Travels With My Donkey

Tim Moore, an English journalist, walked Spain’s  Santiago de Compostela trail in 2001 with his companion, a donkey named Shinto.  The two were an unlikely pair since Moore had set out on this 500 mile journey with negligible experience in the handling of equines. As man and donkey made their way over sun-scorched highways, precipitous bridges, dirt paths shaded by leafy trees and vineyards occasionally lashed by downpours, Moore and Shinto passed  through some of northern Spain’s oldest towns and cities in the companyof a colourful cast of fellow pilgrims. 

With warmth and (much) wit the author shares experiences shaped in great part by the wiles and curiosities which make up  life with a donkey. By journey’s end,  Moore finds himself to be a better person and this transformation, he realizes,  has as much to do with Shinto as it does with any latent environmental spirituality.

During  their trek Moore alternately pushed, pulled, wheedled, cajoled and threatened Shinto who, nevertheless, set the pace each day.  There were moments when I laughed out loud at the author’s antics in the face of the donkey’s stoicism.  This delightful travelogue made the miles pass much too quickly and at its end Moore and his reader are almost tearful when the time comes to bid farewell to Shinto.   With great pleasure, this book is highly recommended.

Sandra Pady, Executive Director

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RUNNING

We are experiencing a freakish hot spell here in Southern Ontario right now: +25 today.  The donkeys and mules, of course, are most contented with this aberration (they are desert animals, after all ) and it has made them energetically frisky for several days now.

Tibet, Juno, Juliet and  Saucy are on strictly controlled diets and so they pass their days in the Garden Paddock.  Yesterday, I had the pleasure to watch them race around in circles intermittently in the sunshine.   The mules, for their part, have been running down and around their grazing field in wild abandon on and off for the past three days.  It is so easy to smile whenever they do this.

Equines  in motion are a thrilling  sight.  In days gone by when they roamed the savannahs and desert hills of  Northern  Africa I imagine that the beauty of their wild freedom would have made a viewer gasp.

Sandra Pady, Executive Director

 

Anthropomorphism – Be Gone!

Like Michael Parfit, the author of a recent, very intriguing article in the Globe and Mail, I have often banged my head against the wall of charges of  anthropomorphism.  When we respond to the emotions of our pets, or of animals in the wild, too often  we are made to feel as if we are engaging in  “illicit sentimentality.”

 The profusion of evidence demonstrating that animals have emotions  means, now,  that we can no longer dismiss and feel guilty about recognizing this fact.   At the same time, animal emotions may be similar to ours  but they are not identical.  As Lori Marino, a prominent cetacean neruobiologist has stated, “I think it’s the difference between saying something is the same and saying something is on par.”  In other words, animal emotions – and we have so much to learn about them – are equally valid as those of humans. These emotions deserve our respect and our research.   I hope you can take a few  minutes to read the article linked below.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/opinion/human-angst-animal-emotions/article2241880/

Sandra Pady, Executive Director

For Their Own Reasons

Earlier today, I was walking in the barnyard and I stopped to read (for the hundredth time, I think) a sign we have there that contains a quotation from Alice Walker, the Nobel Laureate.  On this occasion, like on all of the others, Ms Walker’s comment sent my thoughts careening in different directions.  Every time, they compel me to stop and to rethink our stewardship of the donkeys and mules.   Here are her words, for you to experience:

“The animals of the world exist for their own reasons.  They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

Sandra Pady, Executive Director

 

Serenity

Yesterday, during a visit to the new donkey house, I was reminded that in the course of my work, I spend too much time at my desk and too few moments with the animals in whose cause I labour.

All of the donkeys happened to be inside.  When I entered, the impact of their calmness caressed my face like a gentle touch.    They were munching away on their hay, with heads down, making small movements as they browsed around.  Although the sky was overcast, the light through the windows was mellow, soft.

I stood still and Uma approached.  Her coat has always been like a sable’s fur.  I patted her as she nuzzled into my side.  On my left, Apache was standing in a doze.  My goodness but her weight management program has been a success!

It was cold outside, probably around -1 degree, but inside the warmth from the animals’ bodies filled the space.  I closed my eyes to appreciate more the smell of the hair, the dampness on some of the donkeys’ coats.

Once again, the zen-like environment that can be created by a herd of donkeys –  just being donkeys – was felt.

Sandra Pady, Executive Director