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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


First blossoms

Phew! After a very wet February, March has been a lovely month with plenty of warm sunshine which means happy animals, and helpers, enjoying plenty of time out of doors.  The trees are showing signs of new life as buds and blossoms start to appear.  It is always a lovely time of year at the Donkey Paradise.

An update on Frodo

Life at the Donkey Paradise is always a mixture of emotions and often we have to deal with sadness in the midst of joy.  Although we did everything we could for Frodo, his time to leave us had come. The day before he died he went out, well escorted, into the pasture where he grazed happily for two hours. The next day, however, he couldn´t stand anymore and kept falling. His body just gave up, but his spirit never did! Frodo lived with us for five years and was much loved. Behind his grumpiness he had a heart of gold, which shone ever more clearly as he grew older. 

Frodo earlier this year

Our dog project

Two years ago, Marleen took in Nina, a rather young stray dog to join our small group of dogs.  During the first few weeks all went well and harmoniously, but then the fighting started and it became ever more aggressive and ferocious. We then had to keep the dogs apart, tied and on leads, to avoid the fighting, but still the dog situation continued to be unbalanced and tense and Nina even started to attack people. Fortunately, Dutch dog trainer Susan Shui offered help. She came, worked with all the dogs – and Stevie the pig! – and the results are very promising. Before she left, she also instructed some of the volunteers on how to continue the training until she comes back in May. 

Susan and Sara training Maya and Nina by walking past the neighbour´s boxer without reacting to his barking.


Our Mastin Arvo came to us almost 12 years ago, and Marleen finds it difficult to see the big fellow he is now and remember that, as a puppy, he could sit on her hands.  Arvo was operated on twice for cancer and now also has bad hips, therefore he doesn´t move about much anymore.  Nevertheless, three weeks ago he went away during the night and did not come back. We looked for him everywhere, day after day, but without luck. The fifth day he came back emaciated, extremely hungry, dried out and deadly tired. How happy we were to have him back!  Sadly though, he is in a bad state: he has severe anaemia and may not live much longer. 

Volunteers An and Sandra, on their way to the top of the hill opposite the Donkey Paradise last summer, found that Arvo followed them. He reached the top before them, and almost made it back home after walking 12 kilometers! 

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

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

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.

Not only a paradise for donkeys………… Marleen Stroes (a volunteer)

The “Paradise” in Arobes isn’t only a paradise for donkeys. The first morning of my visit I found these two beautiful cats Pepper and Canela lying very comfortable on my bed.Image

After a gorgeous lunch I sat down in the field and looked into the happy faces of Kari and Mara..


Then I felt something sitting beside me making a very happy was Arvo snoring.  



Running out of her space in the stables came Ronja and the sound of a purring cat joined Arvo. 



But of course do not forget the donkeys…here Rosie is taking Ronja for a ride though the garden..




On Sunday 5th August the Association had a stall at the annual picnic or Romeria organised by “Animales del Oriente” in Infiesto.  The event started at 12.30 when Marleen and Miquel set up the stall for the Donkey Paradise with small items which we sell, along with a few “donkey cakes” which were sold very quickly.  Next year we must certainly make more cakes.  

The event starts off slowly, with a few people looking around the various stalls which include books, DVD’s, toys, bric-a-brac, pet supplies and artisan goods.  There is lively music with D.J. “Mark” and a bar for refreshments.  People have the opportunity to relax and enjoy a picnic in a beautiful setting next to the river and its famous cave which is the setting for a small chapel. 

After lunch, the event picks up a pace and lots of people arrive with their dogs to take part in various events.  Añes and Lola come along to give rides to the children and games are organized for children.  There was also a display of agility and dog training.

It is very much an event which we enjoy being a part of.  Unfortunately I only took photos during the early part of the day and they don’t show how busy the event became later on, however, you can see more photos and read about the event by going to this link or and clicking their Facebook page.