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October 11, 2017

The land where the DSC is located was first settled by Europeans in the 1840’s.  By mid 1860 the original log cabin was replaced by the construction of a lovely stone house that is the centrepiece to this day among the barns, sheds and shelters that dot our 200 acres.

The house is large, 4500 square feet. One half is a residence while the other is now the location of offices and meeting rooms.  All of the day to day administration of the Sanctuary goes on within its walls.  The house serves us well but over the past century and a half its exterior has been pounded by storms and frost. As a result, countless small openings have developed where the roof meets the walls.  These gaps are particularly attractive to animal and insect life. Mice, snakes, birds, raccoons, chipmunks, squirrels, cluster flies: all have found ways to get inside.  There is never an end to the little holes which have to be plugged.

Since they began working in the house,  staff members  have become accustomed to the sudden appearances  of scurrying creatures in the rooms, racing along the floors, hoping not to be seen.  Given that history, people were not  surprised when, earlier this year, bees made their appearance around desks and computers. At first there were only a few bees buzzing around  but when the numbers increased we  realized that something had to be done. Investigations began and up in the attic it was discovered that a very large beehive had evolved  over an unknown period of time.  A beekeeper was called.  Subsequently, thousands of bees were corralled and transported to a more appropriate location. Afterwards, two hundred pounds (!) of honey were removed from the hive.  Problem solved – or so we thought.

In late August, it developed that repairs  had to be done to the house’s old chimneys.  Craftsmen were called but when they arrived to begin work they discovered yet another beehive located inside one of the flues.  Once again, the beekeeper’s help was sought and this time 60,000 (!) bees were moved to another site.  100 pounds of honey were taken out in turn.

These bee ‘excavations’ have been costly and we have come to recognize the obvious, which is that the bees find in our fields much of what they need for making their honey.  Next spring we will install several boxes for beehives at the edge of the fields – but far from visitors, of course.

At this moment, the old house appears to be free from little, unwelcome residents.  However,  colder weather is on the way and so it goes without saying that from inside the walls sounds of scurrying feet and buzzing insects soon will be heard.  Over the course of the winter we expect that sundry creatures will have to be moved from the house; at this point, though, we don’t expect them to be bees.

In our crowded world, accommodation is the order of the day.

Sandra Pady,  Founder




September 6, 2017

Those of you who have read these essays over the years are acquainted with my conviction that the words we choose to speak and write can have a power, a reach far greater than is ever our intention.  When we call someone a “stupid ass” our purpose is to denigrate the person and too often we ignore (or perhaps don’t even realize) that in process we are demeaning an innocent animal.  As it beats down a slur is like a hammer, pounding away at natural dignity.

In a recent issue of The Guardian Weekly, the columnnist George Monbiot  addresses this inherent power in the words that are part of contemporary usage as it refers to the natural world. For him, the term ‘climate change’ suggests merely ‘natural variations’  when, instead, the expression so used should make clear the catastrophic disruptions that are actually  taking place around the earth.  The deadly hurricanes, floods and soaring temperatures which  dominate global weather patterns today are signs of  “climate breakdown”, not simply change.  There is an urgent need to employ terms that reflect reality. What is going on is not just a blip in time; policies must be based on the recognition of these permanent alterations in climate patterns.

Here at the DSC we are trying to meet the challenges of these global changes in the work that we do.  The needs of future generations are as important as those of the present.  For years, now, we have used the term ‘environment’ to refer to the natural world around us: the animals, the plants, the landscape. But if we follow George Monbiot’s observations then the time has come for us to reconsider the use of this all-encompassing, neutral term. Its banality belies the throbbing, vibrant, life-filled natural world around us.  We are part of a living planet not an ‘environment’.  Our efforts to teach respect for everything around us  are thwarted when we lump the myriad, vibrant elements  into a  scientific, neutral catchall.

Finally, let’s consider the word, ‘extinction’, one we hear or read almost daily. When we stop to think about it, it is clear that this bland, scientific term  in no way suggests the role that humans play in the exterminations that are happening around the globe, most in the name of commerce. As Mr. Monbiot points out, “It’s like calling murder, “expiration”.   His suggested replacement is the term ‘ecocide’, a word that points to the largely human responsibility for this global slaughter.

It is well understand that when we name something we take on a part of it.  We form a relationship that implies our responsibility in one way or another.  Our natural world, our living planet is precious; we need to think in realistic terms about how we can help it to survive. It is time for some new names.

Sandra Pady, Founder






August 25, 2017

In our twenty-first Century, urban society celebrations are too few and far between.  Intensity is the mood of the day; we work so hard, all of the time.  As a result, when a date that is noteworthy arrives in our lives, we are often taken by surprise.  “Where has the time gone?  It seems like yesterday!”.

And so it was that the weeks passed in their usual flurry until this month arrived when, on Wednesday (and all week for that matter) we looked up long enough to celebrate 25 years in the life of the community that is The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (DSC).  And there is so much to celebrate!

Back in 1992 when we began our work, people were often incredulous that we had established an animal sanctuary – and a donkey sanctuary at that.  Many found it hard to believe that the animals were that important.  In the intervening years, attitudes have begun to change in so many quarters, though; it is common now for people to acknowledge that animals matter.  We understand more than ever before that the other animals on this planet (humans being just one group)  make tremendous impact on our lives in myriad, positive ways. Our existence is made fuller by their presence.

Over the years, the DSC has come to be seen as a model. We have set the bar very high when it comes to standards of animal care and these are conveyed in the example that is set here at the Farm on a day to day basis.  The 225+ donkeys and mules that we have admitted have been able to live full, complete lives in an environment where their basic needs are met at all times, with freedom to roam and to make individual choices.

At the same time that this outstanding care is being provided, we hold the matter of animal welfare education to be equally important.  Through our on site Education Centre, newsletters, website, foster farm program, and social media we are here to inform, to provide guidance and best practices when it comes to animal care. Thousands of people benefit and learn from our message every year.

Although pages could be filled with particular memories of events over the years,  it is more important, I think, to acknowledge and express gratitude to the hundreds of people who, in the past and the present, have comprised the DSC community.  The members of our animal care staff,  those who work in education, those who administrate, raising the funds that are required for all of this work, and those who volunteer their skills and time  – every single person has contributed to the whole, making The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada the effective, much-admired organization that it is.

Finally, as we acknowledge our collective achievement, we open our arms even wider to include our donors.  It is through  your generosity that we have been able to operate, mature and affect so many precious, animal lives.

Thank you one and all.  You have every reason to be proud.

Sandra Pady, Founder


July 31, 2017

The forest fires in British Columbia are devastating the land and forests. These conflagrations get worse each year.  Historically, they have been part of the natural ecological cycle; now, however – and due to global warming –  their numbers, duration and intensity have escalated dramatically.

These photos of a part of the Nicola Valley, south of Kamloops, are of the land where Anjou, a DSC foster donkey lives.  Most of the time this environment is perfect for Anjou and his 3 donkey companions.  They graze over 265 acres  of shrubby grassland and then they return each evening to their barn where they receive much attention from their caregivers.  The ground is rough, hilly, precipitous in places and rocky.  Usually, one can see for miles but the haze in these photos blocks most of the vistas.  It is the smoke from fires burning 30 miles away.

Anjou’s caregivers have been on high alert for over a month, now.  Every day the temperature soars above 30 degrees Celsius and, unlike in years past, there has been a lot of wind.  Sparks in a windy landscape like this can turn into a fast-moving blaze within minutes.

It is a given, of course, that neighbours are tremendously supportive of each other in this vulnerable grassland  world.  Next door to the farm where Anjou lives, the rancher has large equipment,  water trucks and several workers on standby.  If a fire were to start, his backhoe would be used to cut trenches around houses and barns.  In the meantime, people work outside, removing dry brush from the vicinity of buildings.  It is never-ending work, too often complicated by extreme air pollution that clogs the air, caused by the smoke from distant flames.

One can only hope that these fires will die out sooner rather later.  In the meantime, our hearts are with the people and animals in the Nicola Valley, Williams Lake, Kamloops  and in neighbouring areas.

Sandra Pady, Founder


July 12, 2017

It has been a month since Tibet’s death and I continue to miss her presence very much. The smoothness of her silky coat, the sweet smell of hay on her forehead, her inimitably delicate walk: she fascinated me in so many ways. From her first moments in my presence – both of us shivering in the coldness of a dark auction barn – to the last time that I stroked her beautiful ears, this little donkey floated around in my imagination.

During two decades with us Tibet experienced the many stages of a full life. Upon arrival at the DSC she was only 3 years old and already pregnant. She carried her foal, Tengen, for almost thirteen months, birthed him all alone, and then nursed and guided him during his first two years into independence. The decade following was an energetic time for Tibet when she mingled comfortably with the donkeys in the main herd. Hours and hours were passed grazing in the pastures or resting comfortably in the warmth and security of the Donkey House. Then, one day while out in the fields, Tibet twisted her leg and tore a ligament.  This injury would go on to inhibit her movements from that time onwards. Thereafter she lived in the barnyard paddock with the older donkeys whose pace of life was much slower. She became a favourite of countless visitors, young and old.

For my part, I always looked forward to encountering Tibet. Her very presence charmed me. I’m sure that bystanders were often surprised by my effusive greetings to this little equine; nevertheless, I would chatter on and on. Looking back, I realize that my compliments to her were part of my desire to connect, to experience the full attention of her gaze. Such moments were always evanescent, though,  because of course from her vantage point I was just the other, essentially foreign and unimportant. As I did not exist for her, nor did she for me.

There is one more thing about Tibet that I feel compelled to share. While I miss her very much, I know that I am waiting, too. You see, Tibet arrived at the Sanctuary less than a year after Alice’s death.  Alice was a little grey donkey as well, equally fascinating in her own way and the space she left was filled by Tibet. I wonder who will be next.

Sandra Pady, Founder






June 16, 2017

In my opinion, there are few jobs so rewarding as those involving the care and support of animals.  At the same time, our work can make us feel like we are riding an emotional roller coaster.  That has been very much the case in recent weeks.

The donkeys and mules to whom we give a lifelong home come to the Sanctuary from every kind of condition.  In May and June,  calls for our help have come from many locations in Canada.  Our animal care staff have logged thousands of kilometres to do pickups and they have seen evidence of a variety of standards of care.  These inconsistencies mean that the emotional wear and tear on staff can be very high.

Staff went to Quebec to pick up Beans and Burrito in early May.  These two Standards, grey and brown in colour, are closely bonded and they were well treated by their former caregivers.  Changing circumstances in their lives prevented them from being able to continue to give care.

Then Surrey and Roxanne, a grey Miniature and a dark brown small Standard, were trailered most of the way from Manitoba.  Staff drove to Orillia to meet the van.  Although Surrey and Roxanne received good treatment, their caregivers were moving and had to sell the farm.  Added to that, there are some health issues with these donkeys and we understand that few veterinarians practice in winter north of Winnipeg due to harsh weather conditions.

Next, a five year old roan coloured pinto mule, was trailered here by our staff who had to travel to the Ottawa region where she was living.  We understand that the mule had lived on several farms in her short life. She is very high-spirited and is very challenging whenever she has to be handled.  Mules can be that way, especially when they are treated harshly in their first year.

Finally, we brought in two white Standard donkeys, ages 18 and 19.  They lived in Southern Ontario and had been obtained to guard some sheep.  When they didn’t bond with the sheep – which is often the case – the owner lost patience because the donkeys kept trying to leave the area where they had been  placed.  He tied one of the donkeys to a post on a 30′ line for 3 days. The line became tangled around the animal who was shivering and soaking wet with an eye infection when staff arrived to take them away.  In this case, when the call came in, we had to move very quickly because the owner said that if we didn’t do so, he would euthanize the animals the next day.  Our staff are to be commended highly for their calm, capable deportment in this highly-charge situation.

6 donkeys and a mule.  All are safe, receiving the needed medial care and positive treatment that each deserves.  Costs incurred during these rescues have been very high and it is only with the help of our donors that  we have been able to admit these animals to their lifelong home at the DSC where they will be able to live complete, natural lives.

Sandra Pady, Founder



June 6, 2017

Each year, as Donkey Day (Sunday, June 11) approaches, I marvel that our celebration of the animals is occurring once again.  There are not many happenings in contemporary society that carry on year after year, and that bring so much pleasure to so many people.  It is indeed an afternoon in the country for animal lovers of all ages.

Donkey Day is very important for The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, being as it is our major annual event that raises much-needed funds used to care for the donkeys and mules.   During the past two weeks, alone, we have taken in 7 donkeys, some from desperate, neglectful environments.  They are safe with us, now, on a new road where they can live healthy natural lives free from pain and distress.  The proceeds from Donkey Day will help to make that happen.

As is the case on every Donkey Day  there will be a multitude of activities for younger and older alike, all occurring on our beautiful farm where most visitors amble around admiring the donkey residents, slowing down a little bit and living in the moment.  There are always smiles all around.

See you on Sunday, I hope!       To purchase tickets in advance:

Sandra Pady, Founder