You never know what the day can bring when working at The Donkey Sanctuary! Today was the day that ITV Westcountry were coming along to do a day's filming on the work of the Sanctuary following the article which appeared in The Guardian (23rd April) about Britons giving more to donkeys than abuse charities and their follow-up article about donkeys in clover (26 April).
Before the film crew were due to arrive, I first had a meeting with Jan Aherne to go through the list of children's visits that theEducation and Activities Unit would be taking their donkeys to this month. The donkeys had a busy schedule ahead of them, but they all love going out and being cuddled by the children!
On my way over to see Jan, I noticed that the workmen had arrived to begin putting up the marquee for the start of International Donkey Week. Shortly afterwards, a couple of visitors stopped and asked me if I had seen the article in The Guardian at the weekend. They thought it showed the Sanctuary in a good light and at the end of the day felt that people should be able to decide for themselves which charities they wanted to support. They then set off on their way round one of the walks around the Sanctuary - hoping to not get caught out in the rain by the look of the black cloud ahead.
I took a slight detour to stop off and take some photos ofPercy, the donkey statue that stands in the car park. Until last week, I didn't know anything about Percy until by chance I received an email from a lady in Scotland called Lizanne Kempsell, who turned out to be the original sculptor!
By this time, the rain had started so I hurried on round, bumping into a family from Austria who were visiting the Sanctuary for the first time. They were on holiday in Devon and were really impressed with what they saw and were taking lots of photos to take back home with them to show their family and friends.
The heavens opened as I stepped inside the door to Jan's office and by the time we had run through the month's activities for the donkeys, the sun was back out, so it was safe to head back to my own office ... or so I thought! What strange weather - within a minute I was walking in a hail storm. I quickened my pace to get back to my office and to dry out.
No sooner had I sat down, then Kelly and Nicki, the two grooms down at Hurfords came in. They had been busy taking photos of the donkeys in their care and were putting together notice boards for the donkey weekers to read when they visited the three barns down at Hurfords. It's always a pleasure to see Kelly and Nicki, as with all grooms, they really do care about the donkeys and this is a great time to tell everyone about their donkeys. I printed out their photos and also typed up some of their stories to put up on their notice boards alongside their photos.
Jen, one of the grooms at Trow Farm, also came along wanting some photos printing out. Having been a groom for an hour, it's wonderful to hear the grooms talk about the donkeys. They know them all by name and are always coming out with funny stories about the antics of the donkeys!
By this time, the film crew were already at the Sanctuary and Dawn Vincent, one of our PR officers, was showing them around as well as organizing interviews with various staff at the Sanctuary.
Then came my turn to be interviewed! Being a supporter of of the Sanctuary for many years as well as coming along to International Donkey Week for 12 years before I joined the staff in October 2007, the film crew were keen to interview me from a supporter to an employee perspective. I often get asked "Why donkeys?" and today was no different. This has always been a difficult question to answer and even now I don't have an answer. All I can say is that I really do have a deep, passionate love for all donkeys and have done so for as long as I can remember. Working for the Sanctuary has been a dream come true for me and for all the years the donkeys have given me great pleasure, I can now use my skills as a web developer and give the charity something in return as a thank you.
I hope the interview went quite well (I don't think there were too many retakes!). The interviewer put me very much at ease while I tried not to think that there was a camera-man and sound recordist up real close. I even got a chance to tickle the furry microphone. Have you ever wanted to do that yourself when you see them? It made a change to tickling donkeys behind their ears, which they love!
After the interview, their final stop was at Woods Farm, one of the Sanctuary's six farms. I hadn't planned on going myself, but as the camera-man had left his coat behind, I headed off to return it to him. When I arrived, the whole crew were surrounded by donkeys! Their inquisitive noses were checking just about everything.
The rain began to fall again and donkeys don't like getting wet, so off they headed to their lovely warm barn leaving the film crew all on their own in the middle of the field. The rain turned into a hail storm. so everyone took cover in their cars while the storm passed.
Out we all got and I headed up the hill to help Annie Brown to bring the donkeys back down out of the barn. They didn't need much persuasion as they were fascinated by the strange goings on down the hill.
Annie gave an interview surrounded by donkeys about the Sanctuary itself and the work overseas. Beside her was a very special donkey called Esmerelda. Being 55 years of age, she is the oldest donkey at the Sanctuary. The film crew were completely in awe by her age, especially when Annie said that the life of a donkey on average is 28 years.
With the film wrapped up for the day, I drove back to the office with Amanda Gordon, our other PR officer, who had done a great job looking after the film crew while at Woods Farm.