Dillon the 'Christmas Reindeer' retires from festive duty, after brightening the lives of hundreds of poorly children

Written by Samantha Lade for DonateToday

PUBLISHED: 12:56, 11th Dec 2017 | UPDATED: 11:05, 14th Dec 2017

Dillon (pictured above) has brought smiles to the faces of hundreds of terminally ill children in hospitals

From the second she rehomed him from the care of the Blue Cross, Dillon’s owner knew he had a special talent for comforting sick and disabled children. Since that day, the therapy pony has brought a smile to the face of hundreds of youngsters.

No Place to Go

Cast your mind back 20 years ago ­– what were you doing then?

For four-year-old Dillon, life was bleak. The pony was part of a herd used for animal vaccine research. Dillon’s days were long, tiring and could even be painful.

But in 1997, Blue Cross came across Dillon and took him into their care. After carefully searching for an owner who would perfectly suit his cheeky nature, he was eventually rehomed by Alison Ramseier – a paediatric chiropractor who noticed Dillon’s magic touch with young children almost immediately.

‘I had treated a few kids with disabilities and they couldn’t raise their hand,’ explained Alison, ‘But the second they walked past Dillon’s stable, which was next to the chiropractic room, they would be able to.’

Dillon, who was once confined to a small herd, clearly had a special talent.

Making Dreams Come True

Then in 2010, a new and exciting venture presented itself. Dillon was invited to Worcester Children’s Hospital to dress as a reindeer to help Santa deliver presents to sick children.

Alison learnt that Dillon would first be meeting a little girl with leukaemia, whose dream was to meet a real-life pony.  ‘We didn’t know what would happen when we first took him there. 

In 2016, Blue Cross helped find homes for 10,991 unwanted or abandoned pets – the most since their records began.

‘The staff brought out the little girl in a wheelchair with drips hanging everywhere. At first, Dillon took a step back and snorted, and I thought: ‘Oh no’.

'But then the girl put her little fragile hand out with a treat, and Dillon just knew. He walked up to her wheelchair, took the treat and started nuzzling her cheek.’

But little did Dillon know that his instinct and comfort had made the terminally ill child’s final wish come true. Sadly, the girl passed away just a few weeks later.

Last year, the Blue Cross rehomed over 4000 dogs, 5600 cats, 978 smalls and almost 300 horses.

- Blue Cross | 2016

Spreading Festive Cheer

Ever the charmer, Dillion very much became a celebrity over the forthcoming winters. For years, hundreds of children who were facing the possibility of their last Christmas had huge smiles put on their faces by the larger-than-life pony.

When asked to describe his nature, Alison offers that Dillon is so fantastic at his job due to his ability to balance his cheeky character with his calming presence.

‘Dillon gave his all to every one of these kids,’ explains Alison. ‘He was sometimes a little worried by the machinery, but he understood his job. He offered kisses and cuddles, bringing a smile to their face at Christmas and a tear to those watching. 

‘When we used to get to the hospital he got so excited that he started shaking and then his bells would start jingling - the children would just love it.’

A Talent For Life

Dillon inspired Alison (pictured) to set up a dedicated riding school for children with disabilities & special needs

Now aged 24, Dillon has unfortunately had to ‘hang up his hooves’ from his reindeer duties. Travelling is difficult at his tender age – but that doesn’t mind the pony hasn’t found other ways to put his heart-warming talents to use.

Today, Dillon still helps kids, but now at Alison’s equine therapy centre Parklands RDA in Staffordshire – which Dillon, in fact, was the inspiration for.

Here, he works alongside young children with Downs Syndrome, Autism, and other advanced disabilities to help improve their physical and mental well-being.

Speaking of the work at Parklands, Lottie Dronfield, Equine Coordinator RDA UK said: ‘This partnership with former Blue Cross ponies is a fantastic opportunity for us to offer a new life to some very deserving ponies.

‘They will spend many happy years helping hundreds of disabled riders to find out what they can achieve.’

Dillon’s tale is just one of many beautifully heart-warming stories achieved through Blue Cross’s fantastic rehoming scheme, which helps find thousands of unwanted pets loving new owners like Alison every year.

In 2016, Blue Cross helped find homes for 10,991 unwanted or abandoned pets – 20% more than the previous year, and the most since their records began.

Without Blue Cross’ help, Dillon would have been left to a life of vaccine testing, rather than fulfilling his true talent: granting the wishes of terminally ill children.