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March 23, 2017

When we walked up to the Sanctuary this morning, most all of the equines were out in the fields, roaming around looking for bits of Spring green.  After almost six months they are tired of dry hay.

As well, there were a few donkeys  standing by the fence in the parking lot and I took the time to scratch some of them right on the top of their heads.  While I scratched the first one, others   moved in to take a turn.  With every one I could feel something like a shiver of delight running through their torsos  as he or she stood with head lowered a bit, ears back, totally involved in the pleasure of the moment.  They lose themselves in physical  sensation so well.

As I scratched the thick, wiry winter hair the observations of the  essayist, George Monbiot, came to mind.  Writing in the Guardian Weekly recently, he lamented our increasing inability to experience, “immersed [as we are] almost permanently in virtual worlds”.  The further we distance ourselves from tactile, physical reality, the greater the probability that, “all [events, crises, happenings] can be reduced to abstractions”.  As we disconnect from the real world, so will we become highly vulnerable to manipulation of all kinds.

So there it is.  We are on a slippery slope and to stop the free fall we had better step outside.  The natural world, the animals around us, we must keep in touch with  ‘the other’.  That way we will retain our perspective and independence.

Sandra Pady, Founder

Chaplin and Eeyore
March 2017     Photo: Kathy Gerry



Hutch and Jerry

March 14, 2017

In typical March fashion we have experienced a return of winter’s snow here at the Sanctuary Farm.  Just recently, during her visit on a chilly afternoon,  Kathy Gerry, a DSC volunteer, took this engaging photograph. Kathy is a retired portrait photographer who has taken hundreds of photos of the animals over the years.  This portrait is a wonderful example of how her work captures so often the inborn elegance of the donkeys.

I expect that Hutch (3 years)  and Jerry (17 years) were standing as still as statues when Kathy aimed her camera in their direction.  Clearly, movement in the field had captured their attention.  The hair of their coats is fluffed out, too, and to run one’s hands over the surface would be like feeling the bristles of a soft brush.  Their coats are very appealing like this, calling out to be touched and admired.

Hutch and Jerry have lived at the Sanctuary for almost a year, now.  Their former living condition  was sorely neglectful and by the time the DSC was called in to help the donkeys had been abandoned.  They were existing on a ramshackle farm along with several other animals including two young mules whom, we were told, had been sired by Jerry.  Since the arrival of this group, Hutch and Jerry have settled in well to the Sanctuary’s routine.  Both of them are very comfortable members of the larger herd. As is the DSC’s policy, we will care for these donkeys (and the mules, Roan and Coal, too) for the rest of their natural lives.  We look forward to many more snowy days when we will see them standing at attention in the snow, concentrating on the details of their winter world.

Sandra Pady, Founder



February 10, 2017

I am not a student of statistics  but every now and then it is helpful  to look at the accomplishments of the DSC community in numerical  terms.

At the Board Meeting in late January  the year, 2016, was quantified in several areas.  By the numbers  there were many reasons for everyone  – donors, staff and volunteers – to be proud of the work that has been  done.  At year’s end:

  • 73 donkeys and 9 mules were in residence, receiving 24 hour care, at the DSC Farm.
  • 32 donkeys were residing at DSC Foster Farms.  The network has grown.
  • 16,000+ people had visited the Sanctuary on Open Days, Donkey Day, Tour Days, PACE,  and Donor Appreciation Day.  We welcomed visitors as part of our Education Program which aims to  encourage as many people as possible to recognize and to respect the unique qualities of the animals.
  • Staff: Animal Care: 3 FT, 2PT; Foster Farms: 1 PT; Education: 2 PT; Administration: 3 Full Time, 1PT seasonal; Retail Manager: 1 PT. With exceptional dedication our small number of staff achieved so much.
  • Volunteers: In all areas of our operations,  14,000+ hours of work were donated by our generous, hard-working  volunteers.

Finally, this August  we will celebrate 25 years of work on behalf of the donkeys and mules.  There are so many reasons to be grateful.

Sandra Pady, Founder



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