Guest blogger Jessica Wynne Lockhart is a Contributing Editor for Verge Magazine, a publication devoted to travel with purpose, and the promotions manager for the Go Global Expos. A Toronto-based freelance journalist, she has travelled to over 30 countries, but never says no to a road trip that’s closer to home.
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From wolf howling expeditions in Algonquin Park to visiting the Toronto Zoo, there’s no shortage of opportunities throughout Ontario to learn more about our four-legged friends. Want to try something a little different? There are lots of other opportunities to get up close to animals—and sometimes even to give back.
Groom a jack or jenny at the Donkey Sanctuary
This is ample warning—even if you’ve never even considered donkeys before, once you visit the Donkey Sanctuary you may never want to leave. This was the case for the sanctuary’s Executive Director, Katharin Harkins, who first came to the facility as a visitor. After that first trip, her life was never quite the same.
“I started putting up donkey pictures in my office. I became known as the donkey lady,” she says.“There was a draw for me to these animals. I became a donor right on the spot.”
At the kid-friendly donkey sanctuary, you can groom and visit with donkeys, many of whom outlived their owners or were subject to neglect. From May until October, the sanctuary welcomes visitors every Wednesday and Sunday, where you can have a picnic lunch beside the pond or check out the Donkey Learning Centre. Family pets are also welcome and there are picturesque trails surrounding the barnyard.
Muck out barns at an animal sanctuary
If petting donkeys isn’t hands-on enough for you, Cedar Row Sanctuary for rescued farms animals might be more up your alley. Located just outside Stratford, visitors can work with abused and neglected animals including cattle, chickens, goats, turkeys and pigs. “People love to interact with farm animals,” says co-owner Siobhan Poole. “When people come here they see a different side of the animal.”
Cedar Row is not a petting zoo, but the volunteer opportunities for those aged 12 and up are satisfying. During working visits, which are hosted twice a month, volunteers help muck out barns, wash dishes, groom animals and rake straw. After your four-hour work shift is done, the Poole family encourages their visitors to partake in a vegan potluck. Volunteer spots fill up fast, so email for availability.