Donkeys throughout the world suffer from unfair stereotypes – including, but not limited to, misconceptions that they’re only useful as work animals and that they’re stubborn to a fault. However, those who give donkeys a chance by looking past their negative reputation are rewarded with the privilege of getting to know them for who they really are: loyal, intelligent, and caring companions that become part of the family.

One little girl, named Honor, discovered how special these misunderstood animals are when her parents opened an animal sanctuary in Springtown, Texas called Sycamore Tree Ranch. Every evening, the family takes a walk with their rescued donkeys. During one of these walks, Honor’s family noticed that she was fascinated with the donkeys and possessed a particular openness toward them.

Honor’s parents and sanctuary founders Koby and Chad Wegge started the rescue with a specific vision in mind: to provide people suffering from grief and trauma with animal-assisted therapy.

Most of the sanctuary’s donkeys were rescued from “kill pens,” where unwanted farm animals often end up before being transported to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. According to Koby Wegge, co-founder of Sycamore Tree Ranch: “When we first got them, they were so terrified of people that we couldn’t even get close to them.”

Thanks to the patience and perseverance of the Wegges, the traumatized donkeys were able to begin their journey of emotional healing. Six months later, they’ve adjusted to their new lives of safety and comfort.

Since their arrival at Sycamore Tree Ranch, the donkeys have made tremendous strides toward their recovery. The naturally curious animals love to explore the sanctuary. They continue to accompany the Wegges for routine evening walks, which are also often joined by the family’s cats, dogs, and goats.

When Honor tags along, the donkeys get especially excited. During the walk, they patiently take turns receiving hugs from her.

The Wegges’ successful rehabilitation of the traumatized donkeys and their bond with Honor challenge ages-old myths about their alleged inability to form a genuine connection with humans.