Sometimes the love of an animal is nothing short of a lifesaver β€” just ask this formerly-ailing hospital patient, named Francisco Mena.

(Or better yet, ask his doctors.)

For the last four months or so, Mena had been bedridden at a hospital in Porto Alegre, Brazil. He'd originally been rushed there to undergo emergency treatment for a perforated intestine, but his recovery would take longer than he or his doctors expected.

Mena eventually lost his appetite and became too weak to walk. The medication he received didn't seem to help, and soon he became disgruntled and depressed. That is, until he learned it might be possible to receive a visit from a dear old friend he hadn't seen in what felt like forever β€” his beloved horse, named Esquilador.

The hospital where Mena is staying had allowed patients in the past to invite their dogs to drop by as a way of lifting their spirits. Though Esquilador wasn't nearly as compact as a pup, his doctors thought the horse might be just who Mena needed to see the most.

They soon realized how right they were.

Last week, on Mena's 65th birthday, friends transported Esquilador from his stable to the hospital where nursing staff had arranged to have Mena meet him out front. And that's when everything changed.

One of Mena's physicians, Dr. Daniel Souto Silveira, said that after Esquilador's visit the improvement in his health was like from night to day. Not only had his mood lifted and his appetite returned, Mena now found the strength to start taking steps with a walker.

"It was surprising to me," Silveira told newspaper Zero Hora, adding that a transformation seemed to occur the moment Mena and Esquilador reunited. "He transmitted love and the horse reciprocated, doing something the animal couldn't imagine: saving his life."

Since that visit, the health benefits it inspired in Mena have been so dramatic that his stay at the hospital is no longer indefinite. Barring any unforeseen complications, he is now expected to be discharged this week β€” to continue down his road to recovery nearer to the horse who led him back to it after he'd lost the way.