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Posted January 3, 2009 | comments Leave a comment

Rappahannock family visits residents of Lynn Care to offer solace with lambs

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Eunice Ritenour, 90, holds a therapy lamb inside her room at Lynn Care in Front Royal on Friday. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Eunice Ritenour enjoys a visit from the lamb. Rich Cooley/Daily

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Austin and Tyler Burdick carry a pair of 3-week-old lambs down the hallway inside Lynn Care in Front Royal on Friday. The twin boys and their mother, Jane, who is a part-time dietician there, visited with residents for an hour to share the pair of therapy lambs. Rich Cooley/Daily

By M.K. Luther -- Daily Staff Writer

FRONT ROYAL -- Austin and Tyler Burdick were inspired by the solace of the lambs.

Several years ago, the teens watched their grandmother battle the dark days of cancer by visiting with the lambs on the family's Flint Hill farm.

"The boys were 8 or 9 years old at the time," their mother, Jane Burdick said. "It really left an impression on them."

So now the 17-year-old identical twin brothers make the trip from Sky View Farm in Rappahannock County to Lynn Care, an assisted-living facility in Front Royal, allowing residents to partake of the same comfort for a few moments.

Lynn Care is a division of Warren Memorial Hospital providing long-term care, dementia and rehabilitative services. The facility tries to ensure residents an at-home atmosphere, and is an animal-friendly facility.

Burdick works part time as a dietitian at Lynn Care. Austin and Tyler, who are homeschooled, have been making the visits to Lynn Care for the past three years.

The Burdicks have raised sheep for close to 20 years, keeping a flock of Katahdin, or hair, sheep. Their flocks have ranged anywhere from 50 to 200 sheep at a time.

A litter of sheep consists of two or four lambs, and Austin and Tyler will "borrow" one male and one female from their mother for the Lynn Care visits.

On many occasions, the twins bring recently orphaned lambs, about 3 weeks old, to Lynn Care. After the orphans have been bottle-fed on the farm, they will be more accustomed to people and more receptive to the residents.

"It is a very unique and new experience for the lambs, too," Austin said.

The Burdicks spend an hour at Lynn Care, visiting the activities room first and then making the rounds on all the floors so as many residents as possible can see the lambs.

The residents typically respond immediately to the lambs, unclenching their fists and reaching out to pet or hold them, Burdick said.

"The lambs can absorb some of the pain," she said. "And the staff enjoys it as well."

For residents like 90-year-old resident Eunice Ritenour, whose father raised sheep in Fort Valley, the lambs offer a reminder of their own childhood.

"A lot of the residents did grow up on farms," said Heather Hartley, Lynn Care's activities aide. "This is a great past memory for them."

* Contact M.K. Luther at mkluther@nvdaily.com

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