Every year Ely Cathedral hold a 'Celebration of Animals' which is a service of thanksgiving and blessing for pets and working animals. They give a quarter of the collection raised to The Donkey Sanctuary and every year donkeys are represented in the animals attending. The Service is taken by Canon Victoria Johnson who is ably assisted by her dog, Percy. This year we met dogs from the Military, Pets as Therapy, the Police and of course, Marley and Midnight, the donkeys. Sue Winter has been a long-term Guardian with her three Donkey Sanctuary donkeys, and a year or so ago she added two privately purchased donkeys as well. They all get on really well together and today they were represented by Midnight, the Guardian donkey, who is in his 30's and has visited Ely before and Marley, new to visiting, who is only 6 years old. Sue has cared for Guardian donkeys for almost twenty years and enjoys taking them out and about when the opportunity arises. Marley took his cue from Midnight and was relaxed and eager to meet visitors at the Service.
The donkeys go into the Cathedral and stand near where the Canon is taking the Service together with her dog. Both donkeys loved the singing (All Things Bright and Beautiful) and from the Ely Imps, 'The Bear Necessities of Life'. Dogs, cats and even a lizard were present at the Service and all went off peacefully. Even a pigeon decided to fly in and join the fun, pecking around between the pews before leisurely flying back up into the tower.
Not every donkey would be confident enough to go into the Cathedral and stand for the length of the service but these two boys have been familiarised with a range of situations before they ever ventured out and are confident and trusting towards Sue and her daughter. Donkeys can be nervous and even aggressive towards dogs but Midnight and Marley have dogs at home and the dog owners were very responsible, not letting the dogs get too close to them. They also travel well in a trailer and have no problems getting in and out of it, all work that has been done at home.
Their next 'gig' is Ely Cathedral's Crib Service on 24 December where they will be joined by my own donkey, Daisy, who has been at the Crib Service for many years. Daisy, who was found as a single donkey, is happy to go out on her own, leaving her two companions contentedly at home.
I was so proud of these two donkeys who took it all in their stride and seemed to enjoy meeting their public. It is lovely that Ely Cathedral recognise the place of animals in our society and a privilege to be part of a lovely afternoon.
If you feel you could rehome a donkey, you can find out more on The Donkey Sanctuary website.