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Arvo, my friend………………. by Marleen

Our big Mastin Arvo died last week, after almost 12 years of living together in friendship.

Arvo shortly before he died

The previous owner of the Paraíso felt that I would need a big dog for protection and he also knew people who wanted to get rid of a Mastin puppy.  My friend Leo and I went along, just to have a look at him, and think about it afterwards………..However, we never did that. I was lost the moment when the owner put him on my two hands: an adorable 6 weeks old Mastin puppy not bigger than a cat. It was difficult to believe such a small puppy would be able to protect anyone, but we could not resist him anyway and took him home there and then.

Arvo, named after the musician Arvo Pärt, grew up running around the farm in freedom and in harmony with the other dogs and cats. At one point he indeed developed the idea that it was his duty to protect the people here and that´s what he did. Nobody unknown would enter the property when Arvo was running around free. If he showed his teeth and growled, he was definitely impressive. With other dogs, and people he knew, he was very friendly.

The ¨oldies¨ Jolly, Lady, Arvo

More recently, Arvo was found to have cancer and after the operations he moved a lot less than before, although during the night he would like to disappear into the forest and sleep there. Before breakfast he would be back again. About two months ago he stayed away for five days and nights in a row and when he finally came back, he was starved, dried out and deadly tired.

He didn’t seem to recover from his escapade. Arvo stayed weak and even wasn’t so interested in eating anymore. A blood test showed that he had hardly any red blood cells left. Medication didn´t help anymore, so we knew we had to let our old buddy go. Arvo died on a sunny day the end of March. We gave him his final resting place on his favourite hill from where generations of volunteers have heard his characteristic howl.

Arvo had some nicknames: the straw king, six hills giant, big puppy. He was all of that and more, and will never be forgotten.

The straw king, trying to take a nap inside an IKEA bag filled with straw

January rains

JANUARY started well with plenty of dry weather and cold, but sunny days and the donkeys spent a lot of time out of doors, however this didn’t last!  The second half of the month has been wet, wet, wet and this is due to last a bit longer yet.  The river Piloña, which runs below the finca and alongside the main road, has become a raging torrent, swelling and bursting its banks in places until it looks more lake Lake Piloña!


River Piloña in flood – photo by Lynn

All this rain may improve the water levels in the reservoirs (apparently, they were only at around 50% capacity before this) but it is not good news for the donkeys who now have to spend a lot more time indoors.  This means that they get extra cuddles and grooming and have easy access to dry bedding, food, salt licks and water.  They can also listen to music all day long.


Donkeys in the main stable – photo by Lynn

Donkeys are a desert animal and they like dry, warm conditions best.  Many people treat them much as they would do a horse and leave them outside in all conditions, sometimes without any shelter at all.  This is very bad for a donkey as they do not have a double layered waterproof coat like a horse does.  Rain and snow seeps through to a donkey’s skin causing him to become freezing cold and he may, as a result, get skin infections or become more seriously ill.


Chulo – photo by Dominic Fleischmann

A donkey needs shelter from bad weather at all times of the year and particularly so in winter.  He or she also needs an area of concrete or other hard surface to stand on so that he does not get mud fever which will affect his lower limbs.  Look after your donkey well and he or she will live happily and healthily for many years to come.

paraiso-del-burro pantxo-19

Pantxo – photo by Vincent Galiano



A very Happy New Year to all our followers.  In 2019 we hope to bring you more blogs from the Donkey Paradise in Asturias, Spain.  In the meantime, here is a link to our Winter Newsletter which we hope you will enjoy.

Click to access

More about Stevie, by volunteer Marike

Today we put some tree trunks in Stevie’s outdoor residence, hid chips of apple underneath them and sprinkled a layer of straw on top of the completely uprooted soil.

We did that after our visit to Joanna and Russell, a couple living in Valle de San Roman. They take care of 6 pigs and we wanted to learn more about the ways of our mini-pig Stevie. We were, for instance, worried about Stevie living alone because……..aren´t pigs very sociable group animals?

Yes, they are, but they´re also very territorial, we learned. Russell and Joanna´s pigs had lived happily together for years, when the boar quite unexpectedly attacked and almost killed one of the others. They now live separately. This goes to show that we can´t just surprise our Stevie with a porcine companion, thinking we are making her happy, to then find out that they don´t get along and cause each other a lot of stress.

Stevie looks happy enough as she is now and there are other means of stimulation such as logs in her outside pen, straw to root around in, and hidden chips of apple. Thanks a lot, Joanna and Russell!


Russell and Joanna’s pigs


Russell and Joanna’s pigs

An outdoor pen for Stevie 2

Our Stevie

Brave Bella by volunteer, Trudy Kelly


Brave Bella

Just two months ago, Bella, a large, scared, sick mare, was rescued from neglect.  She was under-nourished, nervous, nearly blind and lacking care in her sad, sick, state.   Good fortune finally found Bella, when she was taken in by Marleen to sanctuary at Donkey Paradise where love and care awaited.  She was given her own stable, clean water, nourishing food, good grazing, veterinary care and the human kindness she deserved.   Although she remained aloof to other animals, preferring to graze alone, slowly she built her trust back in humans to allow the care she desperately needed.  Simone devotedly treated her hoofs and suppurating wounds: regularly and lovingly cleaning, treating, dressing and binding.  Her big brown eyes, clouded with cataracts and weepy, were gently washed.

This week the hard decision came as she lay down unable to rise one morning:  Bella’s once strong body now so frail.  The time was now due to relieve her from anymore suffering. She was put to sleep with Simone by her side, and slipped away peacefully at Donkey Paradise.

Animals are amongst life’s great teachers – Bella’s lessons included courage, gentleness and the willingness to trust again. Whilst here in sanctuary at Donkey Paradise, we trust Bella felt compassion and unconditional love in return, if only for a brief period, in the last chapter of her life.   RIP ‘Brave Bella’

Miche…………………… Marleen

Miche - pensive

Miche – pensive

Once upon a time there was in the Donkey Paradise a much beloved volunteer. He, a traveler, had seen a lot of places in the world and now wanted to settle down and learn to grow his own food. Around the cabaña in the valley he created his own small paradise. Miche -Michael – left after a stay of 2 years. He and Maria now have their own family.

In case you wonder where the name of our new donkey ‘Miche’ came from: now you know, he was named after our volunteer with that name. Donkey Miche came from Gijon, where he had lived alone and without a shelter in a plot of land near the harbour for over 15 years.  He is not really used to people or other donkeys.  He wants to make friends but doesn’t really know how to go about it.

After his castration he will be able to live together with lots of other donkeys; he will be able to socialize and gain the skills needed to make friends and he will be well cared for.

Miche  - inquisitive

Miche – inquisitive

Introducing Xana, Lola and Rebeca

Rest in peace little Leo……………………….by Marleen

Five years ago the cattle-dealers of Arriondas came to drop off a friendly little donkey with curly hair. As this happened the day before our great helper Leo went back to Holland, the donkey was named Leo after him. Leo immediately adopted him and has done so ever since. Last Saturday night little Leo left us and his fellow donkeys forever.

Leo had the most piercing bray imaginable; when he started braying we all ran out to see what was happening. But he soon gave up braying and became one of the quietest, friendliest inhabitants of the Donkey Paradise.

Last Saturday he seemed a bit feverish and was given penicillin twice. He hardly touched his food. In the evening he lay down and he died very early the following morning.

Leo 1 Leo 2

Rest in peace, little Leo. If there exists a donkey heaven, you will most certainly be there. The people that have known you while you were here, will always remember you with love and affection.

For more photos of Leo and to see a lovely photo of Leo with Leo his sponsor follow this link:

ALFRED0 – Little old fellow……………… Marleen

Friends of the Donkey Paradise spotted an old little donkey in a country lane, in the blazing sun without water or anything to eat. So they stopped to give him some water. Only then did they see that his hooves were extremely long – too long for him to walk. So they contacted us and asked us what could be done.

One of our volunteers went to see the animal straight away. He also contacted our farrier, who came and cut the donkey’s hooves. Fortunately little old Alfredo was then brought over to the Donkey Paradise, where he will be taken good care of from now on. Little by little he is settling in.

On the photo: Nico (brown), another very old donkey, has come over to welcome Alfredo (white) in the Donkey Paradise.

Most of our donkeys are elderly and require a lot of car. We are a small charity and we depend upon donations to continue our work. If you would like to sponsor one of our donkeys you can find more details on this blog or on our website. Your help is needed and is greatly appreciated.

Adios, Lua……………………….Marleen

It was love at first sight, Lua. When I looked into your eyes, I knew your place was with me.


You settled in well with the dogs, cats, donkeys and horses. After years of being tied down, you enjoyed your freedom here and even jumped and played around like a giant puppy.


And then the limping started. I didn’t think much of it at first, but it turned out to be the worst of the worst: bone cancer in your shoulder – very painful, very fast growing. You lost your regained joy of life and even stopped liking your food. So the vet came to end your life in the best possible way, given the circumstances.


I had to let you go but I think of you each and every day.  I will love you always, Lua ……….adiós.Image