In 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