- Associated Press - Thursday, August 9, 2018

ULSTER PARK, N.Y. (AP) - In most of the world, donkeys are beasts of burden, but at an upstate New York farm sanctuary, their only job is to unburden the human soul.

Steve Stiert (STY’-ehrt) has 11 donkeys, a mule and a donkey-zebra hybrid at his home in Ulster Park, 80 miles (130 kilometers) north of New York City. He takes miniature donkeys to nursing homes, hosts people with disabilities at his Donkey Park mini-ranch and has an 800-member Meetup group featuring hikes with donkeys.

The retired IBM software engineer calls donkeys “great stress sponges,” saying they have a calming effect on people because of their peaceful nature. He says despite donkeys’ reputation for being stubborn they actually are mild-mannered and intelligent and love to nuzzle.

Tom Cossaboom visits the park and says the donkeys help him relax.

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