Summer of Love: ‘Donkey parties’ bringing stress relief and smiles at Linwood farm

LINWOOD, Kan. -- People at one Leavenworth County farm believe they've pinned the tail on something special.

The ranch's animals of choice -- miniature donkeys -- are showing unexpected love to their keepers.

"Good morning, Wonkers! How've everyone doing today?" an excited Debbie Burchett-Carden said while walking into her donkeys' pen Thursday.

Visits like the one she made to her long-eared friends on Thursday morning always result in smiling faces. Carden said she loves it that way.

Over the past 10 years, the farm's drove of miniature donkeys, which are typically smaller than three feet and 300 pounds, has grown to a half dozen. Carden and her family keep those animals on their farm, Shooting Star Studio and Farm in Linwood.

The donkeys have proven to be very affectionate to people.

"When I'm having an emotional roller-coaster day or week, coming out, I'm better and somehow, they relieve whatever frustration or anger or anxiety or sadness you may be having," Carden said.

Carden isn't a therapist. In fact, she said works as graphic artist for a Kansas City metro company.

However, she and her friend Jenna Brumm, who has spent a lifetime working as an equine trainer, have watched for a decade as those tiny donkeys migrate toward visiting people, allowing them to pet and stroke their mane.

In turn, those people, including Brumm, claim they feel stress relief and lifted spirits. Friends and family have been spotted sitting in the penned area, engaged in affectionate "donkey parties," where the critters come en masse to be petted.

"You can feel the support, the love, the nurturing. It's going to be OK. We got this. That's what it felt like to me," Carden told FOX4.

Carden said she figures -- why keep all of this animal affection to herself?

She said she imagines a time within the next year when the farm would be open to the public as a means of exposing others to the arts and literature, while still offering people the loving touch of these animals.

"One day, I was sad, but then, I had a donkey party and they cheered my spirits," Zacoriyah James, Carden's granddaughter, said. "Maybe they're just lovers, I guess? They really like everyone."

"I hope they get as much as they give. I would like to think I give back to them as much as they give to me," Carden said.

What the four-legged critters give is a grin, and unselfish warmth to two-legged animals in need of some love.


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