Innis and Jay-Jay, two donkeys from The Donkey Sanctuary in Ivybridge have just become the first duo from the centre to start a happy new life in a Donkey Guardian home.

Staff were really sad to see two of their most treasured boys set off for pastures new. The two young donkeys have lived at our Ivybridge centre for almost five years, supporting local vulnerable people through donkey-assisted activities and through our Outreach Programme. But through our rehoming scheme this gorgeous pair were earmarked for a new adventure - to go and live it up on a private family farm in Bristol.

The rehoming journey

Pip and Liz Patch first enquired about rehoming donkeys in February 2017 and were happy to join the long waiting list as they wanted to ensure everything was in place for the new additions to their family. One of our Welfare Advisers, Justine Thomas, was on hand from the start to guide them through every stage of donkey guardianship. After a long wait, the gentle and inquisitive duo, Innis and Jay-Jay, proved to be the perfect match.

On the big day Equine Coach, Jessica Fisher, took Jay-Jay and Innis to their new home. Jessica said: "The sun was shining, both donkeys travelled well and the whole family was out in force to greet us! Without further ado, we unloaded the boys, and led them into their new home."

Donkeys are naturally inquisitive 

Both Jay-Jay and Innis were soon nosing about, curiously investigating all of their new surroundings including a large bark area, large barn with a big straw bed ready for them and a grassy paddock leading off from the bark area. Pretty soon they were settled enough to start grazing which was a sign they felt comfortable in their new environment.

After the initial settling in period, Justine returned several weeks later to visit Pip, Liz and the donkeys to see how everyone was getting on. Justine said: "We’re delighted that both Jay-Jay and Innis have settled really well. Pip and Liz have been working on building their relationships with the donkeys by grooming and going for walks around the farm as well as picking out their feet and of course, lots of cuddles."

It's so lovely to see both boys have settled so well and have a wonderful new home. Innis and Jay-Jay's guardians are delighted with the new additions to their family, and their bond with the donkeys is blossoming.

Establishing a trustful relationship

While donkeys are stoic in nature, they are sentient animals and have key behavioural differences to other equines. This is because of their evolutionary adaptation to thrive in semi-arid conditions, with increased risk of predators and less access to grazing and water sources.

Along with stoicism, donkeys can sometimes “freeze” if they feel uncertain or threatened, which can be misunderstood as stubbornness. So, we help our guardians understand such donkey behaviour and help them establish a trustful relationship with their new family members. In this way our guardians, like Pip and Liz, are well placed to identify even minor changes in behaviour which could signify an issue or illness.

How do we select donkeys to rehome?

Donkeys like Jay-Jay and Innis are ideal for rehoming because of their regular contact and work with people. All our donkey-assisted therapy donkeys are all chosen specifically because of their kind and gentle temperament and disposition.

Generally, donkeys are very sociable animals and make fantastic companions. In return, they need your time, love and attention, which Pip, Liz and the family have been able to provide in plentiful supply.