CHRISTMAS OPEN DAYS

Today, it is snowing lightly in Southern Ontario and I find my thoughts turning to Christmas.  This time of year can be such a joy – and then, again, it often comes round in a package of tension:  so much money to spend, so many things to do, so many relationships.

Given all of that, we want you to know that here at the DSC we offer a unique alternative, an opportunity to rid yourself, even for a little while, of the pressures of the Season .  From great experience we know that donkeys and  Christmas go together very well and when combined, serve to remind us of the real pleasures that are at the heart of the celebration.  In consequence, it is with great pleasure each year that we schedule 4 special Open Days in December so that you might come along and share in the magic.  The lower barn is festooned with lights; Santa’s sleigh is a lovely spot for photos; the Long Ears Boutique is chockablock  with gift ideas;  and of course, the donkeys are waiting to see you, all dressed in their fluffy winter coats.

Their world – in contrast to the hustle and bustle and LOUD Christmas songs that are everywhere at this time of year – is ever so quiet.  Sounds of the munching of hay, the swishing of tails, and the occasional grunts of contentment: these  are about all that you will hear as you walk around the paddocks during a winter  visit to the Sanctuary.  The animals’ routine never changes and its constancy can be reassuring.  The complications of everyday human existence are very far away in this place.  Here, it is easy to look around and take a moment to acknowledge the wonder that is the message of Christmas.  

SUNDAYS, 10-4 (weather permitting), DECEMBER 1, 8, 15 and 22.  We look forward to seeing you.

Sandra Pady, Founder

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Jewels in the Barnyard

This past August I posted the blog, And Then There Were Four, which described the rescue of 4 donkeys by the DSC.  Their lives had been shadowed by living conditions of gross neglect and their physical conditions were sources  of great concern.  The 10 day old foal wheezed whenever she inhaled and her mother was much too thin to be a  nursing jennet.  One of the older donkeys had severely twisted, deformed, overgrown hooves while a fourth  hobbled on feet that had been ‘trimmed’  with a hacksaw.  

The first two weeks after the donkeys’ arrival was a tense period for DSC staff, our veterinarian and our farrier.  Hoof trimming had to be carried out as delicately as possible while  the mother of the foal was introduced to a high nutrition diet.  All the while, staff were  nearby, encouraging the donkeys, demonstrating to them that human contact could be positive.  Gradually, much-needed weight was put on all of the donkeys.  The foal started to frolic, a most welcome  sign.

Three months have passed, now, since the rescue.  Just this week the donkeys were moved out of quarrantine and into the barnyard with our special needs group.  Yesterday morning I watched this little band  investigating their new world.  Sheep and goats were sniffed and examined very carefully.  The foal moved around as if glued to her mother – so many new scents and sounds!  And  the fourth donkey who had been gelded soon after being brought to the Sanctuary  had,  just a few days ago,  been moved to a paddock with Austin and Bentley, two lively geldings.

At the time of the donkeys’ arrival, the question arose as to what names should be given.  An informal survey was held and it was decided in turn that jewels should be the inspiration for the names.  Consequently the gelding was called Jasper, a two year old jennet was named Pearl, the mother we called Diamond and the baby was named Ruby.  While I gazed at this little group, moving around their new companions,  so obviously contented, their names once again brought a smile of affection.  Each one is indeed a jewel in his or her way and their presence will  be a reminder always  that, when people care enough to take action, precious positive results can be realized from even the most negative of situations.

Sandra Pady, Founder

QUIET TIME – NOVEMBER

In keeping with her  Catholic traditions, my Mother used to refer to November as the Month of the Dead.  It was a depressing appelation, one suited to the general weather conditions in those  weeks  which have always tended toward the gray and the wet.  As the sun retreated on its winter hiatus dark thoughts were the order of the day.

In contrast, at The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada Farm, November is anticipated to a degree.  As Stephanie stated the other day, “It is the time for a Reset.”  After 6 consecutive months of Open Days everyone, donkeys too, is ready for a respite, a time to close in and to recharge.

It is not that we do not enjoy our visitors; rather, their infectious enthusiasm is always enlivening but, over time, somewhat draining.  We never seem to appreciate, until November arrives, how intense the months before have been.  Although we have only two Open Days per week, May thru October, those periods require the concentrated energy of many, many people who work very hard to make our welcome warm and thoughtful.  Between Donkey Talks, the Education Centre, the Longears Boutique, visits with mingling donkeys in the barnyard, and maintenance of public areas,  we rely tremendously on the skills of our staff and and volunteers.  Their blue or yellow  shirts dot the visitor areas and in their quiet way they are always watching carefully, ensuring  that the ways of the animals are respected and understood.  Whenever a visitor murmurs, “This place is so peaceful and beautiful.” we smilingly agree while at the same time marvelling at the extent of the effort required to create the environment.

So, as a result of all of that, those of us who are working at the Farm this month are moving a little more slowly, following the example of our donkey friends.  Due to the grayness and the rain there is often mist in the air,  a veil that softens the edges and makes one want to speak more quietly.  The other morning, Kayla and Sarah seemed almost to float around as they brought donkeys in and out of the Treatment Area for sessions with the farrier.  And the donkeys, too, are visibly more relaxed.  After all, ‘quiet’ is their natural state.

While these four weeks are passing, though, at the back of our minds there is the awareness that December approaches.  By November’s end, in spite of our appreciation of the rest,  we are all anticipating the 4 December Sunday Open Days.  Donkeys and Christmas were made for one another and the children who visit sense the magic which is always contagious.

Come December, we invite you to stop by.  In the meantime, know that we are enjoying the quiet while preparing for your arrival.

Sandra Pady, Founder