So often when I work with behaviour it is such a brief connection in the life of an animal or person and then I hear no more. It might be an email enquiry about a kicking donkey from the USA, a phone call about a nervous donkey in France, advice to a member of The Donkey Sanctuary welfare team or a visit to one of our farms to help with a problem, or may be spending time with a participant on a behaviour course who has a problem with their donkey. I always presume no news is good news, but I often don’t know how things turned out or if I made a difference.
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Ben Hart's blog
In the 1960s two shoe salesmen are sent to a pacific island to see about the possibility of selling shoes to the locals. After a week the first salesman sends back a telegram to the boss, “Bad news boss, the locals don’t wear shoes”. A couple of days later the second salesman sends a telegram to his boss, “Great news boss, the locals don’t wear shoes”. It’s a story of uncertainty, optimism, potential and perspective, and that’s pretty much how I felt when I boarded the plane for Kenya on Sunday evening.
As a trainer passionate about helping people understand more about behaviour of the animals they interact with, I work wherever people will sit still long enough to listen. From the dry heat of Ethiopia to the mild wet weather of Ireland today, I deliver my message about the true nature of donkeys, the importance of small steps and thinking with the donkey’s brain.
My final day arrives and some of The Donkey Sanctuary staff prepare for their journey home but I am fortunate enough to have one more session with the donkeys this afternoon, so, just like yesterday, I spend the morning mucking out all the stalls and spending time around these donkeys that have been such a big part of my life for the last three days.
Learning takes place all the time and as a result of yesterday’s experience in the clinic at the Donkey Welfare Symposium I am better organised today. We start out with a demonstration of working with behaviour and timing and the importance of shaping behaviour using Abner the mule who have become one of my favourites – not that you’re allowed favourites of course, they are all amazing.