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In her Shawnigan Lake back yard, Elizabeth Trenholm scratches the heads of her rescue donkeys Coco and Winnie.
The duo are a constant source of comfort and companionship.
“They basically mirror your emotions, if I’m upset or unhappy, they will be the same mood,” says Trenholm. “It’s quite interesting the way that they are.”
Trenholm was looking for a career change early last year and found her next challenge right in her backyard.
“All of a sudden it just came to me, it’s like they [the donkeys] were talking to me,” says Trenholm.
“I know that sounds strange but they were talking to me and it said why not work with my donkeys and I thought oh my goodness that’s totally what I’m going to do,” adds Trenholm with a smile.
After doing some online sleuthing, Trenholm found that donkey therapy is prevalent in the U.K. and Europe.
“It’s starting to come out through the U.S. now and into Canada,” says Trenholm.
“I know equine therapy with doing like therapeutic riding and all that has been around for a long time, but donkey therapy hasn’t,” says Trenholm.
Trenholm’s clients can hang out with both Coco and Winnie, as well as go on socially distanced hikes along trails. After a year in business, the rave reviews continue to flow in.
“A lot of my friends and some of my family just thought I was totally nuts but the majority of the people, a lot of my clients, they just love it,” says Trenholm.
The therapy sessions draw people from all walks of life.
“People come here just to escape and we’ll go for hikes in nature and basically we don’t even talk, and some people want to talk but you don’t have to, and they just want to be at peace and escape,” says Trenholm.
Helping provide a sense of comfort during a difficult time is something that Trenholm revels in.
“They [the clients] always leave with a sense of calm, which is wonderful because that’s what people are needing right now,” says Trenholm.
To learn more about the donkey therapy program, visit the Epona’s Whisper Therapeutic Donkeys website.