For the longest time, Amber Austwick was unable to speak. In fact, it took a donkey to inspire her first words.
Amber, a 6-year-old in Birmingham, England, was born prematurely, along with her twin sister, Hope, in June 2010.
Both babies suffered severe bleeding in their lungs, but Hope got stronger while Amber needed a life-saving tracheotomy that restricted air to her vocal cords, according to Inside Edition.
As a result, she was able to breathe, but unable to speak.
But that changed three years ago, when Amber’s mom, Tracy Austwick, took her to an animal sanctuary. It was there that Amber met Shocks, a donkey that had been rescued from abuse.
“It was quite scary really,” Tracy Austwick said, according to the Daily Mail. “Shocks was in the arena and the riding instructor took little Amber to him and I found it scary for me because Shocks was so much bigger than her.”
“But Amber wasn’t scared and Shocks was really excited to meet her and they’ve kept that bond ever since.”
The bond is so strong that when Amber was ready to say her first words, she said them to Shocks: “I love you.”
Amber’s mother was shocked that her daughter spoke to Shocks.
“It was such an emotional moment. I couldn’t believe my daughter had finally found her voice,” she said, according to the Sun. “Once she met Shocks he brought her out of her shell, she’s a lot more confident with him and with friends at school who she loves to talk to about him and the donkey sanctuary.”
Although Shocks still lives at the sanctuary, he’s part of the Austwick family.
“Amber will always visit Shocks and she still sees him whenever she can,” Tracy said, according to Inside Edition.