These past few months have been particularly odd in the no-so-post Covid world we are living in. The wife and I, in particular, have had multiple family members stricken with the virus and get knocked down pretty good.
Luckily, our family members have started to mend. For the most part, their recoveries have been accredited to modern therapies, medicines, and technology. While I am glad that our family was able to get the help they needed through medicine, it got me thinking about non-traditional therapies.
Therapies with animals, to be more specific.
I know the usual type of therapy animals are dogs. Dogs can be a very welcome form of comfort and relief to people that are afflicted with illnesses and diseases of all forms.
Are there any other animals that would succeed in the service/therapy animal world? Even more specifically, could a miniature donkey be used as a therapy animal to help those that could use a dose of happiness? How does that saying go? “Happiness is natures best medicine?” (I think it's actually “laughter”, but let's be honest, laughter leads to happiness and a miniature donkey could provide laughter in spades.)
After reaching out to some particularly knowledgeable miniature donkey owners, I found out that mini donkeys can indeed be used as therapy animals.
In fact, they told me about some miniature donkeys that are being used as therapy animals currently. I know that whenever I visit my favorite minidonk, Lovebug, I feel much better. The happiness she brings me very much makes me think that she would be a very good therapy animal.
I can tell that she is happier when I am around and likewise she has the same effect on me. If that's not therapy I don't know what is!
According to Steve Stiert of Little Brays of Sunshine and donkeypark.org:
"...features that we have found that make miniature donkeys good "therapy" animals is that their size puts them at the right height to make good eye contact with a person in a bed or wheelchair. As you know, they have very large eyes and, perhaps because their eyes are ringed with white and because of their calm demeanor, they seem particularly deep and soulful.
Also, we find that a lot of the seniors we visit grew up in a time when farming and large rural areas were much more present in their lives. Many seniors in nursing homes are dealing with memory and cognitive challenges, but their long-term memories are the least affected. So, we have often seen how the donkeys as farm animals can trigger a recollection of earlier days and draw out personalities that have been subsiding. I expect that will change over time as new generations of seniors without rural backgrounds replace the current ones.
Finally, an indirect benefit of the donkeys vs traditional therapy animals is that the seniors visit with them out doors. The donkeys are perfectly capable of going indoors and programs like Thera-Pets (whom were our inspiration) have been doing so for years. However, in our area, hygiene standards seem to be different and many facilities do not allow them inside. This turned out to be a good thing as being isolated in their rooms is one of the most common debilitating issues. By having the seniors come outside to visit with the donkeys, it brings them into the sun and a group environment that fosters more socialization..."
Imagine you are told that you have to go see a therapist due to an affliction that you are suffering from or have been recently diagnosed with. As you pull up to the therapists place of practice you are greeted by a calm, intelligent, and attentive miniature donkey.
I know the first thing that would happen at that time, a big smile and perhaps a small chuckle.
Mini donkeys possess a number of qualities and characteristics that make them right at home in the therapy world...
First and foremost they are calm. So long as they aren’t jacks that are still used for breeding, they have such a great disposition towards people. Intact jacks tend to be fairly unpredictable, unlike jennies, geldings, and foals.
Secondly, they are quite intelligent. Miniature donkeys are typically quick learners and can be trained to be sensitive to the needs of patients dealing with all sorts and kinds of ailments.
Mini donks can even be taught to follow and be lead by small children, further bolstering the idea of how great they would be at learning to provide comfort and therapy to those in need.
Thirdly, miniature donkeys are attentive. They love getting attention from people and in turn will give attention right back.
There are several places around the world that are currently using miniature donkeys as therapy animals. (It's interesting to note that miniature donkeys are as popular around the world as they are here in the USA, the most common type of miniature donkey seen in the USA is in fact a Miniature Mediterranean Donkey!
Maybe in the future we can take a look at the history of these specific donkeys to see how they came to be.
Some places around the US and Canada that use miniature donkeys specifically are:
Painted Promise Ranch in Arizona. They use mini donks as therapy animals for seniors and those suffering from memory conditions in assisted living communities and nursing/rehab centers;
Cultivate Care Farms in Massachusetts. They use mini donks as therapy animals for children with special needs;
Therapets, Inc. in New York. They specialize in using miniature donkeys as therapy animals for children with special needs, nursing home visitation and even helping with disabled veterans that are suffering from injuries and trauma from time spent in service;
another fun organization is Little Brays of Sunshine (I am a sucker for puns using the bray! I think it's quite clever!) in New York. They also specialize in using mini donks as therapy animals for children and adults of all ages.
After reaching out to some miniature donkey experts and doing a bit of research, I hope you can see (like I now do) that miniature donkeys are a great option for use as a therapy animal.
They are loving, calm, intelligent, and attentive. These are all the right qualities for any animal that is placed in a therapy environment.
If you know of anyone suffering from afflictions that could be treated with a visit to your mini donkey herd, I urge you to consider looking into it!
For more info on miniature donkeys or if you are in the market for fun miniature donkey merch click here and happy browsing!
We don't mention this often, but hundreds of halters are sent free of charge to non-profit therapy and rescue organizations by our company each year both from sponsorship of our Hey!Bag subscription program participants and also from a % of the profits of your orders. Thank you for continuing to support our small business, you are not only supporting us but supporting organizations in need of supplies to continue doing what they do so well.
Mini Encounters is one of the many therapy/rescue organizations that receive free halters sponsored by our Hey!Bag participants. Here's what they had to say:
Miniencounters Mini Therapy Horses love the halters we are so fortunate to receive from Halter Up. Here Jade sports her orange Halloween pumpkin outfit with her orange halter. Thanks Halter up.......we love your product at home and work."
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