Morag, Mike, Mo’s mum and I all took a trip to the Donkey Sanctuary at St Boswell’s yesterday. Founded in 2003, it’s a wonderful place where 61 rescued and retired donkeys are cared for at present. Some have been victims of cruelty or neglect, and have been brought to the sanctuary to be nursed back to health. Two at least were rescued from slaughter. Some are former beach or working donkeys and some have been pets that can no longer be looked after by their owners. The place is run almost totally on sponsorship and public donations, and is a registered charity. All the workers are volunteers.
At the weekends the public can come in and get involved on a Donkey Walk round the paddocks, feeding the donkeys with carrots! It’s a very popular activity with children, and several families were there today. The rule is not to feed them from your hands as some of them are still a bit nervous and have the potential to bite, – this one, left, is just being curious - so instead, the sliced carrots are ladled into large scoops with handles so the donkeys can be fed in safety! Well, I mean, the public can feed the donkeys in safety! The kids find this great fun and are always running back to the carrot barrow for more! Some of the animals are quite neat in their eating habits but one, we were amused to see, managed to scoop up all the pieces into its mouth slice by slice, and only once the scoop was empty, did he start to crunch them all.
Mo’s mum is 92, and wasn’t able to do the walk, but she’s remarkable for her age – just a bit fragile these days – and enjoyed a short walk to see some of the elderly donkeys near to the stable block where our tour began. After a visit to the gift shop and a chat with the owner of the sanctuary, she and Mo went back to sit in the car to wait for Mike and me returning from the Walk!
We had joined the others in feeding some of the donkeys, and I enjoyed stroking their noses and tickling behind their ears!. Their fur is very soft, though after they’ve had a roll in the mud they can be quite dusty. There’s something very “comfortable” about donkeys. To me they conjure up memories of holidays in Ireland about 50 years ago, when donkeys were still used as working animals, fastened between the shafts of a cart carrying milk churns to the dairy and goods to market , or with wicker-woven baskets strapped to their sides carrying peat blocks from the bog, for example. Nowadays you’ll be lucky to spot a single donkey over in Ireland. I must look out mother’s photos to see if there are any donkeys among them. There ought to be!
I mentioned earlier that some of the money to run the sanctuary comes from sponsorship, for “adopting” a donkey. This donkey, Shaggy Sean, by name, was being sponsored by the family of the little girl in the photo. She was so excited to be going to see him, and recognised him right away.
(Reminds me of how our school adopted Jim and Queenie, two polar bears at Edinburgh Zoo, way back in the ‘50s. A visit to see them at the zoo was always very special – though of course we couldn’t get to pet the polar bears!)
Talk again soon.