, of course, is well known as a Berkshire poet who was awarded the National Medal of Arts from President Clinton in 1994. Now 91, Wilbur had previously won two Pulitzer Prizes for poetry (in 1957 and 1989) and was named poet laureate consultant to the Library of Congress in 1987. The Cummington resident is an Amherst College lecturer.

Bell, a valued customer at The Bookstore in Lenox -- "one of the people who have helped make the store the kind of place it's become," says 37-year owner Matt Tannenbaum -- will read from his poetry collection, "Picnic in the Rain," and sign copies from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

According to another Lenox poet and playwright, Franny Hall, Bell's poems "make us recall experiences in our own past, long forgotten but suddenly remembered and shared. His early poems are so delightfully young in their hopes and frustrations, and his later ones so movingly felt, that they tease us into memories of life's challenges."

"I am extremely proud to host a reading for this 85-year-old first-time author," Tannenbaum said. "It isn't often in literary history that a living poet's first book is also a volume of ‘collected poems' but such is the case with this volume."


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