It was the 31st of December 2013 when Eric Davis the organiser sent his first email asking about the 2014 Donkey Welfare Symposium and the possibility of me coming, and frankly it had been on my mind for the next eleven months. Some of you may have read last year's blog “The American Dream” when I did a presentation and a practical demonstration for an hour and some extra work with some lovely donkeys.
Well this year Eric has well and truly yoked me to the plough with a schedule of work that has me excited and terrified at the same time. The more I have to do means there's a greater chance to make a difference and help donkeys, mules and horses. On the other hand it means there is a huge amount on my mind, more planning to do and more chance to get it wrong.
This year Eric had a brilliantly terrifying idea to hold a three afternoon practical clinic, with 16 participants and 20 donkeys from Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue looking for homes. The plan being that some of the participants will adopt donkeys, some more from the symposium might be tempted to adopt and any left will be better trained and prepared for adoption from one of the charity's satellite adoption centres.
This is the first time to our knowledge this has been attempted. Fingers crossed that it really gets these donkeys a better chance in life.
Then of course there are some talks...
- One on practical application of the science of behaviour where I try to cram 17 years' experience into 45 minutes and really get people to see what is possible if we understand the science of behaviour and learning.
- One on human behaviour change and obesity in donkeys and how, if we understand human behaviour, we can help change people’s behaviour when it comes to getting donkeys healthier.
- One more before the conference even begins to some students from the university on the link between behaviour welfare, to inspire and inform future vets and welfare professionals.
- An evening session on donkeys in the land of plenty, and a chance to meet students who might want to be involved in future welfare work.
As you can imagine my head is swimming with ideas, presentation slides, content, ethical dilemmas of working with donkeys in the clinic not to mention how to avoid the 3 hour traffic jam that I ended up in the middle of last year, where is the closest party shop to University of Davis so I can pick up some bunting, pompoms and a balloon or two and what else I need to pack.
As always it is a privilege to try and help donkeys and represent The Donkey Sanctuary, opening new opportunities and making new connections and making a difference for donkeys wherever they are, but this feels bit stressful too, especially if you are inclined to put pressure on yourself to do a good job, so I hope you will join me over the next few blog posts to see what we can learn about behaviour, and how many donkeys we can find new homes for.