After ten years with us at The Donkey Sanctuary, where he partook in our Donkey-Assisted Therapy scheme, gentle Eli is putting his hooves up in his new retirement home.

At The Donkey Sanctuary, our aim isn't just to help donkeys all across the world - we help their human friends, too.

Since 1975, we have been changing lives by bringing together people and donkeys - whose brains both share a similar sized region responsible for emotion, behaviour, motivation and memory. Now known as our Donkey-Assisted Therapy scheme, countless vulnerable children and adults have benefited from the unique bond that develops between donkeys and humans.

The National Centre for Health Research states that companion animals can help reduce blood pressure, ease anxiety, and provide social support for children and adults. Donkeys like Eli have made an incredible difference to the lives of innumerable people over the years, and through their interactions with humans have also been able to enjoyed varied and enriched lives themselves.

After getting to the golden age of 21, however, staff The Donkey Sanctuary Leeds decided it was time for Eli to enter his well-earned retirement. After giving so much to the humans around him for ten years, Eli was ready to enjoy a quieter, slower pace of life.

Cathryn, Centre Manager at DAT Leeds, recalls the day that Eli first arrived with fellow donkey Mowbray ten years ago:

"As both donkeys settled into life in Leeds, I found myself drawn to Eli. He was your typical steady eddy. Totally reliable, great when working with the children, visiting the elderly at residential homes, a saint on Easter Parades and he loved interacting on school visits."

Although Eli had come into the sanctuary with Mowbray, the pair did not appear to be bonded - uncharacteristically for a donkey, Eli seemed to prefer human to donkey company.

"For a donkey who did so much for our charity, he didn’t appear to have a special donkey friend," reflects Cathryn, "but Eli had stolen my heart and so I became his special friend."

Thankfully, the year he was due to retire, The Donkey Sanctuary started a new project to rehome retired DAT donkeys to guardian homes to live out the rest of their lives with plenty of one-to-one care.

On September 27, Cathryn delivered her companion of the past decade to his new home for life, where he could relish in the dedicated human company he so loves - along with the two new donkey friends waiting to greet him there.

"I take pride in knowing that I have done my utmost best for this little chap, my friend and he deserves to now live out his days in happy retirement."

Eli has settled in wonderfully with his new friends, and Cathryn receives regular updates from his new forever home.

"His new family love him to bits already - and who wouldn’t?" she says. Looking at his big grin, it would be hard to disagree.

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