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caption: Ranger, the dog, came to live at Sammamish Animal Sanctuary 
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Ranger, the dog, came to live at Sammamish Animal Sanctuary
Credit: Courtesy Diane Gockel

The unlikely friendship of Peanut and Ranger, a baby donkey and orphaned puppy in Sammamish

Last year, 40 animals were rescued by the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary. While many shelters take in dogs and cats, this sanctuary rescues farm animals.

In a large farm east of Seattle live the animals who call the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary home. Every time someone pulls up the driveway, the animals come up to the fence expecting a carrot or celery stick.

This sanctuary is a place for people of all ages to come meet animals. Teens especially love to take pictures with their favorite animals and post them on Instagram.

The farm sanctuary was Diane Gockel's childhood dream. She even has a framed drawing of the farm she made as a child, with a layout nearly identical to the sanctuary. On a tour of the farm, she shared the stories of the pigs, bunnies, and sheep.

caption: Diane Gockel drew this picture of her dream farm when she was a child. 
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Most of these animals come from dairy farms and slaughterhouses where they were neglected and sometimes abused. The abuse often results in health problems for the animals.

Diane told me about puppies who came from a slaughterhouse after their mother was struck by a truck driver. When they arrived at the sanctuary, they had mange, a skin disease caused by parasites. Diane nursed the puppies back to health.

The abuse and neglect doesn’t affect the animals just physically. Many also don’t interact well with humans and other animals.

Diane visited a farmer who wanted to sell a donkey and its baby. She didn't want them anymore. The donkeys had lice and were underweight, so Diane asked if she could buy them. The owner said she would deliver the mother and the baby the next day.

“She put them in a crate kind of thing where the animal couldn’t even move," Diane told me. The mama donkey was in the crate for more than 12 hours, she said.

"She just did not have a sense of compassion for the animal," Diane said of the previous owner.

At the sanctuary, the mother donkey was scared and ran away whenever someone approached. This isn't uncommon as many animals come to the farm fearing people.

"People are like, what’s wrong with that animal?" Diane said. "But as it learns to trust us, it becomes way sweeter.”

caption: Diane Gockel poses with some donkeys at the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary.
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Diane Gockel poses with some donkeys at the Sammamish Animal Sanctuary.
Credit: Courtesy Sammamish Animal Sanctuary

The mother donkey and her baby really did become way sweeter. In fact, the mother donkey’s name is Sweetheart. Her baby is called Peanut.

Their transformation wowed Diane. Within six months, Sweetheart was running in circles around the pasture with Peanut.

“Now I go out there, and she’ll just pull on my coat, and she won’t leave me alone," Diane said.

These animals not only begin to trust humans. They form bonds with other animals, too.

Remember the puppies from earlier? One of those puppies, named Ranger, stayed at the farm, and Ranger and Peanut the baby donkey have built an unlikely friendship.

“[Ranger] has learned to play with the baby donkey from the other side of the fence," Diane said. "They’re communicating with each other in a way that’s really fun, and they know it’s play."

These kinds of friendships are common at the sanctuary. As visitors walk through the farm and look over the fence, they don’t just see a dog and a donkey. They see a story of resilience and friendship.

This story was created in KUOW's RadioActive Advanced Producers Workshop for teenagers, with production support from Kamna Shastri. Edited by Mary Heisey.

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