“I knew that my purpose in life was to help people and I just didn't know how I was going to do that,” said Paul while sitting on an outdoor sofa at her Dragonfly Haven Therapeutic Farm business in Mount Denson.
Paul initially went to school to be a nurse but quickly realized that wasn't the career path she was destined for.
“I decided to do social work. So I went to NSCC and took the social services course,” said Paul.
“In the course, I learned so much about myself and so much about others,” she said, which led her to realize there was a need in the community for therapeutic farming.
“We hear about therapeutic riding but nothing with miniature breed farm animals,” Paul said.
She officially opened her farm July 1 to the public and currently has about a dozen miniature animals — from guinea pigs and African pygmy goats to a dwarf pony and mini mule.
“I find larger horses are intimidating for some people. Children can pick up a guinea pig and cuddle a guinea pig or feed the goats or cuddle the donkey,” said Paul.
“Animal therapy and nature itself is such a small thing but it can do such wonders.”
Her farm's purpose is two-fold: it gives people of all ages the chance to reconnect with nature through the petting zoo component and it offers one-on-one therapy sessions with people who book an appointment for treatment.
Paul, who is originally from the Glooscap First Nation and has lived in Mount Denson for about five years, said she can work with people with anxiety, PTSD, autism, learning disorders and “anyone with an exceptionality.”
One-on-one therapy with animals, she said, helps people more easily open up and talk about their issues.
One young client that she's already had the opportunity to work with was coping with a social phobia. Since coming to the farm and interacting with the animals, Paul said the young girl now connects with people — often sharing her experiences at the farm.
“I think that was a really big reward for me in that I've actually changed that little girl's life — in just that small amount of time,” said Paul.
The farm is open Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and is located on Aberdeen Beach Road. One-on-one therapeutic sessions are booked by appointment.
She eventually hopes to expand her business, bringing in more miniature animals, creating a barefoot play area that would provide a sensory experience to visitors, as well as hosting birthday parties and weddings. The farm is currently equipped to take the show on the road for special functions. Besides herself, Paul said she has one employee and a host of volunteers.
“Everybody needs animals and nature in their lives.”
For more information about the farm, visit their Facebook page or email firstname.lastname@example.org.