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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 September, 2004, 05:50 GMT 06:50 UK
Therapy donkeys visit care homes
Therapy donkey visits elderly resident
The donkeys can visit the less mobile residents in their bedrooms
Care home residents in a Dorset town are to get an unusual visit from a pair of therapy-trained donkeys.

Lulu, a 27-year-old grey jennie, and an unnamed friend, are visiting three care homes in Weymouth.

After a greeting session in the lounge, the donkeys will also visit some less mobile residents in their bedrooms.

The animals come from the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon, and will visit Weymouth Care Home, Dorset Villa and Furzey Way residential homes.

The donkey will happily visit them in their bedrooms, subject to a suitably large lift
Janice Aherne
Janice Aherne, manager of the sanctuary's schools education therapy unit, told BBC News Online: "All our therapy donkeys are specially trained.

"It's not natural for them to go inside buildings, but we walk them around the office corridors here to get them used to it.

"Lulu is a very calm and has had a lot of experience as a therapy donkey."

The team visits schools, hospitals and nursing homes within 50 miles of its Sidmouth-based sanctuary, an area which includes large parts of Dorset.

Ms Aherne added: "We constantly see the joy and pleasure our donkeys bring to those they visit and are no longer surprised by the effect they evoke in even the most frail or withdrawn resident.

"They always have numerous tales to tell about donkeys they remember.

Therapy donkey
The donkeys often bring back childhood memories
"Especially if they grew up in a rural area, like Dorset, they might remember how they used to ride to school on a donkey, and how donkeys were used for little jobs around the farm.

"The visits work as memory triggers and get conversation going.

"And for residents that are bed-bound or prefer to stay in their rooms, the donkey will happily visit them in their bedrooms, subject to a suitably large lift, if these are located on higher floors."

The team always bring a "flexible friend" in the shape of a rubber basket to scoop up any accidents.

"Normally the donkeys will give us tell-tale signs so that we can get them outside in time. In fact they actually get embarrassed if they have to go inside, but of course accidents do happen."

Schools, nursing homes and other institutions that wish to book a visit can contact the Donkey Sanctuary on 01395 573055

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