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Saving the world one donkey at a time

Josh Garvey, 8, enjoys hugs and kisses with rescue donkeys Slim Jim and Rubeus at Save the Brays Donkey rescue near Barnum. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal1 / 4
Donkeys peer over the fence to see what is going on during a recent interview and photo shoot. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal2 / 4
Trinity Garvey walks with Daisy, a mammoth donkey at Save the Bray Donkey Rescue in Barnum. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal3 / 4
Rubeus, Ida, Pebbles and Slim Jim wander over to the fence to see what is going on and possibly get a butt scratch. The donkeys are rescues. Several are waiting to be rehomed. Pebbles, a miniature donkey is being trained to become a therapy donkey. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal4 / 4

The donkeys come from around the United States. Some of them are rescued from auctions and kill lots, while others have been neglected or abused closer to home. Most survive and find new homes, a few are not so lucky.

"Daisy came from Tennessee and was very thin. She had a case of infected scratches on her feet and a thin yearling baby with her (who has since been adopted)," said Kym Garvey, owner of Save The Brays Donkey Rescue near Barnum. "Slim Jim was a local case. He had a body score of 1 ½ and would probably have only lived a few more days. He has a crooked leg from an old injury that was not cared for. He was gelded once he was healthy enough. Now he is 5 years old and available for adoption."

Daisy is a mammoth donkey at about 56 inches tall and about 1,000 pounds of love. She enjoys being scratched from nose to tail. She also "hugs" by nestling her huge head into the person's neck and snuggling close.

Garvey has been rescuing donkeys for about 10 years. While she grew up with horses, she came to enjoy rescuing, rehabilitating and then rehoming donkeys over the years. She has become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and hopes to expand the rescue to include more volunteers, educating the public and fundraising. Volunteers are needed to brush, feed, clean up and other wise care for the social animals.

Currently Garvey's help include her children. Her daughter, Trinity, 15, is her biggest helper. Her son Josh, 8, also helps on the small hobby farm.

"He's excited for the stalls to be finished so he can have his own stall to clean," Garvey said.

Garvey recently acquired a shelter for the donkeys and plans to build stalls soon.

A donkey is not to be confused with a mule. A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Donkeys reproduce, while mules cannot. While they look similar, there are a few small differences. The mule has smaller ears than a donkey and is taller. The donkey's tail looks more like a cow's tail and the mule's looks like a horse's tail.

A female donkey is called a jenny.

Rubeus arrived to the rescue in November from West Virginia. He was very thin and at risk of going to slaughter when Garvey rescued him.

The owner bought the mammoth donkey with the intention of breeding him. After they purchased him they discovered he was gelded, or fixed.

Garvey is not convinced. She believes the yearling may just be a late bloomer. If that is the case she will have him gelded when it is time. All of the donkeys are fixed before being rehomed.

They also need to be socialized, able to be lead and willing to lift all four feet for the ferrier. The amount of time at the rescue depends on the individual situation of each donkey. Some are as short as 30 days, others are several years.

Pebbles is a miniature donkey who measures about 32 inches. She came from an auction and was very thin and was not able to be handled. She has been with Garvey for two years and is training to become therapy-certified. Once she achieves that status she will be able to visit nursing homes, schools, etc. She was asked to be ambassador for Ma and Pa Kettle Days in Kettle River. Last December she enjoyed being a part of the holidays at Faith Baptist Church in Hermantown for their "Night in Bethlehem" tour.

Donkeys can be useful in several ways. They can pull carts, carry gear, protect cattle from other animals and they can be ridden.

They can also just be pets and fed and loved. They are social animals and can be destructive if bored.

Sometimes owners may not understand what they are getting into and how to care for a donkey. A donkey is a long-term pet. They can live up to 45-50 years.

"I am always happy to help people with any questions," Garvey said.

Donkeys need to be brushed and their hooves need to be trimmed every eight weeks or so by a farrier. They need to have shots yearly and their teeth checked.

They also eat a lot and need more than just grass. They need a good quality hay, especially in the winter to help keep them warm.

"We go through about 950 pounds of hay in less than a week," Garvey said.

Last year Garvey and a few friends walked 127 miles in five days as part of a fundraiser/awareness walk. The donkey's carried the gear and the people walked.

Garvey is planning another walk for 2018.

Last year 14 donkeys were accepted at the rescue and 11 were rehomed.

For more information visit their Facebook page or call 218-591-7001.

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