Spring is here: Hurrah! – Spring is here: Oh, no!

Spring is here: Hurrah!  For the past 3 mornings, as I have walked up to the Farm, it has been wonderful to see  the paddocks virtually  littered with donkeys.  After  4 months of life in the Donkey House – they really do not like to go out when it is colder than -8C – the donkeys  are more than ready for a change.  Of course, they know that Spring is approaching; at last there is  something in the air. 

As I observe the Spring parade, clearly it is a delight for the donkeys  to be in motion, just walking around, scratching, scratching.  The weeks of body-rubbing are officially underway and  for the coming period,  the donkeys will move against anything that might provide relief from those itchy, dense, winter coats.  At this time of year, they almost swoon when staff or volunteers start to brush out the hair.

Spring is here: Oh no! Following closely in the wake of the warmer air currents is the process of melting.  For the next several weeks, where all that walking and scratching will be underway, paddocks and the barnyard will be carpeted with wet slush. Slush that is ever so conducive to  the development of hoof abscesses.  In turn, staff will be wrapping and treating many, many affected limbs.  The work can be tedious, messy:  the dedication of our staff is there for all to see at imes like these.

When all is said and done, though,  Spring is here and in spite of the spectre of abscesses, the mood is optimistic.  Green pastures are on the horizon.

Sandra Pady, Founder



OBEWAN: One of the First – Rest In Peace

Obewan 1In June 1991, a year after we moved to the farm, one of our dogs attacked a lamb that was part of a flock grzing in our east pasture.  We were devastated and did not know where to turn.  Fortunately, I had the good sense to contact the Rare Breeds Conservancy and its Founder, Jy Chiperzak.  He suggested that we become a host farm for 3 donkeys that had been under the Conservancy’s care.  Jy had been told that donkeys could serve as guardians for flocks of sheep and herds of goats and protect them from canine predators.

Just like that, we took in the donkeys and this was the initial step in the series of events that would see the eventual formation of The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (1992).  From my first moments of contact with Riley, Bronwyn and Apache (who was in foal) I was struck by their grounded awareness and soothing demeanors.  I was enamoured with them from the beginning.

 At the same time we were astoundingly ignorant of the requirements of care for donkeys and within a few days, after Apache gave birth to an all white jack foal we did not even know to separate them from Riley, the sire.    Much to our chagrin, on his third  day the foal was found injured in the pasture from what appeared to have been a kick from Riley.  We rushed the foal and his mother  to the Ontario Veterinary College and called him Obewan  (Star Wars, the white force) when asked for a name.   I am grateful to report that Obewan recovered successfully from this tramatic beginning to his life.  When he returned to the farm and we  settled in to a semblance of a  daily routine, I see now that that marked the first days of the very steep learning curve that we would follow with regard to the intricacies of equine care.

Much to everyone’s dismay, Obewan died suddenly earlier this week in his 23 rd year.  A necropsy is taking place so that we can confirm our suspicions of a neurological cause to the death.

In the intervening decades, as I look back on Obewan’s life, I see that his experiences have patterned closely to Sanctuary developments.  For years, he was closely bonded to his mother and he persisted to follow her everywhere.  They lived much of the time in the barnyard where we could monitor his health.  Then, as our population increased,  they moved to larger pastures where they could roam at will.   In 2004 Obewan and Apache  were moved to one of our first foster farms where they proved a delight to the family in residence.  There followed many years of anecdotal descriptions of Obewan’s and Apache’s charming behaviour.  Eventually, a few years ago, they were brought  back to the DSC farm.  Obewan, by that time, was very independent and he prefered the company of the other geldings to that of his mother.  He trotted around in the fields for hours and played games of chase in the glowing light of summer sunsets.

All together, Obewan lived a good, natural and full life.  His human caregivers were always positive influences,  he had the opportunity to live with his own kind in a safe world, and his basic needs were always met: food, water, companionship and all with the freedom of choice. Oh, for a world where such an animal’s life experience could be the norm. 

RIP, Obewan.  Thank you for giving so much to our lives.

Sandra Pady, Founder


When I was introduced to someone the other day and he heard tell of the DSC, the man was moved to make a stupidly ironic ‘ass’ joke.    I was annoyed and offended by this choice of humour and  later in the day, I found solace through  a few moments spent with PLATERO AND I, the glorious prose poem written by Juan Ramon Jimenz.   In particular, in chapter LV:

“Poor donkey! So good, so noble and knowing as you are!  Ironically…Why?  Don’t you even deserve a serious description, you whose real description would be as a story of springtime?  Why, a man who is kind should be called an ass.  And a bad donkey should be called a man.  Ironicallly…Of you, so intellectual, friend of old men and children, of brook and butterfly, of the sun, of the dog, of the flower and the moon; patient, thoughtful, melancholy, and loving.  Marcus Aurelius of the meadows.

Platero, who no doubt understands, looks at me out of his great shining eyes of a soft hardness in which the sun is gleaming small and sparkling in a brief convex sky of blackish green.  Oh, if his huge, hairy, idyllic head could know that I do him justice, that I know better than those men…  that I am almost as good as he!”

Sandra Pady, Founder


This persistent winter is trying everyone’s patience.  For my part, daily morning walks with the dogs have become  more of a trudge  as we make our  way along  snowy, ice-riddled trails.  At times my Yaktrax boot grips are the only things between a healthy body and a broken hip.

The other morning, as a I muttered my way along, I looked up to see a line of donkeys (and human handlers) walking ever so gracefully down the lane towards us.  They were indeed a feast for my  eyes, picking their way (as donkeys do) along the ridges, concentrating intently on their footing, entirely focused and in the moment. 

The dogs skirted the line and I stood still, charmed by the sight.  Sophie turned in a circle to better keep her eyes on Hugo, one of the dogs, while Obewan let go a brief kick out as if to say, “Dogs should walk elsewhere.”  Franko, always a little tense, sped up a little while Sergeant meandered as calmly as could be.  The only sounds were those made by the crunching of hooves and boots and it was suddenly necessary to squint a little as the sun blasted yellow rays from the sky.

The encounter was a brief one, but it served to dispel my silly, morose thoughts and to remind me, instead and as always,  of the magic of the natural world.  Winter was not so tedious after all.

Sandra Pady, Founder