Coco and Winnie may be little donkeys but for people struggling with anxiety and stress, the duo could be a big help.
The pair of female miniature donkeys are owned by Elizabeth Trenholm, who runs Epona's Whisper Therapeutic Donkeys in Shawnigan Lake, B.C. Just before the pandemic struck, Trenholm began welcoming people to her facility for animal-assisted therapy sessions but had to close as restrictions were put in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Now that British Columbians are in Phase 3 of the province's reopening plan, Trenholm is opening her doors, and the paddock, once again.
Trenholm, who has worked in hospices, as a bereavement counsellor, as a veterinary assistant and in wildlife rehabilitation, said she was always drawn to donkeys but did not know why. When she had the chance to rescue first Coco and then Winnie, she began to figure it out.
"They give a feeling of security and comfort," she told CBC's On The Island. "I just let them work their magic."
Trenholm said the inseparable pair are social and quick to pick up on human cues, such as body language and behaviour, which helps them gauge a person's emotional state.
According to her, miniature donkeys are highly effective providers of animal assisted therapy and are used for a large number of mental health issues, personal challenges, and end of life care.
"They just have this knack for being sensitive to visitors and their emotional states, it's quite remarkable to watch," said Trenholm, adding they have a "zen-like, grounded quality," that can have a real calming effect on people.
To see if hanging with Coco and Winnie can help you relax, you can book a time to visit the animals in their paddock and, or, join Trenholm and the equines on a forest walk.
The activities all take place outdoors. Physical distancing, said Trenholm, is only a challenge when she is showing guests how to put leads on the animals, during which time people can wear masks. Hand sanitizer is also available on site.
The eventual business plan, said Trenholm, is to be mobile so Coco and Winnie can go to people rather than people having to come to the facility.
To hear Elizabeth Trenholm share more details on CBC's On The Island about Coco and Winnie and the work they do tap here.