When Oscar’s Place travels to donkey auctions to outbid companies and individuals who want to ultimately destroy these amazing animals, incredible things happen. Saving a donkey’s life will often lead to much greater things, and in this scenario, a friendship between a human being and a donkey is changing both of their lives in a dramatic way.
In January of last year, the first class of donkeys at Oscar’s Place were delivered to the sanctuary in Hopland, CA. Twenty-two donkeys arrived after a 20-hour journey from an auction held in Bowie, Texas. Many of them had severe health issues, others were pregnant, and a few were close to death.
All of them were obviously stressed out, and their anxiety was clearly evident, but powered by love and compassion, CEO Ron King and his crew at Oscar’s Place knew what to do. It was a first for the humans and the donkeys with everyone learning on the job, but one particular donkey made an initial impression that still resonates with Ron today.
When a white and grey donkey named Viejo came off a trailer and entered Ron’s world, there was an instant connection that surprised and delighted King. He realized almost instantly that Viejo was special, and it became more and more evident rather quickly.
“When the donkeys come here, they’re frightened, shocked, and confused,” King said. “We do everything we can to alleviate their anxiety and let them know that this is a safe haven for them. I could tell that Viejo was well-trained and very personable and that’s when he got my attention. He wanted to be hugged and wasn’t afraid to ask for the love by resting his chin on my shoulder. Of course, I obliged and that’s how it all began.”
Donkeys bond with other donkeys for life, and in this case, it was a human/animal connection that has grown stronger within the last 13 months. “Usually when we get a shipment of donkeys, they’re all very skittish and it takes a while to get them to interact with us,” King said. “We have some donkeys here that still won’t get close to us, and others who are super friendly after a short time. The majority of them have been abandoned by their former owners, so they have trust issues and are suspicious of humans for obvious reasons. Donkeys are just like us--they can stress out and be depressed, happy or melancholy, angry or indifferent—and much of it revolves around the pack and their environment.”
Viejo became the leader of the pack and attached himself to Ron day one. “He started following me everywhere and let everyone know I was his human. We share the hugs and kisses with all the donkeys, but Viejo has touched my heart in a very special way.”
Donkeys also have remarkable memories and can recall complex routes, and recognize animals they haven't seen for years. They also possess a logical and flexible approach to problem-solving, and their average IQ is close to 100. (Sloths and turkeys have the lowest IQs of all animals, with pigs at the top of the smartest list.)
Every morning, Viejo stands at the fence and waits for Ron to greet him. “He never forgets and I love seeing him there. I know my day will start out right if I can spend a little time with Viejo.”
Viejo relinquished his leadership role a while back when a young donkey named Felix became Alpha #1. “Now, Viejo is number two, and I think he likes it more,” Ron said. “When he was top donkey, he got into a few fights to establish his dominance. But, now Felix has assumed that position and all is well at Oscar’s Place.”
Now after one year, King and Viejo are a bonded couple and Ron is loving every minute of it. “There is a saying in life that you can’t be hateful and grateful at the same time. That the two emotions cannot coexist. I believe this to be true and have lived my life as such. I have now altered the statement slight and say that you cannot be full of anxiety and have your hands on a donkey. When I am hanging out with Viejo, I am stress free and at peace. And I believe he is as well.”
About Oscars Place Adoption Center & Animal Sanctuary
Oscar’s Place | The Selway Family Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization committed to the rescue, rehabilitation and rehoming of donkeys abused or abandoned. When an animal suffers because humans are unkind, Oscar’s Place steps in. While we’re just a team of everyday individuals, we deeply care for and are committed to providing a safe haven for farm animals in need.