Category Archives: Nature

Life at the Donkey Paradise

This honest and personal account was written by a Volunteer at The Donkey Paradise


« In the larger context of my life so far, coming to The Donkey Paradise was a very good decision. I could call it one of the best, but I’m trying not to sound overly emotional. 

I had been wasting away in a university library for two years when I decided to quit my studies and come here instead. I’m gonna be honest, it’s kinda hard to tell people you’re throwing away a promising future to go and work on a donkey farm. But I felt like that was what I needed to do and I’m fairly sure I was right. The thing is that volunteering isn’t just traveling. It’s sharing people’s lives for a little while. It’s sharing their work and their joys and their troubles as well I suppose. 

Growing up, it was natural to me that I would get a degree, get a well-paying job, buy a house and have kids as quickly and efficiently as possible. As my parents had done and as all my friends’ parents had done. And for a long time I was alright with that idea, it was nice to be certain of what the future held. But the longer I studied, the less I could stand thinking of the future and of spending eight hours a day for a large part of the rest of my days doing a job that I wasn’t remotely passionate about. And I did try to muster up some passion, I really did, but I just didn’t have it in me.

The problem I was faced with then was that I had grown up with limitless hot water from a tap and central heating and shopping as a way to pass time. And I guess I had realized years before that, that material things don’t make me happy – 

But then who was I to declare a thing like that when I had never experienced life without them.


It is November and the days are warm and beautiful, but at night it gets cold. If the stove isn’t kept lit in the afternoon, then the temperature inside the Cabana is the same as outside. I take one of my sweaters underneath my duvet with me to sleep, so that in the mornings I have something warm to put on underneath another sweater, a hoody and a coat on top. What I’m trying to say is that it’s really goddamn cold and getting out of bed in the mornings is tough. But then we feed the donkeys breakfast and afterwards we gather in the warm, cozy dining/living room of the main house and we have Marleen’s glorious, warm porridge and the sun rises and several times a day we nudge each other and motion towards the view of the Picos and we stand there and take in the beauty of this place. 

I’m trying hard not to romanticise things. There’s more to frugal life than saving money on heating. There’s no Wi-Fi here and we try not to shower more than twice a week and sometimes there are water shortages and we can’t shower for days on end and in my first two nights here I seriously considered leaving. But once you have gotten used to things, and you get used to them very quickly, it becomes second nature and you start enjoying things like sitting in front of a lit stove at night or finally taking that warm shower.

So yeah, sometimes it’s cold and hard but at night, we sit around the table after a well-earned and wonderful homecooked dinner and for hours we do nothing but laugh and laugh about the weirdest things and life is good.


That’s an expression I’ve heard a couple of times here: “It’s a good life.” And it is.

Paraiso del Burro, 17.11.2018

Sissi Böhm »


Photos by:-

Vincent Galiano


Winter tales


Winter Tales is just a play on words as at “El Paraiso del Burro” there are so many tales:  most are happy ones and many are wagging and wafting tales of different shapes, sizes and colours!


How is the winter progressing for our followers?  The beginning of February was rather stormy in Asturias, with the arrival of heavy snow, although we were lucky enough not to get any snow here at El Paraiso del Burro as we are a not so far above sea level. However, the snow can be seen all around us and some parts of Asturias were totally cut off by deep snowfall.  Furthermore, the main road just below the sanctuary is now closed indefinitely due to a landslide following heavy rain.  The donkeys have spent a lot of time indoors in January and February and so, when the sun finally came out this last week, the donkeys especially were very glad to get back out into the fields.

ChuloCalimero and Fito

In January we received two new donkeys all the way from the Pays Basque: the lovely Burri and her daughter Burriki.  Both were well loved but unfortunately their previous owners were unable to keep them and contacted us.

Burri Burriki1

Work continues of course and our willing volunteers are always busy, with stable cleaning and animal care especially high on the list.  This month there are new apple trees to be planted and continuing work to provide new pathways.  As you can see from the photos, the pathway leading to the cabin is coming along well and provides a much safer route and a new path is also being constructed behind the house to provide a dry route through an unusually muddy area.  Unfortunately, in the process of laying the path, part of it gave way due to water erosion and now a new drain will have to be put in to divert the water away.

Path to cabinPath behind housethe hole

I hope you enjoy these photos of the landscape and the animals enjoying the sunshine after the rain.

View of snowy peaksWikke at the gate

Kate’s pictorial memories of El Paraiso del Burro

Many of the volunteers, who come to El Paraíso del Burro to work, enjoy taking photos of the animals and the environment to remind them of their stay.  Such photos often give us a different perspective on life at the refuge and are greatly valued and enjoyed for this reason.  

These beautiful photos have been shared by volunteer Kate who came here in the springtime. Kate was happy for us to share her photos with you and we hope that you will enjoy them as much as we do.

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Dogs running for donkeys………………………….by Marleen


It was the last Sunday of March in Celorio, Llanes, in cold and sometimes rainy weather, when about 50 dog owners and their excited dogs ran the first CANICROSS of eastern Asturias. The couples ran over different distances and one event even involved cycling with a dog. The event was closed after the final run, in which children ran with their pets over a distance of about half a kilometer.

The “Llanes Canicross” was a charity event; the money paid for participation was destined for the donkeys of the Donkey Paradise. For this great initiative and the fantastic result, amounting to 350 Euros, we would like to thank the organisers and the participants – humans and animals – from our hearts!





Thank you to Anuska for taking the photographs.

ALL ABOUT AISHA By Catherina Davis

AISHA, is one of the dogs that i met and spent time with every day during my time at paraiso del burro. When i left the sanctuary after being there for nearly two years the memory and the love i felt for aisha was always with me.Through conversations with Marleen and planning, my friend  Christian and i made the epic journey from Ireland by boat to collect Aisha and it was worth it .

Doggy Pics 482

Thank you Aisha for being in my life. You show me the way and shine the light with your open heart and gentle energy..I will forever love you.

Below is a slideshow of photos from the time we spent in Spain along with other volunteers, our journey by boat with my friend Christian and some photos of AISHA in Ireland.

gazpacho…A story of loyality paid for.. by Marleen


A complicated double jaw fracture, an operation, three days at the horse hospital and a full month of intensive care – those were the consequences of Gazpacho’s loyalty to the two horses in whose footsteps he faithfully follows day by day.

How come his fidelity made the old mule suffer so badly? Well, the young stallion living in the adjacent field jumped the fence to mount one of our mares. Brave Gazpacho came to her rescue and was kicked in the face. So he paid for of his lady’s short sexual adventure. Hopefully now the neighbour’s insurance will pay up for him!

Gazpacho was rescued some years ago in the mountains around Oviedo where he roamed the commons in a group of horses. He thinks he is a horse and he looks like a horse. But his call gives him away; he produces a unique mixture of a whinny and a bray: a brinney. Here, in the Donkey Paradise, he always follows the horses and doesn’t ever lower himself to the donkey level. Also he would keep a sound distance from us, human animals.

Fortunately his fear of people has melted away. When he now sees one of us, especially at mealtime, he will brinney and let himself into the yard for his (still soaked) bowl of food. He also allows us to give him his medication and clean his wound twice a day. Chances are the jawbone will heal itself over time and he will again be able to chew his food. So: all is well that ends well …


This robust new inhabitant of Donkey Paradise was called Carillo – founder of the Spanish communist party during the civil war. As he is such a friendly old fellow, his name is now Cariño. Anyway, we don’t think he notices the difference!

His owner, now 89 years old, couldn’t take care of him any longer and so her daughter started searching the internet until she found our donkey sanctuary. Both mother and daughter loved their hairy friend very much and wanted only the best for him and the rest of his life.

Cariño is still very shy and he prefers to stay away a little from the other donkeys. But Caoimhe and he seem to like each other; therefore they share the little stable apart from all the others. His coat needs cleaning and his hooves need to be trimmed, but all in good time!




For Lyka, in memoriam

Dear Lyka,

We, the volunteers of ‘The Donkey Paradise’, were all so happy and excited when you arrived here last summer. We found you the sweetest, most beautiful and shy little donkey we’d ever seen with your shining black coat and modest little face. Mia, from Sweden, immediately fell in love with you and took some beautiful photos!

You were not very outgoing or curious. It was as if you took everything you found here for granted, you didn’t mingle much with the other donkeys. The first few weeks you would even prefer to go behind one of the caravans, and stay out of sight for most of the day. Later you would show more of yourself, and by ‘round up-time’ would come down by yourself and go to your ‘own’ place in stable 3.

Then we started taking yóu for granted. Expecting you to go on living with us forever after. You decided otherwise. One January day you didn’t like your food as usual, sniffed it, nipped a little, didn’t eat your normal quantity. We checked your temperature, which was normal, and gave you two aspirins dissolved in water and lots of honey. You swallowed this stoically. The next day it rained a lot, so all the donkeys had to stay indoors. You seemed restless, walked around in your stable, wanted to go out. We let you out, which seemed to calm you down, and you walked up to your hill as usual and came back as usual. Again you didn’t want to eat, again we gave you honey and aspirines. We also called in the vet to come and see you the following morning.

But there was no need for him to come. You died. We found you dead and cold the next morning. All of us were shocked by your sudden death.

We miss you, Lyka. You will always be remembered by all the volunteers who knew you.

With love,



donkey walk and mariano 046

Mariano is the farrier that comes to the sanctuary to work on the donkeys, horses and mules hooves.Being physically strong in lifting the donkeys legs,clipping and cleaning their hooves,fitting them with horse shoes for extra support,is one aspect of being a farrier.Being a gentle warm hearted person who puts the animals first and allows them the time to feel comfortable is just some of Mariano,s natural qualities. Thank you Mariano.Here is a slideshow of Mariano at work on the sanctuary.

Happy Animals Happy People 2012 By Catherina Davis

dogs donkey walk maria lis 063
Below is a slideshow of photos taken during 2012 on Paraiso Del Burro.