The opening of It’s Donkey time was full of emotion last Thursday at the Don Orione Centre of Bucharest.
We have before us many images of a day transformed into a celebration: many guests, many Italian and Romanian journalists, our four donkeys and naturally, the elderly and children from the center, who were the real actors of the event. The first Donkey Therapy program of Romania is dedicated to them, a project created by STD and thanks to funding by the Paideia Foundation.

We will never forget the joy and enthusiasm of children like Alex when they met their new four-legged friends. Only two months ago, Alex lost his mother and has now found reason to smile. Then there is Anca, three and a half years old who suffers from Downs Syndrome who spent the first 12 months of her life in the alleys of Bucharest. On Facebook you can view the most beautiful photos taken on the day.

And what about our friends with tails? They behaved very well despite the noise and confusion. They were not at all troubled by the commotion and camera clicks. They seemed to appreciate all the attention not only from the little ones but also the older guests of the center. Claudio, Ioan, Sile and Boss, saved from the streets from abuse and abandonment now have a new home and new friends with which to share a life of mutual respect and care.

STD would like to say thank for their presence and words of appreciation, the Italian Ambassador in Romania, Mario Cospito, the President of the National Animal Protection Board, Carla Rocchi and the representatives of the associations involved in the project, amongst others, the Elizabeth Svendson Trust and Friends of Homeless Dogs.

A special thanks to Don Graziano and Don Roberto with their long-range perspective and lack of prejudice have allowed us to participate in a project which is the achievement of a dream where human and animal life has dignity and is valued.

Watch the coverage that Romanian TV dedicated to this day:

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Working in Romania means facing suffering everyday. Save the Dogs mission is protecting the animals but it is impossible to operate in such a context without coming up against human, particularly children and old people suffering.
This is the reason why we decided to accept two Italian extraordinary priests’ proposal, Father Graziano and Father Roberto from the Centro Don Orione in Voluntari (Bucharest), who have visioned a cooperation between us and their institute.
So It’s Donkey Time! was born, the first onotherapy program (donkey-assisted therapy) that has been activated in Romania by a group of no profit associations.
The project, which has been financed by Fondazione Paideia in collaboration with the Finnish partner Friends of Homeless Dog and with Elizabeth Svendsen Trust, aims to improve the quality of life of the Don Orione orphan children, who are affected by different levels of disability: from the Down syndrome to forms of paraplegia/quadruplegia associated to severe mental retardations. This therapy is also intended for autistic children from the surrounding public orphanages, who visit with the Voluntari center weekly, as well as for the old people from the adjoining hospice.

Our goal is to introduce the pet-therapy concept also in Romania, showing that child and animal neglect is based on a sad cultural link and that these two realities can give birth to an exchange that is rich in important values but unfortunately unknown to a part of the Romanian society.
Ioan, Claudio, Boss and Sile  will be the main characters in this wonderful adventure, four donkeys who have been selected among the 58 guests in the Cernavoda shelter. Thanks to Paideia a 100 mq stable inside the Don Orione property has been built for them, surrounded by a wide open space (10.000 mq). Two of them are trained for an assisted interaction activity with children while the other two have been trained to be ridden by appropriate saddlery coming from England and found in the EST. Besides, expectations are for a future possibility to hook the wheel-chairs to a trailer to allow the little guests to be carried for a stroll inside the congregation property. The Finnish partner Friends of Homeless Dog is in charge of the donkeys care, through distance adoption they guarantee for the food and the necessary medicines for them.

Find out who are the four “therapist” donkeys and their story before becoming the Don Orione children’s best friends.

A specialized operator takes care of the program together with an educator in the center who is already familiar with the single guests and who can give useful directions about the activities that can be carried out along with the single child. A properly educated attendant and an Save the Dogs veterinarian take care of our donkeys daily health and cleaning instead, the latter visits the equines every month. To avoid stress on the donkeys, the close contact between the animals and the center guests is limited to 4 hours a day.

To learn about the advantages that onotherapy brings to disabled children, watch the video created by our English partners of the Donkey Sanctuary showing the results of a similar project which has been carried out in Spain.

To contribute to the onotherapy project, it is possible to make a donation through our bank accounts, specifying “Onotherapy projecy” in the subject line.

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