We recently spent time with donkeys Foley and Fergus who were rehomed in 2016 to the 'Garden Project' at the Central Mental Hospital.
The Garden Project comprises beautifully tended gardens, polytunnels, animal enclosures and paddocks at the 30 acre hospital site in Dundrum.
Jacqui Cahill and Pat Farrell are clinical nurses with backgrounds in psychiatric nursing. They are also Garden Project Leads* at the hospital and are aware of the benefits of animal care as part of patient rehabilitation. With the support of hospital senior management and the Carers Group, Jacqui contacted The Donkey Sanctuary to learn more about our Rehoming Scheme. Both Jacqui and Pat attended our Donkey Care Course and after working closely with our Welfare Team, Foley and Fergus moved from our sanctuary to their new home in Dundrum. Our donkeys are not the only animals at the hospital, which is also home to ducks, chickens, tropical birds, bees and even a turtle!
It is clear that Foley and Fergus are well cared for and loved in their new home. Their shelter was purpose-built by Pat and some of the patients who continue to contribute to the daily care of the donkeys. Tasks range from cleaning out the shelter to grooming and feeding Foley and Fergus. Jacqui says: “Foley and Fergus have made a positive difference to the lives of our patients. Caring for the donkeys is a very social activity as patients work in teams to look after them. It also helps build patient self-esteem and confidence.” She adds: “Interacting with Foley and Fergus offers the patients an opportunity for affection which can brighten the day.”
Welfare Advisers Joe Prendergast says: “It is a privilege to see our donkeys thriving in this specialist mental health facility and that both donkeys and patients benefit from interacting with each other.”
Next year, when the Central Mental Hospital moves to the new site in Protrane, Foley and Fergus will move with the rest of its Garden Project and we look forward to the next chapter in their lives.
*Jacqui and Pat are supported by their colleagues Tony and Frankie in the Garden Project.