Our events team donkeys are picked for their good nature and kind temperament, but just because they are naturally quiet this doesn’t mean that they don’t need training.
With Palm Sunday just around the corner the donkeys that are chosen to help with this event are getting stuck in to training.
On Palm Sunday we take the donkeys to churches where they join in with the procession to the church and walk over the palm leaves. Our donkeys love Palm Sunday as it means that they get a lot of attention all day!
This year four donkeys from our team are going out on Palm Sunday processions, as well as several donkeys that live on outlying farms who are also going out to help!
From our team - Mopsy, Henry, Barney and Rupert - will be leading processions across Devon, with Barney having the ultimate honour of being chosen to attend Exeter Cathedral! Mopsy, Barney and Rupert are old hands at this, but Henry is new to our team and this is his first year of going to church. Last week, Hollie, Claire and I took Henry to West Hill church for a practice run with the experienced Mopsy as his guide.
Henry loved the experience and happily walked straight into church without any hesitation! He tackled the steps, the tiled flooring and walking around the alter without batting an eyelid before heading outside for a walk around the graveyard. It was a really good training day for Mopsy as well, who hasn’t been to church since last year to remind her what the day is all about. She quietly walked around the church as if she did it every day and actually looked quite bored with the situation!
Barney and Rupert also went for a trip to church as a refresher of what is expected of them, both of them loved their outing and proved to us that we don’t need to worry about them behaving as perfect ambassadors for the Sanctuary on Palm Sunday.
Before the donkeys are taken out to any events, they are vetted to ensure that they are fit and healthy enough to travel and take part in the event. Just in case any of the chosen donkeys happen to fail this vetting we need to have some reserve donkeys! This year, Zippo and Trix, two of our youngest and newest recruits have been chose as substitutes - it is the perfect opportunity to start to introduce them to the world of events and to start shaping their behaviour whilst they are young.
Both Zippo and Trix were abandoned separately on the side of the road in Ireland, with Zippo being picked up by the police and brought to us and Trix ending up in the pound before finding his way in to the safety and tranquillity of The Donkey Sanctuary. As soon as both boys were fighting fit they got on the lorry to Devon and found themselves being put forward for the events team by their proud grooms who noticed their potential.
Hollie and I took Trix and Zippo down to Sidmouth Garden Centre, who had kindly offered to host our training trip. It gave the youngsters the opportunity to meet and greet visitors in a controlled environment as well as getting habituated to traffic and different kinds of vehicles passing them. They both met their first bin lorry and instead of being worried by the massive, noisy, smelly truck they were both fascinated and Trix in particular dragged Hollie in for a closer look when the lorry came to a standstill in the car park. Whilst Trix was busy acting like “Stig of the Dump”, Zippo found the garden centre’s branded truck that is covered in fake grass and his little eyes lit up! He was most confused to find that it actually wasn’t edible!
The beautiful boys also managed to snag the hearts of two families who, after meeting them outside the garden centre, decided to go and spend the afternoon at The Donkey Sanctuary.