When a donkey named Shocks was found by rescuers, he was lying in a field with a rope tied tightly around his neck.
The skin around the rope was tender and covered in lesions, and someone thought pouring bleach on the injuries would help them heal. The donkey was scared and in pain, but rescuers were determined to give him a new life.
After Shocks' injuries healed, he was sent to his new home at The Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham, England. The sanctuary regularly takes in rescued animals, and Shocks quickly adapted to his new life. He was calm and sweet, and his rescuers knew he'd make an excellent therapy donkey.
On his first day on the job, a two-year-old girl named Amber came to the sanctuary. Amber was born prematurely and required an emergency tracheotomy to help her breath.
The procedure saved her life, but it also damaged her vocal chords and left her mute. She also has cerebral palsy, a condition which makes it difficult to build muscle.
When Amber's parents brought her to the sanctuary, they hoped a therapy donkey would help their little girl both physically and emotionally. What they saw when Amber finally met Shocks exceeded all expectations.
The connection between Shocks and Amber was almost instantaneous. The big donkey gently lowered his head to nuzzle the girl, and Amber wasn't afraid to show affection back. After their initial introduction, Shocks got to work helping his new friend become more active and confident. Amber learned to groom the donkey and lead him by a rope, and eventually, she learned to ride him.
Shocks remained his calm, comforting self during all of his sessions with Amber, and the girl's parents soon noticed a remarkable improvement. Amber looked forward to her visits with Shocks and couldn't wait to spend time with him in every way she could.
When Amber was three, she was old enough to receive a surgery that restored her vocal chords. She would be able to talk, but it would take time and practice.
One day shortly after the surgery, Amber still hadn't spoken but came for one of her regular visits with Shocks.
When it was time to go home, the little girl hugged the therapy donkey and said, "I love you, Shocky."
Her parents were both thrilled and relieved. There was no guarantee that Amber would ever learn to speak, but her loving proclamation was undeniable proof of her progress.
It's now several years later, and Amber is happy and strong. She goes to school, but she hasn't forgotten about her dear friend, Shocks. She pays frequent visits to the donkey sanctuary, and her bond with Shocks is as strong as ever.
Amber's parents have documented their daughter's experience with her therapy donkey by publishing a book. It's called "Amber's Donkey," and it's the true story of how a donkey that was left for dead helped a little girl find her voice.
You can follow along with Amber and Shocks by following their Facebook page.
All images via Facebook/Amber's Donkey
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