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Style · April 20, 2016

Donkeys find a safe haven on farm near Warrenton

When we first got them they were really skittish, but we’ve come a long way. It’s all through treats. I don’t know if we can lead any of them without a treat in front of them.
— Sharon Maloney
Donkeys of Dogpatch
• Owner: Sharon Maloney.

• Donkeys: 4 miniatures, 17 standard.

• Origin: Rescued from Orange County and Texas.

• Where: Dogpatch Farm, just southwest of Warrenton off Springs Road.

• Ages: 11 months to 18 years.

• Diet: Low-protein feed, grass, carrots and tortilla chips from El Agave.

• Facebook page: Click here
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Staff Journalist
Hooves pounding, the herd stampedes toward piles of tortilla chips and carrots.

Twenty-one donkeys rush to breakfast at Dogpatch Farm, southwest of Warrenton.

Every day around 7:30 a.m., Sharon Maloney begins her routine as owner of the 54-acre farm off Springs Road that serves as a paradise for these rescued donkeys.

An impatient bray echoes from the stable as Ms. Maloney releases each pair of stall mates into the pasture.

The donkeys eat low-protein feed in their stalls before getting released for their post-breakfast treat of leftover chips donated by El Agave Mexican Restaurant in Warrenton and carrots, set in separate piles.

Ms. Maloney, 68, decided to adopt the “Donkeys of Dogpatch Farm,” as she fondly calls them, after retiring last fall as a horse trainer of more than 35 years.

“It was going to be very lonely here. The fields would have been empty,” Ms. Maloney said of the farm. “I needed a reason to get up in the morning.

“It’s for the kids (nephews and friends’ children) as much as it is for me.”

Ms. Maloney started adopting donkeys after rescuing Elton and McQueen from an ongoing cruelty case at Peaceable Farm in Orange County last November.

Two donkeys quickly turned into 21 when Ms. Maloney decided to adopt from Double D Animal Rescue and Community Services, a non-profit organization in Texas.

Ms. Maloney adopted 15 standard donkeys and four miniatures through the non-profit, which rescues slaughterhouse-bound horses and donkeys from “kill pens” in Texas and from humane cases.

She paid an adoption fee of $305 per donkey for neutering and transportation to Virginia.

“When we first got them they were really skittish, but we’ve come a long way,” she said. “It’s all through treats. I don’t know if we can lead any of them without a treat in front of them. We’ve put halters on them, and they’ve had their feet done (shoed).”

The curious donkeys, ranging from waist to shoulder height on the average person, cautiously approach humans, looking for treats or for someone to pet their soft coats.

Some would let you pet them all day, Ms. Maloney said lovingly.

With original names such as Lunchbox, Puzzle and Nacho, the donkeys range from 11 months to 18 years old.

“Each one has their own personality,” Ms. Maloney said.

As companion animals, each donkey has a stall mate for friendship.

Similar to big dogs, the donkeys roll in the dirt and stand calmly in the field, occasionally letting out extra energy or frustration with a buck.

“There’s no kinder person in the world than Sharon Maloney,” Fauquier SPCA Executive Director Mary Tarr said. “I think its great and she adores every one of them. They are lucky little donkeys.”

Working with animals, especially horses, runs in Ms. Maloney’s family.

“It’s in our blood,” she said.

Her father, John, trained racehorses, while her mother, Betty, showed horses and in 1957 helped start the Fauquier SPCA, originally housed at Dogpatch Farm.

“We grew up cleaning kennels and helping,” said Ms. Maloney, who serves as president of the Fauquier SPCA.

Since 1979, she has boarded horses and trained and broken yearlings at Dogpatch. After her rider left the farm for a new job last year, she decided to retire and take up her new hobby.

“I think it was meant to be,” Ms. Maloney said. “I think Mom was telling me from Heaven” to adopt the donkeys.

Ms. Maloney hopes to find homes for at least 14 of them.

“The ideal situation is someone who loves animals and would want two donkeys to love for the rest of their lives,” she said. “Seven definitely have a permanent home here and 21 might have a permanent home if I don’t find the right home.”

After feeding, the four miniatures stand near the fence as if to say, “Come pet me.”

“This is why I have donkeys,” Ms. Maloney said. “They are like kittens.”

Dogpatch Farm also houses six retired show, race and breeding horses and nine cats.
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