Now living at Manchester’s Donkey Sanctuary, ‘cheeky’ Charlie works his charm with patients and carers across the city.
The heatwave has crowds flocking to the country’s coasts for seaside sun and fun. But, for patients at one hospice, an element of the traditional outdoors came to them – as therapy treasure and former beach donkey Charlie came to visit.
Charlie was one of a group of donkeys who worked in Scarborough before coming to live at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Manchester centre, where he is involved in assistive therapy.
Now, aged 10, he left best friend Pringle for a morning, to visit staff, carers, patients and their loved ones at St Ann’s Hospice in Cheadle.
Charlie’s visit comes when end of life issues are high in the national psyche, after former MP Tessa Jowell’s plea to the House of Lords, just weeks before she died, to recognise that ‘in the end, what gives life meaning is not only how it is lived, but how it draws to a close’.
The visit was arranged by Manchester Health and Care Commissioning (MHCC) – a partnership between Manchester NHS clinical commissioning Group and Manchester City Council- as part of their ongoing plans to bring more personal choice in where and how people receive palliative care. It also represents the holistic and flexible nature of hospice care.
During the visit Charlie – who is known for his love of ginger biscuits – met patients and staff in the courtyard and went to bedroom windows so that everyone could see him.
Day care patient Genevieve Grey, 80, was especially happy to meet Charlie: “ I’ve always loved animals,” she said. “If I was able to I’d have him, I’d want him to come to live with me and I’d build a shed or shelter for him.”
Adele Crompton, an equine coach and coordinator who has worked at The Donkey Sanctuary in Manchester since it opened 14 years ago, said: “Donkeys have a natural emotional intelligence and react positively to human contact.
“There’s something very pure about seeing an animal in front of you. There’s no judgement and it takes a lot of people back to their childhood.”
Eamonn O’Neal, Chief Executive of St Ann’s, said: “Everyone loves a donkey. There is something unique about these wonderful animals and the effect they have on people. It was a pleasure to welcome Charlie and Adele to the hospice, and our patients, staff and volunteers loved meeting them. Charlie was a real hit with everyone, and his visit is proof that no two days are ever the same at St Ann’s.
“Hospices use a holistic approach to care, which acknowledges every patient is an individual and goes the extra mile to ensure that those unique needs are met. Whether that’s answering a patient’s wish for a takeaway meal for supper, planning a wedding for a family at short notice, or arranging special visits from guests like Charlie, we’re always happy to help create those special memories.”
Executives from MHCC made personal donations to fund the visit – as a mark of respect for all those involved. It also reinforces their conviction, reflected in the city’s five year plan for health and social care, to put more focus on helping those nearing the end of their lives.