DRABBLE (n.): In creative writing, a drabble is a work of prose fiction exactly 100 words long, excluding the title. A drabble, although short on words should be a complete story that contains a beginning, middle, and satisfactory ending.

Let’s all write a book, a book of donkey drabbles!

You are invited to write a drabble about a donkey or mule that you know, or that you like, or that you admire, or that you like to groom, or that you like to take for a walk, or that you see in a field or that you hug or…….

The drabble should be about the donkey (or a pair or group of donkeys, or mules), maybe about an event in its life at the DSC or before the DSC, or voiced by the donkey, or voiced by someone who knows the donkey or about how the donkey makes you feel, or…… The donkey can live anywhere.

The drabbles will be put together in a book and then sold as a way to raise funds for the DSC. In the book, on every left page will be a donkey’s photo, and on the right page facing it there will be that donkey’s drabble.

Since the donkeys live in the moment, our drabbles will be in the present tense, in the moment too.

If you are using Word, remember that there is a word counter at the bottom left of the screen.

Send your drabble to

March 1, 2019 is our deadline for submissions and we hope that yours will be one of them. The drabble entries will be numbered and then a committee will make the final selections.

Oh, and please remember, this is not a writing contest. This is for the donkeys. 

Sample drabbles 

Example#1                               SOLO                 

Solo is a clever, cautious, confounding donkey. When it comes to his preference on Open Days he is consistent.  On those mornings, Solo ambles to the Office Paddock to wait for someone to unlatch the gate.  That done, he ambles up to the open-ended overhang attached to the barn and settles in to watch the passing parade.

Visitors come and go; they smile up at him. He gazes back: aloof, calm, safe from the unsettling pats of human hands.

At day’s end he chooses to return to the now-empty yard, content to spend the night amongst creatures that are known. 

Example #2                                 PANNE

In the wet winter barn the over-sized water trough is empty. Wait! There might be something at the bottom; maybe it is a bit of carrot.

Panne investigates. (Panne always investigates.)  When he bends over his four feet slip away from under him.  Now Panne is upside down in the trough.

In the area next door staff members hear moaning. They turn in circles, trying to identify the source.  Finally, they go around the corner and see four long legs sticking out of the water trough. Hurriedly, it is cut open and Panne scrabbles out.

No carrot is in sight. 

Example #3                                             I SAW A SIGN

By Erik Mortensen

I saw a sign yesterday. LEAD, FOLLOW, OR GET OUT OF THE WAY! It troubled me to see everyone walk by. I paused to think (very Platonic of me).  If everyone tries to lead does anything get done?  Sometimes to lead don’t we have to follow?  Everyone else on the street seemed to be getting out of the way, or were they following?  It seemed three options were not enough.  I was trapped in my head.  Thinking, thinking, thinking.  I decided to tear the poster down, leaving the remnants pasted on the glass.  Does that make me a leader now? 

Example #4


By: Johanna Jamnik

I am dabbling in babble to scrabble a drabble. Do I have the mettle to meddle and muddle the dribble to drabble?  I could quibble with Sybil as I riddle with twiddle or could I cobble some gobble as I coddle some boggle of all things glottal?  I muddle befuddled and huddle to muddle as addled I paddle in gabble to tangle and wrangle this dribble to drabble.  Ah, I think now I have got it!  This dabbling and meddling and riddling and cobbling and muddling in babble and gabble and bobble and twiddle and dribble is now a —drabble!

Have fun! Sandra Pady, DSC Founder





 Christmas it is always more peaceful around the Sanctuary.  With just a few  volunteers and staff each day, there is a quietness that blankets the lanes, fields and paddocks.  In the silence we can feel more in harmony with the other species who share the land.

My husband, David, was clearing away buckthorn (his arch enemy) from the sides of the fields the other day and as he worked, the red hawk that is never far away was gliding over the fields, looking for mice. When he looked down, David spotted signs of the two deer, a buck and a doe, who take refuge in the forests nearby.  For company they have the twelve or so wild turkeys that poke around in the undergrowth, muttering all the while and whose tracks in the fields signal their never-ending quest for left over grain and beans.

While David worked Hugo, our standard poodle, scurried around, sniffing and searching in particular for signs of the pale-coated coyote whose territory includes the Farms.  He or she is larger than Hugo. When he managed to give chase to the coyote one day our dog was left far behind. Of course, for both  running is instinctive but the coyote is much faster.  Better the squirrels and rabbits for Hugo to chase.  They play games with him, ones that always end with them climbing trees and burrowing into wood piles much to Hugo’s exasperation.

So far this winter, David has not seen the red fox who was around much of the summer.  We are quite sure that it was the fox who stole the geese eggs this season.  By the third week of  June there were the original four pair of Canada geese who had come to nest, but no goslings. The fox was spotted here and there all summer but now  David wonders whether it met its match in the muskrat and family who frequent the pond and marsh at West Ridge. In any case, the muskrats have built a lodge in the main marsh where they are sure to be hibernating, sleeping away from the cold.

While all of these lives are being lived in the fields, marshes and forests, the equines chew on their hay and straw for the much of the time.  Bright skies draw them outside, no matter how cold the day, and every now and then games of chase provoke the inimitable sounds of hooves crunching in the snow.  These flurries of action are short-lived, though; better to stand very still and soak up the sunshine.

From this complicated, uncomplicated place we send you our best wishes for a New Year filled with peace, good health and the beauty of the natural world.

Sandra Pady, Founder


I have been in the process for some time of reading through Ben Hart’s exceptionally helpful  website,  Ben is an equine trainer whose positive, supportive training practices can be used with donkeys to great effect.  As his website begins, “Ben has a mission to provide safe, ethical, sustainable behaviour training for horses, donkeys and mules worldwide by using the practical application of the science of behaviour”.

The website itself has a wealth of information, clearly presented and best digested in thoughtful doses.   There is much to be learned from his methods and philosophy, and as his points accumulate in the mind a total picture comes gradually into view.

Early on, Ben introduces his students to the practice of creating a ‘shaping plan’  for a particular animal, a plan that relies on small steps and much positive reinforcement while creating freedom for the trainer to be more in the moment with their animal.

The use of the word, ‘shaping’ is singular in itself and it reveals some of the nuances of the Hart philosophy.  According to the  Oxford dictionary to shape is “to create, form, construct, model, mould, fashion, bring into desired or definite figure or form”.  Whatever the end goal, when shaping is involved rigidity, impatience and absolutes have little place.

In centuries gone by, and unfortunately still in too many communities today, people believed that equines had to be ‘broken’, an act that involved cutting or tearing, dividing or dispersing into two or more parts. The goal here was to break the animal’s spirit, to overwhelm to the point that there would always be submission. It was and is a cruel, unnecessary approach, one based on the assumption that the equine is lacking in rational intelligence and sentient feeling.

The practice of breaking an equine hung around for much too long and it was not until the twentieth century that the expression, “Teach Not Make, Train Not Break”, began to circulate among some members of the equine training community.  This methodology was and is less antagonistic.  Instead of approaching the donkey, mule or horse as an adversary, the metaphor of the classroom tempers the process.  The teacher/student relationship is more compatible, with a suggestion of working together rather than beating down a perceived ignorant will power.  With this approach the trainer is working in the realm of the positive, recognizing innate potential, deserving of respect.

It is  from here, I think, that we move logically to the idea of ‘shaping’ equine behaviour.  The small steps, the positive reinforcement contribute to a training process that does not harm the animal physically or psychologically.  The aim is to work in the moment with consistency and clearly defined goals, with a rhythm that removes stress from the training experience for both parties involved.

Whether you are a trainer looking to improve your methods, a small landowner thinking to take in a donkey or other equine as a pet, or a city-dweller generally interested in the equine world, there is much to be learned from visits to Ben Hart’s website.  His positive approach is ethical, safe and sustainable — qualities that should be inherent in all relationships, human/equine and otherwise.

Sandra Pady, Founder





With November being such a dour month, what with its gray skies, persistent rain and diminishing hours of daylight, I am taking the opportunity to brighten your day with some images of Kate Pratt’s  donkeys.

These adorable crocheted equines are hand made by Kate who is a retired school teacher and a dedicated DSC volunteer.  Every Wednesday morning she can be found volunteering in the barn and then in the evenings while watching television Kate raises funds for the Sanctuary by creating these delightful stuffed creatures.  Each is one of a kind and sells for $25.

To date, Kate’s donkeys have garnered almost $5,000 for the Sanctuary, funds which have been used to support the construction of cement padding, fencing in the mules’ paddocks and supplies for some of our donkeys and mules with special needs.

As well as being available for sale in our Long Ears Boutique, particular donkeys can be ordered to accompany  sponsorship packages.  If you would like further information:

Thank you, Kate!



The Canadian poet, Ken Babstock, came to visit the Sanctuary one afternoon in 2010.  His recollections of that time make up the wonderful poem below which can be found in Methodist Hatchet, a collection published by House of Anansi Press in 2011.

Our last Open Days this season will be October 21 and 28. We hope you will visit, too.

Autumn News from the Donkey Sanctuary

Cargo has let down
her hair a little and stopped pushing
Pliny the Elder on

the volunteer labour.
During summer it was all Pliny the Elder,
Pliny the Elder, Pliny

the – she’d cease only
for Scotch thistle, stale Cheerios, or to reflect
flitty cabbage moths

back at themselves
from the wet river-stone of her good eye. Odin,
as you already know,

was birthed under
the yew tree back in May, and has made
friends with a crow

who perches between
his trumpet-lily ears like bad language he’s not
meant to hear. His mother

Anu, the jennet with
soft hooves from Killaloe, is healthy and never
far from Loki or Odin.

The perimeter         fence,
the ID chips like cysts with a function slipped
under the skin, the trompe

l’oeil plough and furrowed
field, the UNHCR feed bag and restricted visiting
hours. These things done

for stateless donkeys,
mules and hinnies – done in love, in lieu of claims
to purpose or rights –

are done with your
generous help. In your names.  Enjoy the photo.
Have a safe winter

outside the enclosure.


P A C E ……….for the donkeys!

The temperature is dropping this morning, instead of rising, and that is a sure sign that autumn has arrived. It means, too, that  PACE for the Donkeys, our annual 5km walk/run, is at hand.

On the morning of Sunday, September 30th, hundreds of participants – all ages and in all sorts of condition – will gather at the Sanctuary to run/walk our fields and trails.  This country event will be paced over hay fields and donkey paddocks, through forests, up hills and down, along trails, lanes and paths.  Some racers cover the distance in just many minutes while others amble along enjoying the sights and scents of the natural environment.  PACE is a time to feel good about our world and its animal populations.  Smiles are always the order of the day.

And there are really good prizes, too: for the top number of pledges, for the young people in their 100 yard dash, and for the top three who log the fastest times.  It is definitely a morning in the country for animal lovers of all ages.

So, come along and take part.  Links to the registration are at  You’ll be glad that you set your alarm!

And best of all?  The monies raised will be used for the care of our rescued donkeys and mules.  See you there.

Sandra Pady, Founder

PS:  Were you aware that a group of donkeys is known as a Pace of Asses?  That from Dame Julyana Berners in the Boke of St. Albans, written in 1388.


It rained very hard last night and early this morning.  When I walked up to visit with friends who had come to the Sanctuary for a Wednesday Open Day, the air was heavier than usual.  As a result, voices in the paddocks were muffled  while all around it was coloured either green or grey.  The mist softened everything, though, giving the scene the aura of an Impressionist painting.

There were fewer visitors than usual and they were spread out in the paddocks patting and talking softly to the donkeys.  After a few conversations it was clear that everyone had really wanted to visit with the animals today; even the forecast of more rain had not dissuaded them from making the trip.  A small group of children were so excited to meet Valentine, the donkey, whom they had decided to sponsor.  They had spent several afternoons making and selling lemonade in order to raise the sponsorship funds.  Their quiet pride for that achievement made them glow a little bit.  Another group was made up of the staff from the Canadian office of World Animal Protection.  They had opted to visit the donkeys during their staff appreciation day.  It was so encouraging to hear about some of their work.  World Animal Protection is a global organization that sponsors both national and international projects.  Pride in their achievements was evident as well.

While these conversations and so many others were taking place, DSC Staff and Volunteers mingled amongst the visitors, answering questions, sharing their enthusiasm for the donkeys,  while watching all the while to make certain that toes weren’t going to be stepped on by the animals who moved amongst the groups.   DSC personnel are always quietly alert on Open Days; they feel a very real responsibility for visitors and animals alike.

To complete this enchanting scene, several donkeys ambled around.  While most eyes were upon them, their attention was being given primarily to the sweet grass at their feet.  Nevertheless, I observed that they would stand very still whenever hands reached out to pat their sides.  It was nice to watch Speckle and Juanita, in particular, two donkeys who have been with us since 1991, looking so much at ease with all of the attention.  They used to be skitterish, rather hesitant around people.  Our respectful attention to them over the years has made a difference.

One is fortunate to experience times like this.

Sandra Pady, Founder




Yes, everyone in our part of the world is feeling the heat these days. For the past week temperatures have been 30+C and to walk, even just to and from one’s car can feel  like an immersion in a steam bath. While each one of us has a story to tell about the weather, this morning I was reminded that particular admiration is due from all of us in our air conditioned buildings to farm workers everywhere who have little choice but to be outside most of the time in summer.

During our walk up to the Sanctuary today, at the corner of the barn wall where the main yard opens up, I collided with a wall of hot air.  In the instant, the temperature rose dramatically and enveloped me in a cloud.  Instinctively, I took a step backwards.  At the same time Kayla, one of our animal care staff, approached and of course she was wearing jeans. My obvious comment that they must be very heavy was completely unnecessary.  Kayla, and every other staff member working with the animals, has no other choice.  When one is engaging with large animals, sweeping out stalls, dragging water troughs, hefting bags of feed, throwing bales of hay……..the list is endless and all of it must be done with some protection for one’s humanly delicate skin.  Day after day under the hot sun, encased by the heaviness of denim on the lower body means that  extra-ordinary effort is required just to walk around.  Stamina takes on a whole new meaning under such conditions.

Meanwhile, as we humans attempt to stay cooler, the donkeys and mules  handle the heat in their particular ways.  They go out to graze in the coolness of the nights or early mornings.  No unnecessary effort is expended in their movements.  They amble around the pastures, graze a while, and then stand very still.  Much of the time shade is sought – be it in the relative cool of the Donkey House, barn or Mule Motel – but at the same it is not unusual to see an equine standing, snoozing in the full sun with short summer coat glistening in the heat.  Soon enough, the time for movement arrives, though, and then more than likely a trip is made to a water trough for a good, long drink.  It is so evocative to watch a donkey or mule take up the water and then work that coolness down his or her long throat.

They say that this extreme heat will carry on a few more days.  During that time, our staff will carry on in spite of the temperatures and because of their commitment to their work.  At each day’s end, the shower must feel so good.

Sandra Pady, Founder






Big Ben, born in 1989, is an easy-going Mammoth donkey who was brought to live at the DSC in 2015.  He gets along very well with the other equine residents and he is a favourite with staff and volunteers.

When Ben first arrived he had very little hair on his legs and his previous caretaker had thought that to be a natural condition.  With the arrival of  warm weather, however, flies began bother him and  we soon realized that Big Ben was not hairless on his limbs after all.  Rather, he had become adept at pulling out the hair on his legs in the effort to get rid of the annoying insects. ( There is probably something about Big Ben’s body odour that is a magnet for the flies.)

During his first summers with us, Big Ben was often in the barnyard where he could have fly repellent applied regularly.  That was somewhat of a help but everyone had to remain vigilant about its applications.  It was only a tolerable solution.

This past winter, though, one of our animal care staff, Elizabeth Brezina, made a clever suggestion, somewhat in jest, “Maybe Ben should wear leggings!”.  Sheila Zanyk, a DSC  volunteer, overheard the comment and she decided to give the leggings a try.  Designing, sewing and fitting these covers turned out to be quite a challenge  but  Sheila persevered. The stylish leggings were finished just in time to greet the heat.  They are proving to be a great success……he now has two sets!

After just a few weeks with the leggings,  the hair on Ben’s legs is everywhere it should be.  The flies have had to move on.  Such relief!  Such a clever solution!

Sandra Pady, Founder


At the DSC, a sure sign of Spring is the increasing frequency of donkey walks by our volunteers. This scene, captured a few weeks ago, has since become quite common around the Sanctuary and all who take part agree that the simpler activities in life are often the best.

Those lucky enough to share such ambulatory experiences well know the quiet pleasure to be derived from ‘taking one’s time’. To accompany a donkey on such an outing is to appreciate the significance of every step taken. Indeed, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that the Buddhist practice of mindfulness walking originated when journeys were commonly made at the donkey’s pace.

Visitors to the DSC often remark about the peacefulness of the environment, the calmness that is in the air around the farm. I have no doubt but that this results from our equine residents’ rhythm of life. Whether they are walking at our sides or just moving around in their pastures, movement at their pace brings its own soothing reward.

Sandra Pady, Founder