The donkey is often taken for a sullen creature, or one which delights in obstinance. But this is not necessarily so. Treat a donkey well and it will gladly follow you around like a puppy dog, even if you bury it under packs or yoke it to something heavy.
Sadly, too many donkeys are not treated well enough. Some fall under the care of people who can’t accommodate their particular eating habits, their need for the company of other donkeys, and their sharp intelligence. Others fall victim to outright neglect. The least fortunate donkeys become ingredients.
Kym Garvey’s mission is to save donkeys from misery and slaughter, rehabilitate them until they have achieved peak donkey health and contentment, and then find them proper donkey homes. This is why in 2016 she founded Save the Brays Donkey Rescue in Milaca, MN.
“I have always had horses, but I didn’t actually have a donkey until 2003,” said Kym. “His name was Simon. He was so very sweet, just a happy fellow who loved spending time with people. He didn’t mind at all when my kids, who were little at the time, climbed all over him.
“Simon taught me that donkeys have very different personalities from horses. They’re not so on edge. They don’t want to speed through the day. Donkeys are native to the desert, where food is scarce and running is risky. Instead of reacting to new situations by bolting away, it is their nature to take things in stride. You can see the contemplation sparkling behind their eyes.
“After falling in love with Simon I found out about mammoth donkeys – which are horse-sized, and rideable – and bought two. Then I took in a rescue, and it all kind of snowballed from there. My husband and I eventually bought a little hobby farm and started our non-profit in full.
“There are a lot of wonderful horse rescues here in Minnesota, but donkeys need a more specialized kind of care. They have their own health conditions, and if you feed a donkey the same high protein, sugary diet as a horse it will quickly become big as a house.
“Donkeys also benefit from a certain kind of company. We have one pen for miniatures. We have one for donkeys with health problems. We have another just for geldings. Despite being castrated geldings still think they’re hot stuff, and they can’t quite behave themselves around the ladies. The ladies don’t seem to miss them. But whichever group they’re in, all of our donkeys enjoy fresh air, green grass, and the comfort of a barn whenever they want it.
“Every new arrival gets some time to decompress and settle in. Once they become comfortable in their new surroundings, we start to rehabilitate them. A lot of our rescues have never met another donkey before, so they get to socialize and learn what being a donkey is all about. Many others had never met a kind person. We slowly teach them that we’re not all bad. In all this time we haven’t taken in a single donkey who hasn’t warmed up to us. Sooner or later they all begin to want attention and scratchies.
“Our visitors are always surprised by how diverse our donkeys’ personalities are. We do have a lot of characters here. One little gal named Lemon thinks she’s the boss of everybody, and likes to run around to pester her pen mates. The older guys just kind of shake their heads at her. We have a miniature named Pebbles who seems to fancy herself a racehorse in spite of her stubby legs. It’s always a joy to watch her tuck her ears back and put on a look of pure determination as she sprints around her pen. She can’t run fast by any means, but she’s pure heart.
Save the Brays is located just one hour north of the Twin Cities. They have around 35 donkeys at any given time, and groups of all sizes are welcome to stop by and meet them. Kym only asks that you call in advance. To learn more about the animal rescue, plan a visit, or lend your support to so worthy a cause, please visit savethebrays.org.
By David Scheller