The fine line linking donkeys to coronavirus

The benefits of “asnotherapy” were experienced, for example, by the nurse Mónica Morales, traumatized by the scale of the pandemic of the coronavirus in Spain.

She she was relieved when she was able to hug a ten day old colt at Burrito Feliz, an association that offers “asnotherapy” for health personnel who fight against the virus.

Donkey Encounters They are a very helpful therapy against stress, anxiety and even depression.

The technique is better known with horses, but specialists assure that donkeys are more adapted to treating emotional disorders, given their affectionate nature and intuitive respect for personal space.

The situation is “quite overwhelming; what we have experienced before, right now is the order of the day”With the second wave of the virus, says Mónica Morales, a 25-year-old nurse who already worked for months in a hospital in Madrid in the spring, the epicenter of the epidemic in Spain, and is now doing so in the south of the country.

“There are more and more patients and more and more tension” between colleaguesSo “being here with them (with the donkeys) helps me a lot,” Morales adds after spending time at Burrito Feliz stroking the animals’ soft snouts and feeding them carrots.

El Burrito Feliz is located in Hinojos, an Andalusian town surrounded by vast and sandy pine forests at the gates of the Doñana National Park. It is a non-profit association, and has 23 donkeys that have worked with Alzheimer’s patients and children with emotional disorders.

The project started at the end of June as a way to provide relief to exhausted, traumatized healthcare professionals in the fight against a pandemic that in Spain has killed more than 33,400 people at the moment and now has more than 900,000 confirmed cases.

An idea that came from Japan

The great stress produced by the daily fight with COVID-19 exhausts them. Here they are strengthened through a therapy with these donkeys and a wonderful forest ”, explains Luis Bejarano, manager of the association.

For hours these toilets relax, walk and recharge themselves with energy, to continue tomorrow fighting for us in the hospitals ”, adds this 57-year-old man.

Bejarano says that the idea came from a book on the “therapeutic forests” of Japan, where people spend hours walking to reduce stress and fight depression, as an alternative to the usual clinical therapies.

“The situation generates a lot of anxiety and a lot of stress, due to the risk of being infected or transmitted [el virus] to colleagues, relatives or other patients that they are more fragile than usual, ”says Mari Paz López, a 31-year-old oncologist.

The risk of falling ill is real. In Spain, one in ten health professionals was infected, twice the average of the general population, and one of the highest percentages in the world.

“I have not found something like psychological help,” says Mari Paz López, who works in the Andalusian city of Jaén and heard about “asnotherapy” on television. After walking for an hour through the pine forest with a little donkey named Magallanes,she sure feels much more relaxed.

They are animals that inspire a lot of tenderness, and the truth is that it generates a lot of emotional well-being ”.

Physiological changes

And it is that when being in a forest in contact with an animal, “something happens that allows us to express ourselves with another living being that is not going to judge us“, Adds the psychologist María Jesús Arqué, who collaborated with the project.

Several studies indicate that animal therapy promotes physiological changes, as it activates oxytocin —A hormone related to pleasure — increases endorphins and reduces cortisol levels in the blood, a product of stress, adds this psychologist.

“A simple 30 minute walk in a natural environment, a forest for example, change the mood“.

In her office in Madrid, Dr. Nieves Domínguez Agüero, 49, recalls with tears the terrifying moments of last spring when saw patients crowded in the corridors of his hospital for lack of beds, and others who died without being able to say goodbye to their families.

However, spending a few hours with the Burrito Feliz asses this summer helped her a lot. It was “great,” he says.

Animals help to relax a bit. The forest is spectacular. The pity is that it catches me very far, ”he says.

For the moment, 25 health professionals have passed through the projectAlthough the pace has slowed as cases have increased and Spanish medical personnel are once again struggling with one of the highest infection rates in Europe.

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