A Horse and a Donkey Remind Me of the Importance of Relationships

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by Lori Dunham |

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One of the most positive experiences that has come from our 17-year-old daughter Grace being diagnosed with Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome has been the opportunity to attend horse therapy with a nonprofit organization called Grace Under the Oaks. I have shared in the past the incredible improvements this therapy has afforded Grace. Not only has it increased her physical strength, but also it has given her confidence in herself and her abilities.

Grace Under the Oaks has become like a second family to us. We enjoy getting to know the plethora of staff and volunteers. Their love and concern for their students is visible in everything they do. The number of volunteers they commit to each student is downright impressive. It has richly blessed our lives.

Over time, we have come to recognize that a special relationship exists on the grounds of Grace Under the Oaks. It is not just the volunteers and how wonderfully they relate to the riders. Nor is it the owners who selflessly give their time and land to make this incredible ministry possible. Surprisingly, it is the relationship between a horse and a donkey.

relationships | Lambert-Eaton News | Grace rides the horse Dolly while being assisted by a staff member of the nonprofit Grace Under the Oaks.

Grace rides the horse Dolly at Grace Under the Oaks. (Photo by Lori Dunham)

Dolly is one of the horses that participates in the therapy program. She is graceful, sleek, and beautiful. Each week, multiple riders learn from Dolly. Whether they have physical challenges like Grace or a developmental disorder like autism, Dolly listens for their commands. She patiently waits as they learn to mount her. She gently guides them through the course. She listens to their direction and is obedient to her rider. Her sweet personality makes her perfect for this type of therapy.

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However, off to the side in a small pen is Jackson. Jackson is a donkey. His hair is rough, and one ear lies flat while the other points directly to the sky. He may bite if you get too close, and most days he seems oblivious to almost everyone. Except for Dolly.

relationships | Lambert-Eaton News | Jackson the donkey stands in an outdoor pen.

Jackson the donkey. (Photo by Lori Dunham)

Jackson considers himself Dolly’s protector. The two cannot be separated. Where Dolly goes, Jackson must go. As Dolly saunters around the course, Jackson is always aware of her movements. He glances up every now and then looking for her. Once he lays eyes on her, he relaxes back into enjoying his grassy breakfast.

Dolly takes solace in Jackson’s presence. Knowing he is off to the side looking on, Dolly can relax into the role she needs to fill. They are each other’s anchor.

I watch these two precious animals, noticing how much they rely on each other. I am reminded of how much we need our own people. It is especially important for those living with rare diseases to have these anchor people in our lives, those who look out for us and walk beside us. Through both good and bad days, they are present. They are the people who always show up.

They make time for us, and vice versa. We do life together, sharing not only the heartache and pain, but also the triumphs and blessings. We find solace in their presence.

Like Dolly, we all need someone to show up for us, someone to see us, know where we are, and care. My hope is that everyone has at least one Jackson in their life.


Note: Lambert-Eaton News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lambert-Eaton News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Lambert-Eaton myasthenia syndrome.

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