I will never forget the early morning of the 4th of August 2015. Marleen went into stable 4 to do the morning feeding. Stable 4 is the home of mother and daughter Burri and Burribu, the ‘evil sisters’ Eyore and Fiona, and pregnant Xana. As the ladies were quite wild, I followed right behind Marleen to help her. Then I saw the expression on her face… Marleen looked like she just saw a ghost. Her jaw dropped, she held her breath and pointed. ‘Look!’ she said.
And there, in the middle of the stable, stood a little miracle: a brand new, fluffy, furry, perfect baby donkey. Everything about her was perfect. Her beautiful long ears, her cute white nose, her wobbly legs, her curved little hooves, her big bright eyes. She was clean, she was standing and her mother looked like she had no idea what all the fuss was about. We had tried to prepare ourselves. Marleen had informed the vet; we had a little stable where Xana could deliver; co-volunteer Tom had checked Xana every day for signs of an upcoming birth… and then Xana went her own way and gave us the biggest surprise the next morning.
Franka – named after the Dutch volunteer couple Frank and Helma – is two weeks old now and seems in perfect health. She jumps and runs around in the field, got acquainted with many aunts and uncles and looks exactly like her mother. Xana is in fact a teenage mom. She got pregnant when she was only one year old. She was meant to have babies every year until she would be worn out and ready for the butcher. Marleen rescued her in October last year, a shy and scared young donkey. And look at her now! She behaves like a perfect mother to Franka and the future of mother and daughter looks bright. Franka, our little miracle, born in a donkey’s paradise!
The good summer weather has meant that the many volunteers who have stayed here have been working mainly on outdoor tasks and their efforts have made a great difference to the environment here.
In general the volunteers’ day starts with breakfast and animal care, in particular the cleaning of the stables, feeding the animals and providing them with clean water. Later, there is time for the volunteers to work on particular tasks and projects or certain aspects of animal care such as helping the farrier, cleaning the donkeys’ eyes and ears, grooming the donkeys or walking the dogs.
There are also projects within the grounds and this year some volunteers have been continuing with the pruning of old wood from the many apple trees or clearing and reorganizing the vegetable garden which has been greatly improved by a lot of hard work as you can see from the photo below.
The biggest project this summer has been the digging out of a small pond above the main Lily Pond to provide an area for quiet meditation. The excess water from the small pond will drain down into the Lily Pond. A fair number of vehicle tires were found abandoned in this area and, as they are difficult to remove entirely and to recycle, they are being used to form the bank of the pond and will be covered eventually with a lining which will hide them. We think that the pond is coming along nicely as these photos will show.
The lovely Frieda died during the night of Thursday 9th July. Volunteer Tom went in at 4 to turn her over. “She looked calm, with her friends standing and sleeping by her side,” he said.
Volunteer Miriam dedicated the famous song ‘No coming, no going’ (Thich Nhat Hanh, Plum Village France) to her:
‘No coming, no going
No after and no before
I hold you close to me
I release you to be so free
Because I am in you and you are in me
Because I am in you and you are in me”
The newest arrival at the Donkey Paradise (El Paraíso del Burro) in Asturias is Finn, a young Asturcon pony. The Asturcon pony is a semi-wild and ancient breed of pony, native to Asturias, and lives only on the Sueve mountain which is very close to the Donkey Paradise.
Finn arrived here in April 2015 and was extremely emaciated. He is a young pony and small, even for his breed, which is normally strong and stocky; he could be anything from 1 to about 4 years of age. He looks too small for a four year old but the vet says that his teeth show him to be around the age of 4. Finn could barely stand when he arrived, and had to lean on the old cart in the yard in order to maintain his balance. He was also rather ill: his body was invaded by ticks and internal parasites (worms) and his penis was swollen. The vet was called and his treatment was started: he was given treatment against Babeciosis (a tick-borne disease), given antibiotics for the infection in his penis and anti-worm paste for the internal parasites. He was keen to eat and so, with the addition of vitamins to his food, this has helped his progress.
Finn had no energy for the first three weeks. On the first night he slept in the “shop” as this meant he did not need to move very far. Each night Marleen would go to see him before she went to bed and, if he was in a difficult position, she would turn him to make him comfortable. A volunteer, Rory, took it upon himself to help Finn as much as possible, and one day he was overjoyed to see Finn stand up on his own for the first time. Then Rory would take him for walks around the land to increase his muscle strength. Finn is very stubborn and also strong for his size and it is necessary to walk behind him to encourage him to move forward, however he never kicks or bites and his whinny is a lovely sound. Sometime in the future it will be necessary for Finn to be castrated, but for the time being he will be left to gain his strength and enjoy his renewed health.
Now, just a few weeks later, Finn is able to live in the stables with the donkeys, he can go out into the fields with them during the day and he is improving daily. Now he is even able to run around! What a joy it is to see such a difference in him.
The two new inhabitants of the Donkey Paradise want to present themselves to you, so here they are:
“Hello there! My name is Elfie, and I have been a working mule all my life. Now I am so old, that both my previous owner and me have lost count of the years! I was bought free by one of the volunteers of this paradise, and she also gave me my name. I like it – so far I they only called me ‘mule’ (‘mula’ in Spanish) and it’s nice to have a real name now. I live in a little house now. I used to live outside and I still have a bad cold and that’s why I am now wearing a warm cover during the nights.”
“I am Willem and I like Elfie but she doesn’t like me. And, even worse, the people here will not let me near the other donkeys until I’ve had an operation … Just my luck!! But then maybe that is not as bad as going to the slaughter, so I will not complain too much. Hopefully I will be able to join the lovely lady donkeys afterwards.”
This year Luis, a great friend of the donkeys at El Paraiso del Burro (The Donkey Paradise), is undertaking three tough challenges to raise £1000 for Rosie, a donkey at our refuge.
Rosie first came to us in 2012 after a neighbour of her previous owner contacted Marleen to say that Rosie was going to be euthanised as the owner no longer had a use for her. Rosie was around 25 years of age, in poor health and with severe hoof problems which meant she had great difficultly in walking. Despite all her problems, Rosie is a very adorable donkey with a sweet nature. She has settled into the refuge well and has received a great deal of continuing care for her health and hoof problems. The farrier fitted Rosie with specially adapted “heels” to correct her posture and strengthen her legs.
Each donkey at the refuge costs about £500 per year to be fed and cared for. Many need regular veterinary care and all of the donkeys need hoof care regularly. By undertaking three challenges, Luis aims to raise enough money to cover the cost of Rosie’s care for two years. This Spring he will cycle to the mountain lakes in the Picos de Europa mountains, a tough 100km ride up steep terrain; he will walk a tough 50km mountain hike and he will also cycle 160km in one day along the canal of Castille.
Luis would welcome all the support he can get in order to complete his challenges and his goal of raising £1000 for Rosie.
Please support him via the link below:
Thursday 19th February.
‘Amazing’is the honoury cap that fits our departed furry friend Alex who lost his life battle today: his spirit still willing but body so weak.
His time to go to Donkey Heaven. He fought each day as if it was his last.
Tobias (or Toby), his much younger faithful companion, was always near his side braying loud and furiously if the old fella was stuck and couldn’t get up unaided.
Alex was handsome, chestnut brown, with distinguished white spots; he often held his head low but walked tall with a lean frame and straight legs housing small, short hooves. He arrived at Donkey Paradise 7 years ago, his previous life unknown, but soon became the old gentleman in the stable with no malice, kicks or bites. His loves included: morning Porridge which he willing shared with Toby, grazing and roaming the highest terrain in paradise whilst taking pride he always knew the best ways down, being cuddled and groomed and having a full belly.
Toby knew Alex’s moods so well, how he was feeling, how much energy he held. If the old man stayed in the stable too long Toby would come back for him, and nudge him to ‘come on mate – it’s nice outside, let’s go and eat grass.’
Two days Alex battled, we turned him, held him, placed him, covered him, gave him pain relief and showed him how much he was loved. He slipped away slowly and peacefully, with donkey’s circling him and his faithful mate Toby and people who cared by his side.
RIP ‘Amazing Alex’ xx
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.
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.
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.
I hope you enjoy these photos of the landscape and the animals enjoying the sunshine after the rain.
Winter is a beautiful time of year here in Asturias, when the Picos de Europa mountains are often covered in snow and there is a good view of the mountains from the grounds of “El Paraiso del Burro,” however, at this level, we rarely get snow covering the ground for any length of time.
Winter is a time of year for taking a little extra care of the animals to ensure that they do not get too cold or too wet. At “El Paraiso del Burro” we have large, dry stables and outdoor shelters, stocked with plenty of hay and drinking water, to keep our donkeys warm and dry. They are always brought back into the stables to shelter from the heavy rain, wind and occasional snow.
Donkeys come originally from hot, dry countries and their coats are quite different to that of a horse. A donkey’s coat becomes wet through very quickly on rainy days and the donkey quickly becomes cold and miserable. As donkeys can also be prone to pneumonia or bronchitis, it is important to provide a shelter for them so they are able to get out of the rain. How often do you see a donkey left out in a field in the rain? They never look very happy do they? Please provide a shelter for your donkey and remember that if you look after him or her well he will live longer and be healthier.
Finally, I wish you all a very Happy New Year from everyone at “El Paraiso del Burro”.