Category Archives: donkey paradise

Cait’s blog

Cait with the young donkeys

It was a pleasure to be part of ‘El Paraiso del Burro.’  The 3 weeks flew by faster than I could have imagined and in that time, I learned a lot about donkeys that I didn’t know, which is basically everything about them. Marleen’s knowledge, the knowledge of the people from the other donkey sanctuary and helping with making a quiz about donkeys for an open day took care of that. I feel like I could start my own sanctuary now!

In my last week two people from a donkey sanctuary in Extremadura came to show us their vision and way of taking care of donkeys in Spain: the kind of food, which donkeys go together well, treatments, bedding, medication and more. I found it so interesting to hear what they did differently and especially why. Sharing ideas can be very inspiring and it makes me look further than my own little world, which is refreshing.

I loved helping with the donkey care and learning about every donkey’s special needs and their characters. This also applies to the other animals such as the horses and dogs. And it’s so nice to see how much effort there is being put in into the care of all of them (even the rats!) 

Next to the animal care, I liked how you could just decide to start your own project. You could just think of something that you thought could use some change, ask Marleen and begin. It could really be anything, like gardening, building things, making art… all to make the place a little more lovely every day. When I heard that the main house wasn’t even there in the beginning, I could not imagine how this place must have looked like years ago and all the changes that have been made. Seeing it develop must have been so cool. 

It’s not only the stories about El Paraiso that I like, but also very much the stories of the people that I met: how they discovered this place, the reasons why they came, what they did before and their plans for the future. Hearing the travel stories from people, all the places they’ve been to and all the things they went through are so inspiring and makes me feel like I can’t wait to create my own adventure. – I really have to write down every new idea because there are almost too many to remember.

During my stay I found out that, for a lot of the volunteers, it wasn’t their first time being here. Marleen must do something right if so many people keep comig back! And I think she does, because to everyone she is very welcoming and there is always a place for someone to stay. In my case it was in the lovely caravan on top of the hill where the donkeys would chill around and sometimes disturb you by scratching against the caravan while you’re trying to have a little siesta!

The hospitality is great and porridge in the morning is my new favourite thing and I am definitely going to try making it at home. Also, 3 times a day a warm meal is so good and was really something I didn’t have to get used to! Although I am not really into cooking and I am not really a good cook, this place makes me excited to try new things and learn to cook properly.  Thank you to those who taught me some new cooking (and baking) stuff. Everyday these lovely meals made by the volunteers or Marleen is a luxury I appreciated so much and maybe even more when I am not there. 

When I look back at my stay, I think I fell a little bit in love with the region ‘Asturias’ with its oh so green mountains and snow on some tops, which make the views so amazing, especially in the mornings when walking the dogs up to the hilltop. One of the first things I thought when I took the bus to ‘Paraiso del Burro’, was that the landscape reminded me of a place, green and massive, where dinosaurs could live, and in my imagination, I could see one appearing right around the corner (which would have been ridiculously cool). And even though that would never happen, luckily there was a donkey called Pancho at the sanctuary who basically makes the same sound as a T-rex!

I am really going to miss this place, the people, the animals and all the experiences. I can’t wait to come back and hopefully see the people I met again – which doesn’t seem that difficult since so many people come back here ;).

‘Till that time, I’ll still have some little straw pieces appearing in random places to keep as souvenirs.

The caravan on the hill (just behind the tree on the left)

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FRODO

I am pleased to say that February is turning out to be a much better month weather-wise than January was for everyone at The Donkey Paradise (El Paraíso del Burro), but especially for the donkeys as they can now get back out into the meadows.  I hope that I’m not speaking too soon as there is a saying here in Spain about February being “febrerillo loco” which basically means that the weather can do anything it likes!

Our blog this month is about one of our eldest donkeys, Frodo, and has been written by Marleen:-

Frodo

Frodo, one of our oldest donkeys, is currently not in good shape.  Not only does he have a big infection in the back of his body, but also his legs are wobbly and he easily trips or slips. Obviously in the last phase of his life, he needs much care and attention day and sometimes also night.

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Frodo grazing happily

When I see him now, old and dependent on people that care for him, I can´t help thinking back to how we first met: at the side of the motorway in Gijon. There was no grass, no water, no nothing. When I approached him, he tried to bite and kick me. He was definitely the grumpiest donkey I’d ever met. He trusted nobody.

His grumpiness carried a message, of course. As did his slimness and unkempt coat. He’d had a lousy past and it wasn’t easily forgotten. A year after his arrival, he had given up biting and only tried to kick if brushed on his legs or belly. Yet another year later, he could be brushed completely without any problem. But even today he doesn’t trust it when he is caressed or touched.

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Frodo with Añes. The band around his waist aids with balance and with lifting if he slips or trips.

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Frodo still enjoys being out in the meadow

Frodo is the perfect example of why El Paraíso del Burro exists. There are many more Frodos everywhere living in sad circumstances.  Let’s hope we will be able to give at least some of them a much better life.

Times of Miracle and Wonder? by volunteer Rebecca

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Rebecca in the front, on a donkey walk.

The week before I left Donkey Paradise in July I thought about writing a blog. While I walked Jack during siesta time I thought about how great it had been to be able to stay for almost a year at this lovely place.

I remember my first week at El Paraiso well: learning the names of all the volunteers was one thing…learning the names of the donkeys seemed impossible, or maybe not; learning their names was hard, but to tell them apart, especially when they were out and about in the field, seemed an impossible task. They all looked so alike:  greyish or brownish with four legs and long ears. Now it sounds strange to me that I ever thought they looked the same, for they do not look like the same at all….except for, thank heavens, those four legs and long ears. More than 50 shades of grey, endless tones of brown, furry, bold spots, curly, smooth, freckles, skinny, fat and fattest, sad theatrical eyes like Sophia Loren, stern looking eyes, rigid ears or flexible ears that move like an owls head….the differences are countless and make each one of them unique. And yet I haven’t yet written about their character or the sound they make.

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Jack

I was walking Jack that day and he was listening so well:  off the lead, walking behind me and when I stopped, he would stop and when I told him go run and whistled for him not much later, he would go run and return straightaway on my call. What a wonderful difference from the black, unruly dog of months ago. Would the volunteers that were here that first week believe their own eyes?

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Alfredo

While thinking that I should write to Marian for example, how well this dog was walking, I should write Avital as well, about dear stubborn Alfredo, who never wanted to leave the yard in the morning. Avital tried everything…from singing lovely Disney songs, walking him in circles through the yard or to pushing his bum gently, nothing would work. Nowadays he’s one of the easier donkeys to start walking…no singing needed. He will finish his bowl of extra food (mostly without the ears flat in the back and mostly without kicking) and then when you’re bringing either Flora or Charlotte to the field he will walk with you – just like that. I could write that to her. A miracle?

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Stevie

Also, maybe I should write to Claude about Stevie….about the fact that she’s far to big now to swoop up from the floor and carry in your arms (as we did once to weigh her; 20 kilos of screaming pig – not so easy). Or write him that we don’t have to put her, (while screaming her head off) on a ‘harness’ anymore in order to take her to her outside house in the morning. If we unlock the gate of her stable now, she will push her nose against the gate, open it and make her way up the hill while we follow her. Some days, I have to be honest, she will take a D-tour to the apple trees or to the far end of the field, but with a bit of guidance and some bribing (chopped up carrots will do the trick) she will go in. And in the evening we just open the gate from the outside area and there she goes…straight home to where her food is waiting for her. She’s such a lovely and smart creature and, besides that, she made some non-vegetarian, meat-loving volunteers here become vegetarian, which I think is great.

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Finn

In the same stable as Stevie there is small horse Finn, a black Asturian beauty. Those who met Finn last year might remember him as a scared and scary horse…he would turn his bum to you if you entered the stable, eyeballing you and more than once he cornered me. With the love, patience and care of Marleen and so many volunteers, he’s now a cuddly boy. Although he might still sometimes show you his fierce self (which I really love about him), he is mostly the new softy…waiting at the stable door to be scratched on the neck and pushing his nose against your arm if you stop. He walks quite well on a halter now and it’s even possible to do his hooves (here too I have to be honest….he’s still not easy, but such a change) and I am so happy to have been there long enough to witness his change and that of so many others….both of animals and volunteers.

At El Paraiso the animals get love, care and attention; here they learn to trust humans again and, some volunteers who hadn’t been in touch with animals for a long time and kind of “lost touch with nature” as they called it themselves, have clearly found that touch again or discovered a whole new positive side of themselves, by working with the donkeys at the Donkey Paradise, or with the people.

And while I was walking Jack in July, up and down the hills behind the house for the last time, (he too was moving on too, being adopted by a young German volunteer) I thought about these things: about the animals, the many inspirational volunteers and the changes that I witnessed in the animals, the other volunteers, me, and the nature around me; magical, wonderful and, at the same time, plain and simple and so natural. I loved every minute of my time there and will be back one day, for a few days…or maybe longer.