Monthly Archives: August 2010

Days with the donkeys – experiences as a volunteer (as seen by Barbara)

On arrival at Donkey Paradise I was greeted and made to feel welcome by all the two-legged and four-legged inhabitants.  My accommodation was a comfy caravan – a superb “room with a view” looking across the valley to the mountains.

Previous experience and knowledge of working with donkeys is not a prerequisite for coming here as a volunteer.  There is always someone on hand to give help and advice and show you how to get started.

You are greeted in the mornings by expectant faces in the stable and soon everybody starts singing the funny donkey “mealtime” song.  If you take too long in serving up alfalfa they give you a little nudge to hurry you on.  In the afternoon there are apples and carrots to be chopped.

By early evening it’s time to round everybody up and bring them into the stables from the fields.   Lola and Añes of course think this is a great game and will have you chasing after them through the orchards and down the valleys.

Marleen has a wonderful network of supporters who come along during the week to help in various ways.  I was shown how to groom the donkeys and even how to clean their ears! I was also fortunate to be there on a day when Miguel, the farrier, came to clean hooves, then clip, trim and file them. Care of hooves is a very important part of donkey well-being.

In between working with the donkeys you are free to help with whatever other tasks you can.  This includes tending the vegetable garden, fencing, giving a hand in the kitchen, etc.

Every day is a new adventure on the farm and one afternoon a Spanish television crew arrived to do some filming. And so Marleen, the girls (Carla and Tanya) and the donkeys took on a new role as television stars!  Hopefully the resulting documentary will help increase public awareness of what caring for donkeys entails.

The Donkey Paradise supporters will go to any length in their efforts to care for the donkeys’ needs.  Through ingenuity and hard work they were even able to build a “donkey ambulance” for cases where it’s necessary to move those who are ill or injured.

For anyone who loves animals and outdoor living I can highly recommend spending time as a volunteer at Donkey Paradise.  You will find it to be a very enjoyable and rewarding experience and whatever support  you can give to the wonderful efforts being done there will be welcome.

Good luck to all at El Paraiso del Burros!

Rastrillo in Nueva de Llanes – by Peter and Lynn

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On Sunday 15th August we had an enjoyable morning at the Rastrillo at Nueva de Llanes.  The village is rather beautiful and the plaza where the Rastrillo was held was bustling with people, it being a rather pleasant sunny day.  The market contained an eclectic mix of stands including clothing, children’s toys, books, and handicrafts such as wicker-work seated chairs and jewelry.  However, the main reason for our going to the Rastrillo was to visit Marleen, Carla, Tanya, Maria and Anna at the stand for the “Paraíso del Burro” and we were lucky enough to arrive just as they were sharing a very tasty courgette cake made by Anna.  What good timing that was!

The day was a great success for the “Paraíso del Burro” mainly because many children enjoyed playing the games of “Pin the Tail on the Donkey” and “Do not touch the Donkey” and had a wonderful time trying carefully to pin the tail in the correct place or beat the buzzer.   The Raffle of the Gift Hamper was extremely popular too and was beautifully presented.   Besides selling an interesting range of fundraising gifts, Marleen and the volunteers were able to promote the “Paraíso del Burro” by giving out leaflets and bookmarks, so all in all it was an enjoyable day for all concerned.

Here are some photos that Peter took of the stand, the volunteers and the visitors.

All the way from America…

Mike and I started planning our amazing summer in Europe in March, mostly between classes (or sometimes during classes 😉  We are both 3rd year veterinary students at Cornell University in New York, U.S.A. and when we heard about El Paraiso del Burro, we knew that it had to be on our list of stops.  It was our third stop and we had had very good experiences with our the other places we have been.  But Donkey Paradise turned out to be my favorite stop by far.  We were only supposed to stay for 2 weeks but it is the type of place that makes you want to stay for longer (we ended up staying for over a month.)

El Paraiso del Burro truly is a magical place where you learn and grow as people. For instance, we didn’t know very much about donkeys before we arrived. We quickly learned that all of the donkeys were individuals with their own personalities and habits. Like Norbert for instance, who we let into the garden to help us with our task of weeding. When our eyes were upon him he would pull up the grass with a speed we could not match. However, once our backs were turned he quickly began making himself a lovely salad of beet root, peas, and strawberries. Further mischief was seen every day in the adventure that was bringing in Lola’s gang (Lola, Anes, Ryo, and Kees) for their evening feeding. They were nice enough to give us several tours of the finca (in one day!) as they ran circles around it away from us. Our interactions with the donkeys did not just involve us chasing them though! We loved feeding time every night, when we were able to feed the donkeys and listen to the musical sound of 18 mouths chewing in unison. We were also able to practice some veterinary care by regularly cleaning out Joep’s hoof, giving injections to Platero, practicing physical exams, etc.

Aside from working with the donkeys, we also really enjoyed the projects we undertook here such as building fences, gates, and weeding. The work was very gratifying and we only wish that we could have done more during our stay here. However, it was not all work here, on our off days we had the luck of visiting some of the beautiful sights that Asturias has to offer. This region is an amazing place. As a group we hiked the Cares walk which offered some of the most amazing views I have ever seen. We also took a trip to the coast to see the gorgeous Asturian coast line. Perhaps our favorite place that we visited was the surreal Black Forest, which was like nothing we had ever seen before. Furthermore, we also were able to meet some of the friendliest people this world has to offer.

So, in the end, we leave with mixed emotions: sadness about leaving this one of a kind ‘”Paradise”, but also excited to share all of the stories and memories that we have of it. We have learned a lot, not only about donkeys, but about ourselves. We came to this place sure of many things. That we could never be vegetarians, for instance (and than we would go a week without having any meat and not even miss it). We were also sure that we were destined to be cat/dog veterinarians, but, after a few weeks of working with the donkeys (and the three wonderful horses), we are not even sure of that anymore (a state that is much more exciting!). One thing we can be sure of is that we have cherished our time here and cannot thank Marleen, Tanja, Carla, and all of 18 donkeys, 3 horses, and 5 dogs for all of their hospitality, patience, and generosity. We will never forget any of them or the great moments we shared here.

Lyndsay 2010