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For the Love of Donkeys

June 26, 2011

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved donkeys.  I have no idea where the affection came from, or why it is so strong – I just know that donkeys ‘call’ to me in a way other animals don’t.

Riding a Donkey - Age 5In the late 1950s and into the 60s, there was a travelling carnival that would set up once a year on the empty lot by the creek where the old public school used to be.  Back then, carnivals boasted a few games, a ferris wheel, a tilt-a-whirl, a merry-go-round, a boat ride, a swing ride, and live pony rides. There were usually five or six ponies tethered to a central hub, and they would walk around and around and around.  Every couple of hours, the ponies would be ‘swapped out’ with stand-bys – and sometimes one of those would be a donkey.  I would stand in line and wait – and even let other kids go ahead of me – just to be able to ride the donkey.

Sandusky Carousel Donkey - Cedar PointI also have a bit of a ‘thing’ for carousels (which I’ll no doubt write about in another post at another time), and I’m always thrilled when I find a carousel with a donkey on it (there are lots of carousels with llamas, giraffes, lions, camels, and other exotic animals; only a few have donkeys).  Needless to say, if there’s a donkey on a carousel, that’s the animal I’m going to climb onto first (and yes, even at my ‘advanced’ age, I still ride carousels every chance I get).

Donkey and Cart PlanterI have a small but precious ‘collection’ of donkey figurines, planters, and stuffed animals.  If I see a donkey, I buy it – I consider it good luck.  Once, about a dozen years ago, I was thrilled when I found a ‘donkey and cart’ planter (designed to hold a small cactus or, perhaps, an African violet) at a garage sale in the town where my parents lived; it was identical to one my mother owned that I had coveted for many years.  When I took it back to the house, my mother laughed so hard there were tears running down her face.  It turns out she’d sold her planter two weeks before (for $2.00) – to the very women I’d bought mine from (for $4.00). Since then, I’ve found two more and I treasure them dearly.

Outdoor Donkey PlanterMy sister understands my passion for donkeys – she usually manages to find a donkey-themed birthday card each year, and last year at an estate sale she saw a wooden ‘garden’ donkey that wasn’t actually being sold – and she convinced her friend to sell it to her so she could give it to me!  He sits on my deck, right next to my favourite rocking chair, and ‘carries’ two geraniums.  I love him!

A highlight of any motorcycle ride for me (we strictly travel on country roads) is a donkey sighting – and I’m always disappointed if ‘known’ donkeys aren’t out in the field when we go by, or if they disappear from a farm where I’ve spotted them before. We got lost once (and unfortunately I have no idea where we were or how to get back there) and came across a farm that had at least a half dozen donkeys grazing in the field.  I honestly cannot understand why more farms don’t have donkeys – they’re just such wonderful creatures!

Sandicast DonkeyOne of the first presents my husband bought me was a foot-high plaster cast donkey – he recognized (and acknowledged) my fetish early in our relationship (and has never questioned it!)  I have already warned him that one of my lifelong goals is to have some real donkeys of my own (while I like all donkeys, I am particularly fond of the miniature breed – the ones that are less than three feet tall at the withers, and absolutely adorable; these are the ones you usually see in petting zoos – another place I frequent in the hopes of encountering donkeys!)

We have already decided that when he retires, we’ll move to a remote setting (10+ acres would be nice) where there is significantly less traffic and no annoying neighbours.  In my idea of that perfect place, there will be a small stable and enough pasture for a couple of donkeys (being social animals, it’s best to have two).  I have visions of walking around my ‘country estate’ every morning with my donkeys trailing behind me.  (And yes, I know that owning equines is a lot of work – I plan to volunteer at the nearby Donkey Sanctuary – where you can sponsor one of 100 donkeys in need for only $50.00 per year – prior to retiring to the country, so I can get some ‘hands on’ experience; in all likelihood, I’ll foster donkeys from the Sanctuary so that two needy animals can have a really good home.)

Donkeys Sharing SecretsMy mother used to say that my affinity for donkeys is because I can be ‘stubborn’.  However, the perception that donkeys are stubborn is wrong – when confronted with a situation they are unsure of, they simply stand still and try to figure it out. Some people claim that donkeys are good ‘guard’ animals (for sheep and other farm herds); however, they generally bond to only one or two other animals and while they might defend their ‘friends’ against predators (like coyotes), they don’t care too much about the entire herd. I generally don’t ‘panic’ when confronting new situations, and I’m certainly loyal and protective of those closest to me, so perhaps it is true that I share some donkey characteristics! (And I can do a mean imitation of their trademark ‘hee haw’ braying sound!)

It is true that donkeys are tough animals, sure-footed, and hardworking.  Unfortunately (for them) these traits have caused them to be abused in many under-developed (and some developed) countries, where they are overworked and underappreciated (and then sent off to the slaughterhouse when they are no longer deemed to be ‘useful’).  Thankfully there are Donkey Sanctuaries around the world that rescue these wonderful equines from a horrible end and care for them for the rest of their lives (donkeys can live up to 35 years).

Two DonkeysSome people are dog people, some are cat people, there are those who love horses, or sheep, or cows (my son asked Santa Claus for a ‘baby cow’ when he was about six), and I’m sure zookeepers each have their own personal favourites from among the animals in their care.  I have always considered myself to be a general animal lover (I can’t say there’s an animal I don’t like), but donkeys are by far my favourite (‘donkey’ , by the way, is the English term for the genus equus asinus, or ‘common ass’; it is generally thought that the word comes either from the Flemish ‘donnekijn,’ or from a combination of its ‘dun’ (gray-brown) colour and the word ‘key,  meaning small => ‘a little dun animal’ is a ‘dun-key’).  How can you not love and admire an animal that works hard, looks out for its friends, and asks only for a little love and affection in return?

I may never know exactly why I’m a ‘donkey person’, but I will continue to live with the hope that some day I’ll have the pleasure of enjoying the company of my own donkeys as I work towards making all my dreams come true here on … the other side of 55.

A Perfect Pair Of Donkeys

A Perfect Pair of Miniature Donkeys

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27 Comments
  1. Kathy Thurman permalink
    October 15, 2014 4:33 pm

    My mother, who passed away 2 months ago, had a collection of almost 1000 donkeys….figurines, doo-dads, planters, jewelry, you name it. I have no idea what I’m going to do with all of it!!

    • October 15, 2014 5:39 pm

      Oh, my goodness. I’d offer to buy the collection but I have no where to put it! Have you considered eBay or equivalent?

      • Kathy T. permalink
        October 15, 2014 10:26 pm

        Yes, I think I will have to put them on eBay. I am driving to FL to pack everything up and bring it back to Texas. It will be a full time job selling it all. I will probably sell them in lots, there are so many! :). BTW I love your site. I’m only 52, but I can relate 🙂

      • October 16, 2014 10:20 am

        Isn’t it incredible what we collect? I still have a number of my mom’s dolls (she passed in 2012) and I have no idea what to do with them (I have my own collection but we favoured different types and hers aren’t ‘in line’ with mine). I’m always (sort of) joking with my boys that they’re going to have one heck of a time ‘offloading’ all my collections when I’m gone (dolls, carousel horses, donkeys, silver). I sometimes wonder is the fellow who invented Ebay had the same problem! Good luck (and glad you’re enjoying my blog!)

  2. February 1, 2014 11:14 am

    I retired at age 60 and purchased three miniature donkeys. You better prepare for more than two. I fell so in love with them that now I have five mini’s and three mammoths. My pregnant jenney rejected her foal and I also had the honor of raising her five day old foal who is now 21 months old. Donkeys are so special, you can’t deescribe it to anyone. Only owners know how truly spcial they are. Also, the minis are not very much work at all. Frankly I find them easier than the many dogs I’ver owned. – i hope you get as much enjoyment as I have from your donkeys.

    • February 2, 2014 12:00 pm

      I envy you. I am hoping to foster at least two donkeys from the nearby Donkey Sanctuary of Canada (I’m a sponsor right now). They are so adorable!

  3. Inez permalink
    August 1, 2013 12:20 pm

    I have a mother donkey and her foal. WHAT a pleasure they are. My huband says he thinks I could move into the barn just so I could be around my donkeys. They are so loving and sweet. By the the way I lost a jack russell from old age and these donkeys replaced her. They will provide me plenty of years of loving.

  4. Jeannette permalink
    November 14, 2012 3:43 am

    Hi. I’m from Belgium and found your blog thanks to a link on Facebook by Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue. I’m a Donkey lady too. I just don’t know why I love them so much. It started years ago, I think when I saw some on my honeymoon (!) in Spain. Since the last 10 years I started to collect donkey figurines. All my friends and family are so happy when they find one on their holiday abroad and they bring them for me. I have about 180 figurines coming from all over Europe. I also have a few large stone statues of donkeys in the garden.
    When there is an event with donkeys I go to see it. I just love them and my husband started to share that love too. I am surprised so many people love donkeys ! I don’t know if I will ever be able to keep donkeys myself but I will try to go and help in a donkeys farm or so.
    Greatings from a donkey fan 🙂 !

    • November 14, 2012 9:07 am

      Wow, it’s so wonderful to hear from another donkey lover! Glad you dropped by.

      Margo

  5. Renee dorrance permalink
    October 31, 2012 11:36 am

    Follow your dream – it will come true. I have always loved donkeys too. At the age 64 I bought a home in Oregon City and have 3 miniatire donkeys who needed a home: Darby, Ricky, and Willy. I also had a rescued standard donkey that I brought down from WA; he was old, rather crippled, and had been terribly abused. His rescuers got him out of a slaughter plant. His rescuers had named him Thor, God of Thunder. Sadly I had to put him down this past February. I take comfort in knowing his last years were good ones for him. I still miss his very loud morning greeting. I just have two acres but it is heaven. So, your dreams can come true.

    • October 31, 2012 1:30 pm

      I’m so pleased to hear from someone else who loves donkeys as much as I do. I hope I can be as fortunate as you in having them in my life every day when I retire.

      Margo

      • Renee Dorrance permalink
        October 31, 2012 2:03 pm

        All I can say is keep your eyes, ears and mind open. You NEVER know where that door is for you to open. I bought a horse, I was down emotionally and he helped me out of it and changed my life. Been here 9 yrs. now living my dream. Doors opened. 10 yrs. ago I would not have believed it possible

  6. Elaine Ralenkotter permalink
    July 22, 2012 7:46 pm

    Margo I had only encountered donkeys when it traveled to Morocco and Greece. However, i just received one my sister won at a school fund raiser and gave to my 3 year old nephew as his gift. I take care of Nugget but after the first few months we learned that he needed a buddy. He had 3 other horses to interact with and cows on the other side of the fence but not a buddy. We purchased his biological brother and named him Small Fry. Both donkeys are 2 years old now and are so much fun and are glued to each others hip. I walk them both by myself most evenings down the driveway and they love it. I have trained them to come from the large field with the sound of a clicker, walk through a hula hoop, carry a rope bucket, jump in and out of a trailer and bathing is getting so much easier. I plan to continue with their training with hopes of using them for a purpose like sharing their kind and gentle disposition with others. I am an occupational therapist and work with children, adults and the geriatric population and may work one day to establish a non for profit program for the disable with my buddies Nugget and Small Fry.

    • July 23, 2012 11:04 am

      Good for you. I definitely want to have at least two donkeys when my husband and I head to the country in our retirement (5 years and counting). The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada does some good work with respect to information sharing and protection of these wonderful creatures. Give Nugget and Small Fry a hug and a kiss for me!

      Margo

  7. July 2, 2011 11:07 am

    My grandmother brought me a figure of a donkey from Mexico…alas somehow his ear broke off…I glued it back on and of course I still have it because it’s charming and it was a gift from my grandmother.

    • July 2, 2011 12:19 pm

      I have one ceramic donkey figurine (I don’t recall where I got it) with three glued on legs. Long before ‘My Little Pony’ was invented, I used to play with several horses – and the donkey – for HOURS. They have no monetary value, but they definately hold some of my fondest memories.

      Margo

  8. June 27, 2011 1:00 pm

    Traveling carnivals? Didn’t know there were others on here as old as I am, Lol! It’s all good….Have seen (and met) gypsies and hoboes too….Ever been to a drive in?

    • June 27, 2011 1:52 pm

      Travelling carnivals and travelling circuses and drive-in movies … those were great times! We still have two drive-ins in my ‘neck of the woods’ and there’s one in the small town where my parents used to live (we took the kids a couple of times). The big difference now, of course, is that the sound comes through the car radio, instead of those heavy duty speakers you used to have to hang on your window. And you get ‘commercials’ before the movies instead of cartoons! I miss the ‘good old days’, don’t you?

      Margo

  9. June 27, 2011 9:29 am

    Our nearest neighbours have miniature donkeys and for a few years the female had a baby each spring. The babies were always so cute and friendly.

    • June 27, 2011 11:53 am

      If I lived near someone who had donkeys, they’d have to file a restraining order against me – I’d be there ALL THE TIME! You are soooo lucky!

      Margo

  10. June 26, 2011 11:01 pm

    Donkeys are awesome. I love how they appear in stories, fairy-tales and fables, too.

    For now, I will stick with dogs 🙂

    • June 27, 2011 11:58 am

      My favourite ‘fairy tale’ donkey is the one in Shrek – not that I’m an Eddie Murphy fan, but he just struck me as the perfect loyal side kick. And since I’m one of those people who believes in fairy tales, I think that after we ‘retire’ (although hopefully not to a swamp) my husband will be very much like Shrek (trying to keep other people away) and I’ll be a combination of Donkey and Fiona!

      Margo

  11. Cathy Hendrix permalink
    June 26, 2011 10:23 pm

    I think it’s very touching that the donkeys of this world have such a wonderful champion. Have you ever thought of looking on-line to find out if there are others or perhaps an association of donkey enthusiasts? It’s a hard life for the ‘working animal’ and in many cultures their welfare is not a big concern. Good for you!

    • June 27, 2011 12:00 pm

      I have visited the Donkey Sanctuary several times and sponsor a donkey there; my husband is worried that once I get two, I won’t be able to stop there (I’ll want to rescue them all!)

      Margo

  12. June 26, 2011 6:23 pm

    Donkeys are so cute. Who couldn’t love one?

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