DONKEYS have been roped in to provide therapy for health workers battling the coronavirus crisis in Andalucia. 

The so-called Doctor Donkey programme in Huelva has seen workers from facilities such as the Juan Ramon Jimenez hospital enjoy one-on-one sessions with the gentil animals.

Dr Teresa Lozano told Andalucia Informacion that the burros have brought her ‘positive feelings’ and a sense of ‘optimism’. 

“Uncertainty and fear are maximised when you see that your colleagues are affected by the disease and you do not know if you’re infected or if you could pass it on to your family,” she told the local news website. 

Burrito Happy
BUCKING OFF DEPRESSION: Donkeys helping health workers to ‘disconnect’ in Andalucia (CREDIT: El Burrito Feliz)

The pioneering scheme is the brainchild of Luis Bejarano, who owns and runs the El Burrito Feliz association. 

Bejarano has cared for some 21 donkeys over the past four years on a 15,000sqm farm between Sevilla and Huelva, in the hills of the Doñana park.

He relies on a dozen or so volunteers who work for free and he receives no money for his work.

Some 20% of the running costs are supported via donations. 

“The health workers who visit us do so alone, so they can ‘disconnect’ for a few hours from the tension of the hospitals and focus only on nature and walking with the donkeys,” Jimenez told Efe.

Maria Jesus Garcia Arque, a clinical psychologist, told Andalucia Informacion: “Any animal helps to improve stress, grief, oncological, geriatric processes, depression, anxiety, aggressiveness, raise self-esteem, provide optimism and joy and more if, as in in the case of donkeys, a natural space is added in which a person of any age can interact.”

The Donkey Doctor programme was launched just a week ago and five workers have already signed up for the therapeutic experience. 

Some donkeys are new to the game but others have been providing therapy for a long time. 

One burro, Magellan, has a ‘special gift’ and has experience in visiting Alzheimer’s patients in nursing homes. 

Breast cancer patients and sufferers of other conditions have also been visiting the donkeys for years now.

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