Although many of the donkeys who arrive at the Sanctuary come from loving homes and are generally happy little donks, there are a few who arrive that are a bit more wary and perhaps have lost trust in people a little. One of the best things about being a Quality Time Volunteer (QTV) is witnessing the transformation of these particular donkeys, into trusting, friendly donkeys. Of course much of this transformation is down to the experience, skill and dedication of the grooms who care for them on a full-time basis. But I like to think that sometimes, in some small way, us QTVs have a hand in helping these donkeys begin to trust again.
I'm thinking in particular of a small handful of donkeys who currently reside at Garmston Barn along one of the walkways. Phil and I first met Cocoa and Poppy a few months ago, when all we saw of them were some kicking heels and streaming tails as they raced as far as possible away from us! Both donkeys are larger than your average donk, and we have since learned that they are likely to be part-Poitou.
The first couple of weeks we could not get near to either donkey, although we noticed them circling round while we were grooming other donkeys in the field. The next week, Phil and I decided to go and sit in the field and wait. After a while Poppy and Cocoa started to work their way in our direction. We sat very still as they sniffed our boots, then our arms and then I managed to touch Cocoa's muzzle. She stayed for just a few seconds before she and Poppy trotted away...progress!
As the weeks went by we started to groom them - but we always had to go and seek them out, until one day Poppy walked over to me and nudged me - she was asking for a grooming! Now Poppy always comes over for cuddles! In fact last week, as soon as Poppy heard my voice in the yard, she trotted over braying her head off. It was a special, if rather noisy moment! Cocoa has been more reserved, but today she stood quietly and let Phil groom her and pick her hooves, and then she followed him around the yard.
There have been other donkeys too who have learned to trust again - Rosie being one. Phil's patience paid off a couple of weeks ago when he was finally able to groom and cuddle her. Today she went and stood next to him, waiting for him to notice her - which of course he did!
I know that all these donkeys will one day be ready to go out to live with a foster family and will lead good and happy lives. But there is a part of me that wistfully daydreams that Phil and I could always love and take care of beautiful Poppy and her special friend, Cocoa.