A PLACE THE DONKEYS CALL HOME
A Visit to Primrose Donkey Sanctuary
Stepping out of my car, I was greeted by the unmistakable sound of donkey brays coming from the paddocks at Primrose Donkey Sanctuary. Looking over the fence, I saw half a dozen of these gentle animals standing in the sunshine, eating hay, or just lounging. I watched as one of the Unofficial Greeters, a beautiful and friendly calico cat, gingerly wound its way across the barnyard, skirting a donkey, and crawled underneath a fence to welcome me by rubbing up against my legs.
Walking up the driveway with our new kitty friend in tow, we were warmly welcomed by Chris, one of the many volunteers at Primrose. She asked us if we would like a tour, and off we went.
Sheila Burns founded Primrose Donkey Sanctuary in 1994. Since opening more than 20 years ago, Sheila has rescued and rehabilitated dozens of abused, neglected and unwanted donkeys, hinnies and mules, and has successfully adopted out dozens more. Today the sanctuary is home to more than 40 donkeys, as well as mules, sheep, goats, pigs, miniature horses and cats. It is maintained by a small army of 30-40 dedicated volunteers, who do everything from mucking stalls and paddocks, to grooming and feeding the animals, helping with fundraising events, maintaining and repairing the farm structures, and giving educational tours to visitors.
Primrose is a special place. In the vast barn, chandeliers hang from the ceiling, and the interior has been whitewashed, resulting in a whimsical and cozy interior where the animals can stay warm in winter, or rest and recuperate when in ill health. As we were entering, a vet who had been treating one of the animals that morning was lugging out her portable x-ray machine; it was easy to see how well cared for these animals are.
In the barn, we met Bernice, a goat who likes to show visitors who’s boss by standing in mangers (she suffers from “King-of-the-Castle” syndrome), and her pal Kitty Lamont, a sheep who is suffering an identity crisis and thinks that she is a cat.
We also met Patsy, a lovely blind donkey who insisted on having her nose gently rubbed. Patsy’s friend is Jonathon Cupcake, a 44 year old donkey, and her seeing-eye donkey.
He is never far from her side, and leads her around the paddocks. And then there is Cleo, the adorable cat who wants nothing more than to perch on your shoulder as you tour the barn. Cleo found a willing victim in Sara, who was more than happy to temporarily wear a kitty scarf. Cats are everywhere at Primrose - walking through the barnyard, napping under bushes and in corners of the barn, and tightrope walking on the fences.
Out in the back pasture, we met a number of other animals including an unforgettable goat named Vanna White who grins, showing off her pearly white teeth, and more donkeys including Miriam and her daughter Guinevere. When they arrived at Primrose a year ago, Guinevere was only 1 week old and was so weak, the Primrose volunteers did not think she would survive. But with lots of care, she pulled through and is now a happy, healthy donkey.
All of the animals here are special, with unique personalities and histories, which the volunteers are happy to tell visitors about. As you tour the sanctuary, you are able to pet the animals while you learn about them. Most of them are quite friendly and will walk over to meet you.
Primrose Donkey Sanctuary is a great place to bring the kids. It is open to the public year round on Thursday and Sunday afternoons from 1-4pm. Admission is free, but Primrose is a registered charity, and runs entirely on donations, which are very much appreciated. There is a donation box on the fence by the barn, or you can make a Paypal donation to Primrose Donkey Sanctuary here.
A few things to note: dress warmly in colder weather because the sanctuary is mostly outdoors and unheated, and it can get chilly. Also, wear rubber boots or other footwear that you don’t mind getting mucky…the sanctuary is a working farm, and as much as the volunteers do their best to keep it clean, there is the possibility that you may step in a little donkey poo along the way. Think of it as a parting gift to remind you of your day in the country.