SOUTH FORK- Hidden in the foothills of the South Fork area is a special place for wandering burros of all shapes and sizes. Little do the residents of the Valley know, the Forever Home Donkey Rescue has been healing, loving and comforting donkeys for the past three years as a satellite location for the larger operation that is located in Benson, Arizona.
Linda Childs and her husband first became involved with the Forever Home Donkey Rescue in Benson, Arizona during an annual birthday trip to the location in 2016. “I am a huge animal lover so every year for my birthday, my husband takes me to different animal sanctuaries and in 2016, it happened to be the Forever Home Donkey Rescue. We fell in love with what the owners Don and Tish Hiestand were doing, and everything just seemed to fall into place,” said Childs.
Childs stated that after they returned to their home in South For, it wasn’t long before local Creede Veterinarian Doc Howard told her that she loved donkeys enough that she needed her own herd. Just after the conversation with Howard, Childs and her husband saw an ad in a local classified listing for a donkey looking for a new home. “This was a dream come true for us and we wanted to do something to help so we opened the satellite location here in South Fork and we bring donkeys that are well enough to travel up for the summer months and bring them back down to Arizona in the winter.”
Childs explained that most of the donkey’s range in ages three to 40 years in age and have a variety of ailments including obesity. “Most of the donkeys we get are obese. A lot of owners typically surrender their donkeys because of old age, believe it or not, donkeys have a tendency to out live their owners when taken care of or people who can’t financially take care of the animals anymore. Each donkey comes with their own unique stories.”
Childs and her burros participate in events throughout the Valley including parades and pack burro racing. “This gives us the unique opportunity to introduce what we do to the public and the donkey’s love it. We really enjoy what we do and we do it for the animals.”
Childs also helps owners that need assistance with training and handling. “Most people get a donkey and think that they can be trained and handled like a horse. That is not always the case and we are more than happy to come out and help owners with their animals. We teach handling techniques and feeding habits. We also network with other sanctuaries throughout the area to make sure every donkey gets what they need. They are amazing animals, and you wouldn’t believe the number of donkeys we have in the Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona regions.”
Forever Home Donkey rescue also works closely with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in their donkey program. “We have donkeys that are sometimes born in the wild and then trained through an inmate program with BLM. Once the donkeys pass training, they come to us for rehoming.”
The sanctuary works with all of their animals and as long as they are young enough, healthy enough and social enough, they look for new homes. “We want people to be ready to accept a donkey so there is on-site visits and an adoption application, but we work with owners who want to make a donkey part of their lives. They are such diverse, amazing animals.”
During the summer months and depending on COVID restrictions, the South Fork Satellite location does on-site tours by reservation only for those who may be looking to make a visit this coming summer. The sanctuary also always accepts donations and is typically in need of halters, lead ropes, fly masks and supplies for their donkey first aid kits. More information about the Forever Home Donkey rescue can be found on their website at www.foreverhomedonkey.com or through their Facebook page under Forever Home Donkey Rescue.