Man and horse work to overcome Alzheimer's

August 28, 2010

William Pullen walked up to the horse, gently patted its brown, velvet cheeks and finally blew a soft kiss.

Some might forget that Pullen’s other name is “Wild Bill,” earned in his days as a fighter pilot in World War II.

Pullen sure hasn’t. Not even Alzheimer’s disease has stripped him of this title.

“I’m really Wild Bill,” said Pullen, beginning to smile.

His nickname once again proved true on Saturday. With the help of Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime, the 86-year-old man rode a horse through the parking lot of  the west Colorado Springs nursing home where he lives, The Palisades at Broadmoor Park.

According to event organizers, his dream of once again saddling up stirred for decades.
Growing up on a farm, Pullen rode horses to round up cattle. He stopped riding after graduating from high school and joining the Navy.

One day while driving past a few horses, an employee at the nursing home said Pullen remembered riding the range.

“He said ‘You know, I gotta get back on a horse,’” said Jenna Fariss, the nursing home’s memory care coordinator.

In stepped Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime. Bloom, a former Olympic skiier who also was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles, formed the organization to fulfill the wishes of seniors in Colorado.

So far this year, the organization has granted 215 wishes.

“Sometimes the smaller wishes are the ones that really change your perspective,” said Bloom, who brought a pair of horses to grant Pullen’s wish.

The first step for Pullen was remembering his days as a cowboy.

He started slowly. Wearing a tan cowboy hat, red flannel shirt and jeans, he walked up to the horses.

He talked to the horses, barely managing a few words while breaking into a wide smile.

“They look like they’re pretty calm,” Pullen said. “I can’t believe they settled right down.”

Soon came the test. Getting a small boost, he climbed into the saddle and steadied himself, feeling for the leather reins and slowly tightening his grip.

Details like the kind of plane he flew in the war are long gone from Pullen’s mind. He struggles to remember the town where he was born.

But as the horse began to trot, his instincts as a cowboy rushed back.

“You OK buddy?” Pullen asked the horse. “OK. Let’s go.”

Call the writer at 476-1654

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