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February 2, 2017

We have experienced many cold, snowy days recently when sunshine has been at a premium.  Of course so long as one bundles up, walks can be invigorating and there is so much at which to marvel in the still, blanketed woods.

Nevertheless, as I ambled along this morning while the dogs zigzagged  through the trees, PLATERO AND I  came suddenly to mind. I was not surprised.  This  prose poem, written in the early part of the last century by Juan Ramon Jimenez, always fills me with sunshine.  The work conveys in elegant, spare language the charms of an Andalusian village where the poet shares his life with Platero, his donkey companion. Whenever I read this lyrical tribute, I am charmed anew by the respect and affection that the poet has for his equine friend.  The warmth of their world is like a tonic that can relieve the weight of even the grayest winter’s day.

The following is the first passage of PLATERO AND I:

Platero is a small donkey, a soft, hairy donkey: so soft to the touch that he might be said to be made of cotton, with no bones.  Only the jet mirrors of his eyes are hard like two black crystal scarabs.
I turn him loose, and he goes to the meadow, and, with his nose, he gently caresses the little flowers of rose and blue and gold….I call him softly, “Platero?” and he comes to me at a gay little trot that is like laughter of a vague, idyllic, tinkling sound.
He eats whatever I give him. He likes mandarin oranges, amber-hued muscatel grapes, purple figs tipped with crystalline drops of honey.
He is as loving and tender as a child, but strong and sturdy as a rock. When on Sundays I ride him through the lanes in the outskirts of the town, slow-moving countrymen, dressed in their Sunday clean, watch him a while, speculatively:
“He is like steel,” they say.
Steel, yes. Steel and moon silver at the same time.

Sandra Pady, Founder


January 10, 2017

the_donkeys_and_me_coverDuring the past two years I  have had the great satisfaction to work on my recently published book, “THE DONKEYS AND ME:A Memoir”.

Writing the manuscript was a joy.  It allowed me to browse across my life and identify all of those influences which, when combined, prompted my decision to found The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.  That review, along with stories of particular donkeys who have animated my life, make up the contents of the book.  Essentially, I wanted it to be an extended tribute to the animals, their world, and the impact that they have made.

I knew very little about the development and publication of books before this project began.  Complications developed at times, the writing was easier on some days than on others, but the finished product is more than worth all of that.  Of course, there is so much more to the publication of a book than the writing of it and it was Liesje Doldersum who designed and oversaw the other stages.  Due to her creativity and attention to detail the stories have been realized in a most appealing form.  Thank you, Liesje, for all of that and for shepherding me through the periods of writer’s angst.

Now, I think, it is time to begin the next volume…..there are so many more donkeys whose stories merit being told!

THE DONKEYS AND ME: A Memoir can be ordered through the DSC on line, or by phone, 519-836-1697.

Sandra Pady, Founder



December 24, 2016

Today, Christmas Eve, it is above freezing at the Sanctuary.  The snow is sticky and  during my morning walk with the dogs, the trails were crusty in places.  Wreaths are still hanging on the buildings and fences, all of those having been created for our December Open Days.  Their big red bows contrast so well with the whiteness of the snow.

Starting today, there will be fewer people around the DSC and so the rhythms and sounds of the animals’ world will move to the forefront.  Lindsay and Jeanette, two volunteers, came in to work with Lesley and Sarah, two of the animal care staff.  The lower barn is still decked out with hundreds of lights and even a little Christmas tree twinkles next to the cats’ bed.  As I was making the return trip down the lane, Doug and his partner arrived to lend more volunteer support.  They were drawn too, I think, to the soothing stillness that is blanketing the shelters and yards.

Each year at this time I treasure the Sanctuary’s peaceful world.  For me, it brings to life the optimism and gentleness that is at the heart of the Christian message. Around the world, the human condition is battered these days and it is a relief to be able to turn away from it and concentrate on other ways to be. At some time during the next 36 hours I hope that you, too, can experience a period of peacefulness.

Happy Christmas and may you have the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the natural world.

Sandra Pady, Founder




SABLE – Rest In Peace

December 2, 2016

sablesponsorThere is an aura of sadness around the Sanctuary these days because Little Sable died earlier this week.  Her quiet company is sorely missed by staff and volunteers alike.  Sable was a slight, rather delicate Miniature donkey, always a little shy and always at the side of  her devoted companion, Pansy.  At night check on Monday all was well with the animals but then in the morning, Sable was found on the ground next to one of the feeders, a sign that her passing had been sudden.  Pansy was standing quietly at the side and remained there until the body was taken away.

As all of us who work with the donkeys know, they are companionable creatures often seen leaning lightly against one another.  At the same time, – and with the exception of close mother and foal bonds – it is unusual for most of the donkeys to have a particular ‘friend’.  In light of that pattern we came to marvel at Sable and Pansy because they were really quite inseparable.  Side by side they grazed together, ate from feeders together and rested together.  Always, they were a charming sight.

I note that Pansy is 33 years old now, a considerable age for any donkey.  For her sake, we are hopeful that she will choose to favour another companion, perhaps Katy, whose mate, Peter, passed recently as well.  Communication between the equines is generally too subtle for us to interpret, however, and so we will have to just wait and watch Pansy and Katy as they move around in days to come.

Sandra Pady, Founder




Late Autumn Preparations

November 15, 2016
November Morning

November Morning

On Sunday last a group of Volunteers helped to put the final stages of winter-preparedness on the grounds of the Sanctuary.  Thanks to their generous contributions, a whole lot of heavy physical work was accomplished.  The snow-fencing is now in place, the gardens have been cleaned up, fallen apples were removed from the mules’ paddock,  and load after load after load of weedy brush was hauled away  from the north side of the pond.  In addition, Christmas decorations were made and put into place.  Vine wreaths now dot the buildings, Santa’s sleigh has been taken out of the barn, lights have been strung and the sunroom of the house is set up as the hot chocolate station it will become during our Christmas  Open Days. (November 27th, December 4th, 11th and 18th) We were so grateful for that huge amount of help!

As far as the donkeys were concerned, while all of that was going on they were content to amble around the pastures.  In recent weeks the weather has been unseasonably dry and warm here in Southern Ontario so the animals have not been inclined to run around.  The weight and warmth of their winter coats make them more of a nuisance than anything else when temperatures climb like they have been doing. Thank heavens there are no more flies to bring further aggravation.

The sun had just risen this morning when I came over the hill.  Some of the donkeys were on their way to a grazing pasture and then one by one they turned to look at us.  Speckle, the spotted donkey in the middle of the photo, was born here 25 years ago.  To this day, she is never far from her mother who is in the group just ahead.

Have a nice day,

Sandra Pady, Founder



Speckle and Juanita

September 20, 2016


juanitarenew09When I walked up to see the donkeys this morning, Speckle and Juanita were standing side by side, as ever, tucked into the corner near an entry to the Donkey House.  Come to think of it, on most days they are standing there, out of the way, more secure with two walls behind them, I think.

These two donkeys, mother and daughter, have always been retiring in nature, in spite of the fact that they have been in our care for over 24 years.  Speckle was pregnant when she was rescued along with several other donkeys in the year before the DSC was established. Then on a cold winter’s night in 1992 she gave birth to the foal we named Juanita.

From her first hours in the world, Juanita was  bonded  closely with her mother.  Over the decades this attachment has not lessened.  With other jennet-foal relationships that we have witnessed there comes a time around the end of the first year, when the mother weans the offspring,  at the same time physically pushing it away and encouraging independence.  When Speckle behaved in this manner with Juanita, however, the effort met with no success.  Instead, Juanita persisted  and she has only ever been comfortable at her mother’s side.

For several years, these two donkeys lived at a DSC Foster Farm where they received a great deal of attention.  This did not change their behaviour, though, and they continued to be shy, albeit always very agreeable.  When the circumstances changed at the Foster Farm and Speckle and Juanita were brought back to the Sanctuary, they resumed their solitary habits,  preferring to stand at a distance from visitors on Open Days or grazing together but at the same time apart from the rest of the herd.

Now, with Speckle’s age at 31 and Juanita at 24, these two donkeys are well into the senior stage of life and if all goes well they will be with us for many years more.  I am so grateful  that the DSC could provide them with the opportunity to experience their quiet, full lives.  Would that all animals could have such a chance.

Sandra Pady, Founder



WEST RIDGE FARM – A Big Part of our Future

August 26, 2016

west ridgeIn March of this year the DSC purchased West Ridge Farm, the 100 acre property adjacent to the west side of the Sanctuary.  As a result of a bequest to the DSC received late in 2015, we were fortunate to be able to make the offer and then the down payment for the land. Due to  this generous bequest, the DSC facility has doubled in size.

The landscape of West Ridge is beautiful, with 70 acres of fields for crops and 30 acres of rolling pastures and forest.  During this crop season,  wheat was planted, harvested and sold, with some of the revenues used to fertilize the fields for future use and the rest applied to the mortgage.  As far as the rest of the property is concerned, for the time being  we are working to expand our walking trail network which snakes up and down hills, past stone walls and beside enormous boulders in the forest.  Recently, usage of this part became official in a way when volunteers and staff walked a group of donkeys around the site.

In October, the DSC Board and senior staff will gather for a day long workshop in order to formulate guidelines for the operating strategy over the next 5 years.  Of course, the uses of West Ridge Farm will figure prominently in the discussions.  Extensive new fencing, expanded animal housing, future grazing areas: these are just a few of the topics to consider.  Adequate planning is crucial to our long-term operations.  We want to help as many animals as we can in the best ways that we can.

In 2022, what will the DSC look like?  If you have answers or suggestions to contribute, please make them as Comments to this blog or send them to the DSC Board Chair:  As a part of the DSC community, your input is important.

Sandra Pady, Founder