I don’t have a huge bucket list, as I prefer to be grateful for what I have rather than focus on what I don’t have or what I have not done. But I did have a wish this year to visit The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, near Guelph, Ont. Modelled after the donkey sanctuaries in Britain, which were founded by the late and most wonderful Elisabeth Svendsen, who made it her life-long mission to improve the welfare of donkeys around the world, the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada takes in donkeys, mules and hinnies that have been abused, or have owners who are no longer able to care for them. I have donated to the charitable non-profit organization for years, and have an agreement that in the case of my demise, my longears will be sent there. So for good reason, I wanted to visit the sanctuary and meet the key people responsible for the animals’ welfare. I was not disappointed, as facility upgrades and genuine concern for what is best for the donkeys was evident everywhere. The grounds were immaculate (no easy feat when there are approximately 75 donkeys living there), the staff and volunteers warm and sincere, and the animals were in good shape. Again, not easy since the donkey is a desert animal, and thus is best suited for a dry habitat. Wet hooves and damp skin leave it vulnerable to hoof abscesses and skin fungi. I deal with these challenges in relatively arid Alberta, so the spongy ground and humidity of southern Ontario keeps the donkeys’ farriers on their toes.
There are quarantine areas, treatment centres, and divided areas separating the mules from the donkeys. More than 40 donkeys were munching on their hay in a dry barn, with no fuss. A slight flattening of the ears or a subtle swing of the head was enough to warn a donkey to give another more space. All was calm.
The sanctuary relies on donations, and receives only one government grant, used to hire a summer student. What it has accomplished since it was founded in 1992 is simply amazing. To describe it as a deluxe resort for donkeys is not an exaggeration.
If you live near Guelph, or are simply passing through — the countryside is rolling farm fields, with lush umbrella elms, cedar rail fences and stone farm houses with bank barns — I encourage you to visit this wonderful retreat for one of the most soulful animals on the planet.