“I started working with them to get Belle to let me be near her and to touch her, and after I started working with them, especially Miss Taco, I thought, ‘Why aren’t we using donkeys for therapy,’” Peterson said.
Peterson found that donkey assisted therapy, popular in Europe, was scarce in America. In 2020, she established Loving Long Ears Donkey Therapy & Sanctuary, a nonprofit located in Southlake.
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to do something where animals are healing people and people are healing animals,” Peterson said. “That’s why I only choose rescue donkeys, because the people are also healing the donkeys. The people have a story they’re overcoming, [and] so do the donkeys; that’s where the synergy comes from.”
Peterson evaluates each person interested in donkey-assisted therapy, determining if it would be a good fit, and, when needed, she uses licensed mental health therapists.
Peterson said much of donkey therapy is not done via riding; it’s simply interacting with the donkeys. She referenced an adult cancer patient who arrived with a heavy spirit, but she left with a beaming smile.
“I thought to myself, ‘I didn’t cure her cancer, but this little therapist with long ears gave her joy that no other talk therapy could have given her,’” Peterson said.
There are five rescue donkeys that call the sanctuary home. Peterson explains the living conditions are not ideal in a barn that is not enclosed. That causes her to rig up systems to stave off extreme weather. She actively searches for funding to move to another location and have a barn where they can shut the doors.
Loving Long Ears Donkey Therapy & Sanctuary
2573 N. White Chapel Blvd., Southlake
214-991-0797 (call for an appointment)
Hours: open to the public Saturday and Sunday by appointment only
A love donation of $50 per visit.