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When the natural circle of life is closing… by Astrid

When the natural circle of life is closing…

Like described earlier, in “El Paraíso del burro” the donkeys are a part of your daily life. Even more strong, you are a part of their life as well. And the natural circle of life includes spring and new birth as well as winter and death.

The natural circle of life is closing when an animal is coming closer to the end of a hopefully happy life… we try to provide a natural environment for our donkeys, to keep their life as close to their biological life as possible. A natural life would include a natural death, though with the help we provide to keep the animal alive we also help to prevent a natural death. A donkey that can not stand up alone will not survive in the steppe of Nubia or Somalia , their natural environment. So we act against the nature, because we act out of our human nature!

Donkeys know no fear of death as we humans do. But they get old and feel pain, and their worried carers observe their every movement. Does the donkey eat as it usually does? If so, we are relieved. But if a donkey still eats, does it mean that it wants to live, or is it a matter of pangs of hunger? Finally, suffering and pain have no reason if there is no hope for bettering, let alone recovery.

Some weeks ago we have had the whole discussion over and over again here in Paraíso. The health of Jelle was not improving despite intensive and loving care of the team. The questions differed from a definition of the quality of life to our personal egoism to keep an animal alive. It touched our heart and kept our head busy while working, eating or talking.

Then the moment we all feared but expected came and Jelle did not eat his breakfast as he usually did. We looked at each other sadly, agreeing that we would wait for Marleen arriving in the night so she could say goodbye to one of the oldest donkeys in the sanctuary.

In the end Jelle died a natural death some hours later in April 2010.

As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.

So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.

Hermann Hesse


Jelle, our beautiful donkey of more then thirty years has left us. He died by himself after a few months of disease, a disease that we don’t know what it was. He just lost a lot of weight and his muscles just disappered to the point were we had to lift him up every morning. In the beginning we tried to walk him in the meadow for exercise but one day he fell pretty bad and after that he refused to walk outside. He was old. But some days he looked better and we all thought maybe…but then he couldn’t stand up again and slowly it got worse.

Jelle spent two years in Paraiso and was always to be found near his best friend Norbert. Jelle would patiently wait at Norbert’s side when he was taking a rest in the meadowgrass and then they would slowly move along to the next piece of yummy grass!