All the donkeys on our farms and in our donkey assisted therapy centres are looked after by fabulous staff, who not only attend to the donkeys’ basic needs but also have to provide a lot of care when the donkeys are poorly. So you may wonder… how do the grooms get to be so fabulous?
The answer is a mix of motivation and training. The Donkey Sanctuary is responsible for a lot of internal training and staff development and runs a Diploma Scheme, where new starters or long-term staff can progress through various training modules to achieve recognition and diploma status.
Here in the vet department we have just completed a marathon training session over the last 3 months to ensure that everyone who works with the donkeys have the ability to understand, assist and participate in donkey veterinary care. This has meant that together the vets have run over 56 training sessions to staff! Seven of these sessions have been filmed in order to be available for use in the future; both here and at remote locations.
This is where Hetty comes in! Hetty is a lovable, nearly life-size toy donkey that is used to demonstrate all sorts of techniques and procedures to people before they get to a real donkey. She has been the invaluable star of our training and has travelled to all the outlying farms to assist in the sessions.
So what topics have been covered? The idea was to choose a wide range that would encompass most or all of the situations grooms may find themselves faced with. These included:
- Recognising a healthy donkey and signs of illness, how to check basic temperature, pulse and respiration. This might seem easy, but given that most donkeys are very stoical in the face of disease it is quite an art!
- Foot care, causes of lameness and an understanding of how we assess quality of life decisions. So many donkeys come to us with terrible neglected feet, meaning we as vets spend a lot of time dealing with the consequences and the resulting effect on the donkey’s future.
- Veterinary medicine use and legislation. This may sound like a pretty dry topic but it’s essential that everyone acts responsibly when using medications and our model donkey Hetty had a great time being used as a practical demonstration donkey for injections, inhalers, and all manner of things!
Understanding safety issues dealing with donkeys allowed Hetty to have lots of fun being “rescued” from various tricky situations. She was also a model patient whilst the grooms practiced bandaging her legs and having her “wounds” treated.
Hetty was allowed a rest during the session on "Understanding and Controlling Ecto- and Endo-parasites". This is such an important topic for us here at the Sanctuary as we try to reduce the impact of parasites on the health of our herds.
The session on Isolation procedures and new arrivals management saw Hetty back and involved in a thought-provoking role-play exercise which allowed staff to think about the issues involved and the various points of view when a donkey is relinquished to us: from the owner making the decision and the donkey’s travel down to Devon, through to arriving in our Isolation department and finally moving on to a farm.
Finally we demonstrated our facilities and equipment during the Hospital procedures module, explaining the differences between x-rays, ultrasound and endoscopy and then discussing the procedures involved when a donkey needs surgery.
Hetty is now back resting in her usual stable (the office!), but will be out and about for other events in 2015 - watch this space!