Q & A with Terri Lynn Crutchfield of TLC Therapy Hooves
By: Julie Kirchner
As a part of our Powerhouse mission to Share the Goodness, we love to shine a light on nonprofits out in our communities who are contributing to the greater good. This month, we are highlighting the work of Terri Lynn and Scott Crutchfield and their amazing team of volunteers who help spread joy through their nonprofit organization, TLC Therapy Hooves, in rural Highlands County, Florida. We were grateful to sit down with Terri for a lighthearted virtual Q&A.
What is the inspiration behind TLC, and how did your adventure begin?
“It all started with a little orphan piglet,” Terri says with a playful smile in her voice. That little piglet, a surprise gift for her husband Scott, was later named Precious Piglet. Today, Terri and Scott Crutchfield’s pictorial old-Florida property is home to over 100 animals. TLC Therapy Hooves is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that Terri and Scott created in 2011, with a mission to spread joy by bringing extraordinary (and very well-dressed) therapy animals like pigs and miniature horses to the 17 nursing homes and rehabilitation centers throughout their local area. In addition to carrying out the mission of TLC Therapy Hooves with the help of dozens of dedicated volunteers, Scott and Terri live on and maintain their working farm called La La Land, which is named after their camel—La La, of course!
Can you tell us about a proud moment for TLC this past year?
While any business owner may answer this question by describing a new project launch or an exciting award or achievement, Terri is anything but typical. Instead, she began by describing a breakthrough moment for a woman in a nursing home who had lost her husband and, through trauma and shock, had not communicated verbally in a very long time. While petting the braids of one of Terri’s therapy animals, a miniature horse, the woman spoke for the first time and said, “I remember my granddaughter loved horses.” And the woman sitting next to her said, “Oh! I grew up with horses, too. Did you grow up with horses?” The nurse caring for the two women was just in awe because one of these women had been unable to speak for all the time the nurse had been caring for her. This experience opened up an opportunity for the two women to connect and relate. These are the breakthroughs that define Terri’s definition of business success.
How did you come up with the idea to use pigs and mini horses as therapy animals?
“I would take Precious (Piglet) to the school when I would go and pick up my daughter, Taylor, and all the other kids would just be so excited to see Precious Piglet. And I had a friend who had a parent in a nursing home, and she asked if I would swing by and take Precious to walk around outside for her mother to see. She’s potty trained, so I took her inside. Everyone freaked out, ‘Oh my goodness, a piggy!’ Every time she would oink, people would laugh. And I thought, you know what, this is pretty awesome.”
At that time, Terri and her husband were living in a suburban country club neighborhood, but they decided that with their joint family background in nature conservation, wildlife, and land, they would change their lifestyle and buy a farm. The couple decided to adopt mini horses and then brought trainers onto the property to see if the miniatures could be potty trained and brought into the house, just to test out Terri’s idea. She had conversations with her attorney about liability and insurance. “So, that’s how it went from one little orphan piglet (that lived inside our house, remember) to . . . close to a hundred animals now,” Terri says.
The majority of the domestic animals used in the therapy program today are adopted animals. All of the exotic animals on the property have permits and licenses, and Terri and Scott have received the training from zoos to be able to raise and maintain these animals.