This morning as I walked with the dogs, I realized that my mind was bubbling with stressful thoughts. Fortunately, though, our route took us past one of the grazing paddocks and several donkeys were there, busily munching on spring grass. A few minutes with them did wonders for my mood; there was a clear diminishment in tension levels. This little experience brought to mind a poem, Why Donkeys, that I read in the Newsletter of the First Donkey and Mule Club of BC. It is a pleasure to share it with you.
Adapted by Marguerite Townshend
When your day seems out of balance
and so many things go wrong,
when people fight around you
and the day drags on and on,
when parents act like children
and everything goes wonky,
go out into your pasture
and throw your arms around your donkey.
His gentle breath enfolds you
he watches with those eyes,
he doesn’t have a PhD
but he is oh so wise.
His head rests on your shoulder,
you hold him very tight,
he puts your world in balance
and makes it seem alright.
Your tears they soon stop flowing
the tension now has eased,
the stress has now been lifted
you are quietly at peace.
So when you need some respite
from the turmoil in your day.
the best therapy ever
is out there eating hay.
Sandra Pady, Founder
Sheila Burns started the Primrose Donkey Sanctuary 15 years ago in Roseneath, ON. Primrose is not as large as the DSC but Sheila is doing outstanding work on behalf of donkeys. On site, she cares for 40 donkeys and over the years, she has placed 53 donkeys and mules in good homes. At the same time, Sheila maintains contact with these caregivers who sign a contract of care. If ever there is any concern or the family situation changes, then the donkeys come back to Primrose. We admire Sheila’s work very much.
Several weeks ago, we received a call to the DSC from an elderly gentleman, recently diagnosed with cancer, who could no longer care for his two small Standard donkeys. He asked if they could be taken into lifelong care but, unfortunately, we were at maximum capacity at that time. Subsequently, though, we placed a call to Primrose where they were able to provide assistance. Initially, the donkeys were brought to our Sanctuary Farm where they were given a thorough physical examination, all necessary innoculations and farrier work. Then, after a few weeks when we were certain that their health was good, we moved the donkeys to Primrose Sanctuary. By this time, Sheila had found a good home for the donkeys and so they were moved soon thereafter to their new farm.
Working together is by far the most positive way to help animals. By combining our resources, the two Sanctuaries were able to ensure continuing, good care for these donkeys and it is of great benefit for each organization to be able to extend its reach in this manner.
Sandra Pady, Founder
On behalf of the donkeys, dear urbanites, please do come to visit the Sanctuary Farm this summer. Our Open Days have begun: Wednesdays and Sundays, 10-4, until the end of October.
If you have never visited us in the past then I suggest that you prepare yourself for a dreamy, low key experience: a time to just hang about, breathe the fresh air, meditate on the views, stare at the animals. All in all, we expect you to slooooooow down while you are with us and to take a little while to view the world through the donkeys’ eyes and ears.
It is quiet in their environment. Lots of time will be spent just standing or sitting, just be-ing. You will not have to talk in this space, unless you want to do so. The idea is that you will let your mind relax and, for a time, let it be free from all of its day to day concerns.
Do you care for a little walk? There are paths to Apple Tree Hill and Wild Duck Marsh, our interpretive trail. Perhaps, on the way, you will stop a while at Memorial Hill. There is a bench there with a marvelous view of the pond.
Our Learning Centre is an informative place to visit as well: very low key and hands on, a reminder to leave room in your busy life to consider the welfare of other creatures around you.
So, we will look forward to your visit. (You don’t have to call ahead, unless you are a group of 8 or more.) See you soon!
Sandra Pady, Founder
Several times every year I am asked, “Who owns the donkeys?”. And every time I answer that, ‘Noone does. They are under the care of the DSC”. As often as not, the questioners will have a somewhat surprised look on their faces because, evidently, the answer was unexpected.
This concept of ownership, of animals as so much property, is prevalent throughout our society. It is embedded in our Criminal Code, Crimes Against Animals Section which, by the way, has undergone woefully few amendments since it was first passed in 1892. We have persisted, in spite of myriad scientific advances with regard to our comprehension of animal consciousness, sensation and emotional intelligence, to have as the basic assumption in our legal code that animals are just so much property. With that comes the assumption that the ‘owner’ has the right to treat that animal as he or she would treat any kind of property. Emotions and responses of feeling are simply not part of the definition of treatment of the ‘object’ involved.
The animal welfare movement recognizes that animals are ‘sentient beings’ and that their conditions of life should be assessed according to the Five Freedoms (Farm Animal Welfare Council 2003):
Freedom from hunger and thirst
Freedom from discomfort
Freedom from pain, injury and disease
Freedom from distress
Freedom to express normal behaviour
The statement of these Five Freedoms marks a significant step along the road to better, more humane animal care. It seems to me, though, that general acceptance of these conditions will come only after it is realized that we are animal care-givers and not animal owners. The concept of ownership should be applicable to cars, sweaters and houses. It has no place being used to describe our relationship with other be-ings. It is a fact of life that the other animals are under human control but this does not mean that, in the process, we should render them without perceptions and feelings.
The concept of “giving or taking care” of another creature brings with it an awesome responsibility, one that demands of us that we bring an awareness at all times of the sentience of the animal involved. In this twenty first century, it is time that we move the ‘ownership’ of animals into the history books where it belongs. We are guardians. We are caregivers.
Sandra Pady, Founder