Just north of Tulsa, Oasis Animals is an animal park open to the general public that also offers animal therapy services to at-risk youth, sex-trafficked girls, special needs children, and others.
When was the last time you held a lemur? Never? Well, then, it’s been too long.
Just an hour’s drive from Tulsa, you’ll discover an animal encounter that you wouldn’t expect to find in Oklahoma. You’ll get a chance to befriend exotic animals like a zebra, kangaroos, a ring-tail lemur, camels, a Scottish Highlander, a yak and even North African Sulcata Tortoises.
Oasis Animals is an animal park open to the general public by appointment and also offers animal therapy services to at-risk youth, sex-trafficked girls, special needs children, and others.
Linda and Bill Goldner, owners of Oasis Animals, have operated Picture in Scripture Amphitheater in Disney, Oklahoma since 1985. They have always had a love for animals and have incorporated creatures such as camels and horses into their biblical productions throughout the years.
Six or seven years ago, animal therapy started to trickle into their business equation after they received a donation of miniature horses. “I asked myself what I was going to do with the horses,” Linda says.
The answer came when Linda learned that a special needs’ group, Friendship Home out of Jay, Oklahoma, needed a place to take their clients for animal therapy. The idea of animal therapy at Picture in Scripture was born, and now, clients from Friendship Home have been visiting Oasis weekly for five years.
Over time, Oasis has earned animal therapy accreditations — Equine Assisted Learning through O.K. Corral Series by EAGALA Founder Greg Kersten and Equine Learning Initiative.
“If we were going to do animal therapy, I felt like we needed to be qualified rather than someone just saying, ‘Come pet my horse,’” Linda says.
Over the last few years, Oasis has added more animals including zebras, a lemur, kangaroos, and more.
“The joke is, what are you going to get this year?” Linda says.
Oasis selects animals that can be bottle-fed so the animals become comfortable with humans and can be raised to be used for therapy.
Oasis Animals also provides animal therapy services to Teen Challenge. About 55 youths in their residential program visit Oasis Animals every week. They can choose the animal they want to work with and continue working with that same animal each week.
Recently, Oasis started working with groups of autistic children.
“The animals tend to help them,” Linda says.
Learning non-verbal skills can be a challenge for autistic children, and working with animals can help them with this form of communication. The children have to learn to approach the animals slowly and respectfully. “You can’t race into an animal’s comfort zone, you have to watch each others body language,” Linda says.
Oasis Animals seeks to help tear down emotional and mental walls that individuals may have built up. “Our motto is ‘gateway to the heart,’ and for children who have been abused and hardened themselves, the animals get to their heart — their soft side,” Linda says.
Oasis also has a licensed counselor, Lawnie Hess, who visits weekly to help individuals talk about the feelings they’re experiencing.
“Four sessions with an animal are equivalent to one year with a counselor. People’s defenses are brought down, and they can openly talk about things that are bothering them,” Linda says.
Aside from therapy, Oasis Animals is open to scheduled visits from families and groups who just want to spend an hour or two with the animals. The cost is $10 per person, with a minimum of a $30/group charge. Each experience is catered to what that group is interested in doing.
“Some people never get beyond Omar the Lemur,” Linda says. “Some people want the whole experience.”
Guests are allowed to brush and walk the horses and lead them through the obstacle course. If someone has never dealt with a horse, the Oasis staff encourages them to start with a miniature horse.
Linda recently published a book about one of their exotic animals, Rosie the Kangaroo, which can be purchased online at oasisanimals.com. All proceeds go toward taking care of the animals at Oasis.
She plans on publishing a series of books about many of the animals at Oasis and ties a theme with each book. The next book will focus on Omar the Lemur and deal with the theme of rejection, something Omar experienced at 3 days old.
“Omar was attacked by a dominant female Lemur,” Linda says. “His ear was bit, and his wounds abscessed. He’s come from almost losing his life, and now we call him the king.”
A trip to Oasis will bring you up close and personal with animals with prominent personalities. Since all of the animals have been bottle-raised, they are very social with humans.
Over the summer, the Picture in Scripture Amphitheater comes alive with biblical performances. Some of the animals from Oasis, like the camels and horses, are incorporated into the performances. Attendees have the opportunity to walk through the Oasis Barn before the play, and a prelude to the play showcases all of the animals.
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