One day, rescuers in Ireland came across an injured donkey that was lying in a field. The poor animal spent all his time tethered up, and the rope had caused painful lesions and sores on his neck. The rescuers took Shocks from that field and brought him over to England, where he began a new life at the Donkey Sanctuary in Birmingham. Here, Shocks had the freedom to roam around, and he also began training to work as a therapy animal.
In 2013, Shocks met his first client as a therapy animal: a two-year-old girl named Amber. Amber and her twin sister had been born prematurely, and Amber couldn’t breathe. She was rushed to surgery, where doctors did an emergency tracheostomy. During this surgery, a pipe was put in Amber’s neck. The pipe allowed her to breathe, but it had the unfortunate side effect of completely cutting off her vocal cords. The little girl also has cerebral palsy, making it difficult for her to move around.
Amber’s parents heard about the Donkey Sanctuary from a friend, and they decided to see if the animals there would be able to help Amber. When they reached the sanctuary, Amber was introduced to Shocks. During this introduction, something amazing happened: the two of them connected instantly.
“It was fairly immediate to see they had a bond together, as they were both so gentle with each other,” Amber’s father, Julian Austwick, told The Dodo. “Shocks would lower his head to her and would allow her to hold him around his neck. It was scary for us, as parents, as he was so big compared to little Amber, but they really seemed smitten!”
Shocks encouraged Amber to walk and be active, which was very helpful for her. Amber was even able to ride Shocks, which she was thrilled about!
When she was three, Amber had surgery that made it possible for her to talk again. It was hard for her, though, and she was reluctant to try speaking. But that all changed when Amber had one of her appointments with her best friend Shocks.
At the end of Amber’s appointment, after one of her usual rides, she hugged Shocks and said in a small, high-pitched voice, “I love you, Shocky.” Those were the first words she ever said.
“We were delighted,” Julian Austwick told The Dodo. “It was such a proud moment and of course a massive relief to know that she could speak.”
Today, Amber is in school and happy as can be. She still visits her best friend Shocks regularly, and she enjoys grooming him and going for rides around the sanctuary. Amber and Shocks love each other dearly, and they have helped each other grow during their time together. Amber’s parents even wrote a book about the pair, “Amber’s Donkey.”
Shocks and Amber are amazing companions who have a deep connection that cannot be broken. Truly, these best friends are perfect for each other!
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