'Little donkey, little donkey ...': Hooved heroes spread Christmas cheer

Mini Donkeys visit care home residents to provide well-being support. 

Mini Donkeys visit care home residents to provide well-being support. - Credit: Sarah Mcphearson

The little donkey on a dusty road is synonymous with Christmas.

And this year Norwich's own 'mini donks' will be spreading cheer across the city.

Charity Miniature Donkeys for Wellbeing visit older people in care homes, SEN schools, dementia cafes and psychiatric hospitals to boost people's mood.

And the loveable creatures are now heading out on a Christmas tour.  

Sarah McPherson won a local legend award for her work with the mini donks. 

Sarah McPherson won a local legend award for her work with the mini donks. - Credit: Sarah McPherson

Owner Sarah McPherson knows each of her mini donkeys very well and says each one has a special personality.

"Our donk Bo Peep will home in on somebody," she said. "She naturally pulls in on someone who is having a hard time - it’s like she can feel it. 

“We visit a SEN school every month and for those children we take our youngest donkey Jack Rabbit. The children are high energy and Jack Rabbit thrives on it. “ 

Bo Peep always seems to get close to the person who needs her most when she visits. 

Bo Peep always seems to get close to the person who needs her most when she visits. - Credit: Sarah McPherson

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The donkeys get festive in December and wear their red and white blankets and Santa hats on their visits.

“This time of year is about family. For the people who may not have family, the donkeys can help to bring people together,” Sarah added.  

On a typical visit Sarah and her team arrive at the care home, set up and area and let the donkeys look around.  

Then the donkeys wander in to meet the audience. Sarah added: “This is where we watch the residents faces light up.

Donkeys will visit the bedside of people unable to get out of their beds. 

Donkeys will visit the bedside of people unable to get out of their beds. - Credit: Sarah McPherson

 

“The delight on people's faces when the donkeys come to their bedside is something that never leaves you. 

“I remember when we first started, we went to a care home and a husband and wife shared a room. 

"The husband was bedbound so his wife came to see us and we took one to meet him and it was magical - he loved it.”  

Sarah is determined to ensure this work continues for many years to come. 

Sarah says the donkeys are gentle and enjoy meeting people. 

Sarah says the donkeys are gentle and enjoy meeting people. - Credit: Sarah McPherson

To help Sarah continue this work, you can sponsor a miniature donkey for £35 for the entire year.  

To find out more visit www.minidionks.org.uk 

Pixie is another of the wellbeing donks owned by the company. 

Pixie is another of the wellbeing donks owned by the company. - Credit: Sarah McPherson

Think a miniature donkey sounds like a great pet? 

Mini donkeys are a specific kind of Mediterranean donkey and, as their name suggests, they are smaller than their regular cousins.  

During the 1920’s mini donkeys became popular in the US.  And today many say mini donkeys make great pets – but only for the right owner.  

They have a loyal and gentle nature and can even be trained. They are known for having a placid temperament.  

The National Miniature Donkey Association promotes these creatures as a healing presence for people who are sick, elderly and handicapped.  

But some owners report that mini donks can be stubborn and headstrong when they do not wish to do something.