Texas connects us: Taco the therapy donkey
This article by Kristin Dickerson originally appeared on NBCDFW on June 2, 2017.
The Texas Horse Park is where the natural beauty of Southeast Dallas meets the majesty of equine therapy.
"I feel like all of us have something that we struggle with, and there's something here to help with that," said Jeff Hensley, director of clinical and veterans services at Equest.
Hensley said there's an animal on the Equest team that's rising in popularity, but he's not the biggest in the barn. His physical stature is rather small—expect for his ears.
His name is Taco. He's a miniature donkey.
"He kind of reminds me of a Chihuahua, how Chihuahuas don't really understand that they're so much smaller than the other dogs out there, and Taco's kind of like that, too," Hensley said.
Taco is a rescue. He was found abandoned.
"And this little donkey had been wandering out there for a couple weeks with no apparent owner and nobody really looking out for him," Hensley said.
So they brought him to Equest.
"To be honest with you, when he first came here he was very, very shy," Hensley said.
Taco didn't trust people, but the Equest team kept working with him.
"And it took him awhile to warm up, and he did. And once he got over that his personality really came out," Hensley said.
Now Taco just wants to be close— really close. While I was recording footage of the Palomino in the turnout next to Taco, the little donkey came up, put his head on my shoulder, and then stayed close until the recording was finished. He also spent time sniffing our camera bags, nibbling on our clothes, and getting his back scratched.
"In fact, we're even using him in some of our counseling classes because he's such a good personable little donkey," Hensley said.
Taco, once abandoned and untrusting, is now helping children as a therapy donkey.
"I mean, for me that's the perfect metaphor for our own lives: we can change, too," Hensley said.