The Donkey Whisperers: Three of our volunteers - Mary, Terri and Ann - have been coming by regularly to help socialize the BLM donkeys. These are donkeys who have been captured in the wild and sold at auction. Some of our donkeys have been with a previous owner and have had some human contact and training, and others came to Wings straight from the auction and are being socialized here.
The goal is to get them to the point where they can be haltered and led, so they can be moved, trained, fed or treated for injuries or nutritional deficiencies. If you can't approach the donkey and halter it, you're not going to be able to provide the care it needs. Mary had heard about Mama, Baby and Sissy coming to the facility and wanted to help with the socializing, which she says is not always easy.
I got a taste of that the other day when I was helping out Ann, who comes to work with the donkeys on some of the days I volunteer. Ann was trying to move Sissy and Baby from the barn into the front pen with Mama, but Baby would not let herself be haltered. She kept moving away and hiding behind Sissy, who was already haltered. We tried various approaches without success, and we were trying not to stress out the donkeys too much. Ann, who has worked with donkeys a lot, was giving me some tips on how to approach and be around the BLM donkeys. For instance, she said you never stare at their faces because it makes them nervous. And when you touch them, they may not like having their ears touched so you have to be gentle with the ears.
I wish I had a voice recording of everything Ann told me but we were busy trying to catch Baby. Ann eventually put a lead rope on Sissy and took her into the barn while I kept Baby in the outside enclosure. She took Sissy to the front pasture and left Baby to be moved later, which did eventually happen. So now these three new arrivals get some social time with the other mini-donkeys, the mini-horses and the seniors in the front pen. The Donkey Whisperers get the donkeys used to being haltered and led by being patient and consistent, and by trying again and again to make the donkeys feel safe - a valuable skill. I have noticed that Francis, who used to shy away when I walked by, now comes to the fence looking for treats, and his whole demeanor is softer...a big change!
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Laura Weise is a Wings volunteer who lives in Stevensville and will be bringing you stories of life at the barn.