No matter where you start out in life, a few helping hands can take you far and help you find your place in this world. This is what happened with Shocks, a rescue donkey. His saviors discovered him on a farm in Ireland. The rope tied around his neck was so tight that it was biting into his skin. There were several open wounds around that area caused by the rope and the person who owned him had spread bleach on them under some misconceived notion that it would make things better.
Even if Shocks didn’t realize it then, his rescue was the start of a whole new chapter for him. Not only did it turn his whole life around, he also found a brand new purpose – helping people get better.
From his dismal life on the farm, Shocks was taken to Birmingham’s Donkey Sanctuary. There he met other animals who like him had been abused and neglected by their owners. The Sanctuary rescues them from their life of suffering and gives them all the love and care that they need to be happy and healthy. Moreover, they also train the donkeys to become therapy animals and they help others in turn.
Then some time later Amber came into Shocks’ life or rather he entered hers. In 2013, she was only two years old and she was completely non-verbal. A premature baby, Amber had to be operated on immediately after she was born because she wasn’t breathing on her own. A procedure called a tracheostomy where a pipe is inserted into the neck was necessary but it also prevented air from entering her larynx so she was unable to speak.
On top of these difficulties, she was also born with cerebral palsy so muscle development and even simple movements were difficult for her. According to her father, Julian Austwick, she was having trouble sitting on her own and it took a long time for her to learn how to crawl. Then someone told them about the therapy donkeys at the Sanctuary for children with special needs so they took Amber there.
For Shocks, Amber was his very first charge and he was her very first therapy animal and as luck would have it, they hit it off immediately. Even though her parents were slightly apprehensive because he was so much bigger than their tiny little girl, Shocks was incredibly gentle with her. He lowered his head so she could hug him and their bond was clear to everyone there.
With his encouragement, Amber started participating in more activities that made her stronger. Soon enough she was even able to ride around on Shocks. One year later, she was deemed fit for the surgery that would give her back her voice but it wouldn’t come without effort.
In fact even after the surgery, she remained non verbal. Then her parents took her to see Shocks in November 2013. She went riding and just as they were about to take her back, she gave him a hug and told him she loved him out loud.
Her parents were proud, delighted, and incredibly relieved when they heard her voice. Thanks to Shocks, she now goes to school and she’s growing up to be plucky little girl. And despite making new human friends, she visits her best friend Shocks all the time.
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Their connection was so beautiful and inspiring that her parents even penned down the story and turned it into a book. Both Amber and Shocks had a hard time before they met each other but together, they grew and healed and now they’re both as happy as can be.