It’s been an exciting time at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth. After months of planning and preparation, Monday 20 July finally dawned. The relief was immense. You see, I’m not very good at keeping secrets. For months I’ve been petrified that I would let the news slip in conversation, especially whenever the topic of the adoption scheme was broached. But I managed to keep the news under wraps, even when someone put me on the spot and asked me outright about the ‘big announcement’ and what it could possibly be, just days before.
This was made even more difficult during Donkey Week in May, when visitors saw us leading the donkeys to the arena for their first ever photo shoot. ‘Where are you taking Ashley?’ a visitor asked. Yet again, quick thinking was needed; I was becoming a pro at avoiding people’s questions.
Ashley is definitely one of the cheekiest donkeys at Slade House Farm, and as you can imagine, trying to get a playful donkey like Ashley to stand still for the photographer is quite a challenge.
The fun and challenges of photographing the new adoption donkeys
Ashley had never been in the arena before, meaning he was far more interested in seeing what was around him than smiling for the camera. There were mirrors, toys and pictures on the wall to investigate and he wanted to visit them all. To help we took Ashley’s two best friends, Zena and Mr Khan, into the arena to keep him company, and they waited patiently for our star to strike the perfect pose.
Ruby, who normally craves human attention, was also delightfully distracted and far more interested in the cameras, computers, tripods and lighting equipment. It proved difficult to keep her still let alone look in the direction of the camera. But we love a challenge.
We were kept very busy trying to get her attention by jumping up and down and shaking bags, much to the amusement of onlookers.
When it came to Gareth’s turn, he seemed to thrive under the attention and acted like a complete star. At times, I wondered if he was actually listening to the photographer’s directions.
If only the others could’ve done the same and not had a tendency to walk off at any given opportunity. In the end, our patient photographers managed to get the pictures they needed.
Luckily, the outdoor photographs proved much simpler and watching them grazing and wandering around in their fields was a delight. I can tell you now that there are some great shots for your welcome pack postcard sets.
Preparing for their adoption debut
If you’re wondering how we came to choose these three gorgeous donkeys, then I can tell you that while they all have different personalities that would be perfect for the adoption scheme, they were selected because of one important trait – they love people. But it was also important to make sure they were all fit and well.
We set about liaising with our expert veterinary team to make sure the trio were healthy. Ashley, Gareth and Ruby then received a full MOT and were awarded with a medical certificate. We were all thrilled that our lovely candidates had passed this crucial step with flying colours.
Come and meet our new adoption donkeys!
Gareth, Ashley and Ruby are all based at our Sanctuary in Sidmouth. Ruby lives in the Main Barn and can usually be seen waiting to meet and greet visitors, and being right in the heart of the Sanctuary means she has prime position.
Ashley can be seen in Shelter 4 and during the build-up to the launch, a new pathway and fencing was built around Ashley’s field, so it is much nicer for his family of adopters when they come and visit him.
Last, but certainly not least, little Gareth can be found at Beach Boxes, and both he and his best friend Benji love being part of the small herd, although it’s rare that you’ll spot them apart as they really are inseparable.
All three donkeys can easily be found on foot and don’t forget if you want to get your daily dose of donkey antics, you can watch our live webcams to check just what the donkeys are up to.
It’s always a joy to work with donkeys every day, and call me biased, but I often think I have the best job in the world. Now I’m just glad that the secret’s out and that you too, can discover more about this wonderful trio and become an important part of their life.
You can check out the exclusive behind the scenes footage from the photoshoot and don’t forget that you can adopt Ashley, Gareth and Ruby. Stay tuned to keep up to date with all their latest adventures.
Marleen - groom