Wild Burros Bring Joy to Assisted Living Facility

The Bureau of Land Management has some amazing volunteers and adopters. Two volunteers for BLM California, Karin Usko and John Auborn, have done some fun things with their adopted burros.  They are TIP trainers, BLM ambassadors at adoptions, parade participants, pack burro racers, founders of the California Breakfast Burritos (a pack burro training group that runs with their burros in the morning before breakfast), and they sometimes take their burros to the local farmers’ market! They definitely take volunteering to a higher level. Not only do they volunteer for BLM California promoting adoptions, but they also volunteer their animals’ services. 

In November 2018, Megan, the Program Assistant at the Ridgecrest Corrals and JJ, a wrangler at the Corrals, were taking their animals to visit High Desert Haven, a local assisted living facility. Megan brought her burro and JJ brought his Divide Basin (WY) horse, Jailbird AKA JB. They invited Karin and John along. Of course, they accepted. “We are always happy to do burro stuff,” says Karin. 
 
At the facility, they talked to the residents and staff about burros, horses, and BLM.  All the residents petted the animals. The residents’ as well as the employees were so happy to interact with the horses and burros. The animals have a powerful effect on people. 
 
In December 2019, John and Karin were walking their burros around town, as they do, when someone pulled over, presumably to look at the burros.  The driver asked them if they would be willing to go to the High Desert Haven again. She was an employee and remembered their visit.  Karin says, “We had such a positive experience during our last visit, and it had been far too long since we were there.”  

Karin and John connected with JJ about the opportunity.  On this visit, they brought two Clark Mountain Herd Area orphaned burros and JJ's mustang, JB. Again, everyone was happy to see the animals and spend some time outside with the animals. While they were there, an employee asked Karin if they could come back to visit with the residents who were confined to their rooms because of their conditions. Karin accepted without hesitation.

When COVID-19 arrived, Karin decided to arrange a visit to cheer up the residents and staff.  All the residents had stay in their rooms. To maintain proper social distance, they walked the animals around outside and said hello to the residents through their windows. Even at a distance, the residents enjoyed seeing the burros and the burros enjoyed seeing the people.

Two weeks later, with Mother's Day coming close, Karin decided it was a good opportunity to go again.  They arranged another visit. This time, they wore masks to protect the residents. They invited friends from their California Breakfast Burritos group to come with them. They took the burros to all the residents’ windows and wished them all a Happy Mother's Day. The residents were thrilled. The burros soaked up the attention.

Karin and John believe the burros have a positive effect on the people at High Desert Haven based on the smiles they see.  Plus, the burros love the attention.  Karin states, “We sure will do this again, as often as they want us there!”   

People with burros outside a facility.
California Breakfast Burrito members, Roger and Debbie Pio, visit High Desert Haven with BLM burros
Man with mask stands with burro.
Roger Pio lets a resident pet Karin’s burro Bracelet
Two burros getting pet by people.
John and burros Bracelet and Lucy with a resident
Burros being led into a facility.
California Breakfast Burritos members Roger and Debbie Pio and John Auborn let a resident pet a burro