It has been a very exciting few months for the staff and donkeys at our Donkey Assisted Therapy centre in Birmingham - and for one special donkey in particular. Shocks, the largest and one of the gentlest donkeys at the Sanctuary in Sutton Park is now featured in a national book! Amber’s Donkey went on sale around the UK at the end of January and focuses on a special story between Shocks and an extraordinary family.
The book, ghost written by author Ruth Kelly along with Amber’s parents, Tracy and Julian Austwick, celebrates the therapy work pioneered by The Donkey Sanctuary. The book follows the rescue of Shocks from an abusive home and the journey of Tracy and Julian as their twin daughters, Amber and Hope, are born dangerously premature. Amber was born with cerebral palsy and was unable to breathe unaided and so underwent a tracheostomy, inserting a breathing tube into her airway. As the story unfolds, and Amber and Shocks meet at the donkey assisted therapy centre, a true friendship is formed and a beautiful story begins to unfold.
Staff members from County Cork in Ireland, where he was rescued, and from the centre in Birmingham, played a crucial role in discussing Shock’s story and highlighting the difficulties he faced. Amber Brennan (who the girls call ‘big Amber’) and Sara Gee are the riding instructors who trained Shocks as a riding therapy donkey and who first aided the therapy rides of Amber and Hope. ‘Big Amber’ explained "With Hope, you could see she already had more confidence than Amber. Her balance and core strength were more advanced. It was Amber that needed the extra reassurance and gentle touch that Shocks provided. I’m so pleased that the book can showcase the fantastic therapy these animals can provide to children with additional needs".
Andy Perry, one of the team of grooms who looked after Shocks during his first years in Birmingham, is also extremely proud of the largest donkey under his care. "It was a long road with Shocks. When he came he was so timid and unsure of others around him. Over time, and through his bond with Amber, he blossomed into the wonderful donkey he is today".
Amber and Shocks are getting quite used to the limelight, with newspaper articles, photoshoots and even a rubber stamp made from the imprint of Shock’s hoof to sign copies of the book with!
The book is now available from participating book stores, through the Sanctuary’s online giftshop, and will be sold at our donkey assisted therapy centre in Birmingham. A big congratulations to the Austwick family and ghost-writer Ruth Kelly, Sanctuary staff and, of course, to Shocks and all his donkey friends!