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Therapy donkey visits Minnetonka senior living center

Tiptoe the therapy donkey visits a Minnetonka senior living center. (Provided Photo/ WCCO)

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    MINNETONKA, Minnesota (WCCO) — A new year can mean new friends — and people at a senior living facility in Minnetonka made a new pal Thursday.

At New Perspective Senior Living, a belated Christmas present is about to arrive.

A packed crowd welcomed not a therapy dog, but a therapy donkey.

“Tiptoe is 2 years old so he’s a little toddler. We still call him a baby,” said Tabeah Brockman, Tiptoe’s Handler.

A 250-pound baby, to be exact.

Tiptoe, also known as Tippy, makes the rounds every so often. Brockman said he welcomes the love after a rough start in life.

“His mom decided she didn’t want to be a mom. So, she stomped him so he was in the ICU for a while,” Brockman said. “He’s just a little miracle donkey so now he’s giving back.”

And they also believe that his visits help people struggling with memory loss.

“We had tears and we had people talking that didn’t talk for a long time,” Brockman said.

“Giving them an opportunity to see an animal like this, where they live in our community. It’s just amazing,” said Diana Yeager, Life Engagement Manager.

“We’ve had dogs, we’ve had cats, we’ve had volunteers. We’ve never had a donkey,” said Chad Yeager, Environmental Services Director.

When visiting time is over, Tiptoe returns to his stable in Hamel, which looks a little bit like a dorm room, but his day isn’t quite over.

Tiptoe is also a seeing-eye donkey for a blind 10-year-old horse named TyTy.

“Tiptoe is basically his eyes. He’s running around with this little bell here so Ty can follow,” Brockman said.

In a sense, he keeps the horse out of harm’s way.

“You can tell if the weather gets really bad, he will push him into the lean-to over there. Or he will lead him to the water,” Brockman said.

All in a day’s work for this little fella.

“It’s very special to see the smiles and to see the old people just being happy. They probably don’t see a lot of donkeys in there,” Brockman said.

Tiptoe’s owner, Erin Larson, said he got his nickname because he will occasionally walk on the tip of his hooves. So far, he’s visited about a half dozen senior living facilities and they plan to visit more.