Newsletter Autumn 2000
We had our wish! The best summer in these parts since 1995. Largely dry, warm and with plenty of long sunny days it was an excellent summer for the many building projects going on in Ireland at the moment, including our own. One of the old stone sheds in the yard has been torn down and rebuilt in blocks, faced with the original stone to provide an insulated, DRY workshop space with storage. A lean-to against the haybarn fulfils a long held dream to house the main herd of donkeys adjacent to the hay/straw storage and close to the manure heap, which cuts down enormously on the hard work of barrowing all the bales up the hill to the yard stables and the manure down the hill to the dung heap.
The donkeys always enjoy visitors
The lean-to was made possible through the generosity of friends and relatives who sent donations in memory of Joy, one of the Sanctuary's dearest supporters, who passed on last December. Between them they raised £400. Funds were further swelled by an unexpected donation from Petwatch of Dublin who donated £500 (which we shared with another small animal charity) and then, to cap it all, we received an anonymous donation of a further £500! The overall cost of the lean-to was estimated to be around £1,800 complete, so we were already well on the way when a faithful American 'Friend of the Donkeys' decided to celebrate his birthday by sending 200 dollars! It was like watching a small miracle unfold.
The building is 30 ft x 20 ft, with block built and galvanised sheet sides (with the occasional clear plastic panel for light). Both the concrete floor and the galvanised sheet roof are insulated. There is good ventilation, so with a deep straw bed the donkeys will be dry and cosy whatever the weather throws at us this winter.
During the summer months, Flynn, Meggie and a small pony called Lucky Biscuit, took over the almost empty haybarn as their personal quarters. sharing only with the swallows and our neighbour's cat, Mittens, who likes to sleep curled up in the straw beside the donkeys. They had immediate access into their private paddock in the lower field whence they could come and go at will, enjoying the company of the main herd over the fence but safe from their boisterous antics. The scheme worked so well we decided to develop the idea and keep a space for them in the haybarn throughout the winter so they could continue to communicate with their friends next door in the new lean-to. It takes a bit of juggling with gates to keep the two departments separate and safe from curious marauders from 'the other side' but so far so good.
Although extremely busy with the building projects and visitors to the Sanctuary, it has been a quiet year so far for welfare work. On the whole the warm, dry summer has suited the donkeys well, though the abundance of rich grass had led to problems with laminitis, an excruciatingly painful condition which causes the laminae inside the hooves to swell and separate from the hoof wall. Laminitis is precipitated by too much protein in the blood but its causes are varied, from eating too much good grass or concentrates, to any form of stress (travelling, trotting on hard surfaces, being separated from either animals or human friends etc). It is a condition which demands immediate attention from a qualified farrier or vet if permanent damage is to be avoided and is usually recognisable by the animal showing distinct signs of pain in the hooves. The front feet are generally more affected than the rear and in order to relieve the pain the donkey or pony will attempt to walk on the back of the heels, keeping as much of the sole as possible from contact with the ground. If the condition is neglected the bones inside the hooves can rotate and drop, forcing their way through the sole of the foot in extreme cases.
Lucky Biscuit with Nellie and Cassie
(un) Lucky Biscuit?
Lucky Biscuit is a typical example of chronic, neglected laminitis. She was relinquished into our care in the Spring by her rescuer in the hope that some way would be found to help her. Lucky is not a donkey but a delightful, small black pony with a lovely nature, who just adores Meggie and Flynn.
The first diagnosis was back trouble, so the skills of an equine chiropractor were sought. We say a special thank you to this lovely lady and her husband who travelled from Enniskillen, entirely at their own expense to treat Lucky, and for the judgement that the pain Lucky was experiencing in her back originated elsewhere, most likely in her feet. Our farrier asked for X-rays which confirmed that Lucky's problem is chronic, neglected laminitis with resulting stiffness in the joints and damage to the tendons.
The initial feeling was that euthanasia would be the kindest way out, but as she is such a cheerful, affectionate little pony with a strong desire to participate in life we decided to give her whatever time we could to enjoy the company she craves and loads of TLC.
She has won the hearts of many visitors, none less than a young girl called Scarlet, who made an excellent model of Lucky out of tin foil and masking tape, which now presides on the bookcase along with several models of donkeys which have been gifted over the years from people in Germany, Austria, England, Switzerland and here in Ireland.
Fortunately Lucky's story does not end here as since her hooves have been trimmed a few times and the serious infection within them has cleared up, she has improved enormously. Further x-rays have confirmed an improvement, so we are very hopeful the little lady will be with us for many years to come. Maybe, in time, her severely distorted hooves will regain something like a normal shape.
The last newsletter gave news of the arrival of Bonnie and Hezekiah. Bonnie appears to be making a special friend of everyone, especially visitors, whom she greets enthusiastically, nudging their pockets for titbits and insisting on her fair share of cuddles. She has just had her teeth filed for the second time as she has a habit of 'quidding' ie. stuffing half chewed grass into her cheeks, probably to protect herself from biting her own mouth as the side edges of her top teeth were razor sharp. Donkeys do not have the same nerves in their teeth that we have in ours so having them filed is not as unpleasant as it sounds. Obviously the benefit to an animal that is slowly starving to death through being unable to eat is enormous, so the mild discomfort of the process is negligible.
Hezekiah, has made a complete and full recovery and is bonding with Robbie, our little mule. Robbie has been here a full year now and is, at last, learning to be handled, petted and groomed though he is still shy of strangers, especially in the field. We owe much of his acquired confidence to Charlotte and Rosie, two teenage girls who spent their week's holiday at the Sanctuary in pursuit of Robbie's trust. Their dedication paid off with Robbie accepting carrots from the hand out in the field without the safety of a door or gate between him and his admirers. Cause for much excitement from the girls!
Atumi and Doris were homed through Linda Thompson of The Donkey Sanctuary, Liscarroll, Co. Cork into an excellent foster home, where they continue to flourish. Thomason palled up with another gelding called Elliot and they too were rehomed with 'foster- parents' who love them to bits.
The Sanctuary has been blessed this summer with other wonderful gifts besides those mentioned earlier. One of the most amazing is the donation of a complete AppleMac computer system with all sorts of extras and gadgets. This is a mindblowing gift which accesses a whole new world of creativity, efficiency and communication when I learn how to use it (bear with me please!). VERY sincere thanks to Frederick and Annie.
Thanks also go once more to David and Rebecca for 20 bales of hay and the continued loan of their horse trailer to Joost for his patient planning of the building work, his generous financial input and the many hours of hard labour he has put into the completion; to Paddy Thompson and Jurgen for a stalwart day's work laying the concrete floor of the lean-to in the pouring rain and force 8 gale; to Brian Sweeney and his crew for their consistent Saturday building work and to the many faithful supporters of all ages to continue to give their time, energy and spare cash to help the donkeys.
From Dublin to Paradise
Nob and Lob
New arrivals, Lob and Nob, were collected from the Dublin SPCA and delivered direct to their new foster home to save them the extra trauma of settling first into the Sanctuary and later being moved again. These two little donkeys were confiscated from their owners for maltreatment. Both donkeys were tiny, suffering severe malnutrition and had long, shaggy, unkempt coats to the point that it was impossible to determine by sight if they were boys or girls! As both were extremely timid, handling was out of the question, so when they were offered a home locally with gentle people who would give them time and space to readjust at their own pace, we were delighted to accept.
Over the summer they have gradually gained confidence and will now tolerate being stroked over a gate or barrier of some kind, though are still too nervous to enjoy being groomed or handled 'head-on'. However, we can at least report that they are both boys. Their ages have not yet been determined though they both appear to be quite young. It will be interesting to watch their continued development.
Yes, it's that time of year again and this year we are blessed with a special card, personally drawn for and printed at his own expense, by English actor Michael Gough, known to true Thespians everywhere but best known to the younger generation as Albert, the speechless butler of the original Batman series. Michael is a most charming gentleman who loves the donkeys with a passion and he has blessed us with many visits. His delightful pen and ink sketch depicts a jaunty Santa riding his donkey and carrying a large bag of carrots. Our second card 'The Choir Boys', is a photograph of Robbie and Tommi playing one evening at sunset. The rest is left to your imagination!
Both cards sell for 50p each with envelope and are available direct from the Sai Sanctuary, from Castlebaldwin P.O., from Cassidys of Ballymote and Tir na Nog of Sligo. Thank you to all who have offered to sell them on the Sanctuary's behalf. All proceeds go direct to the Sanctuary.
And so another year soon draws to a close. As always all here wish all of you peace, love and harmony for Christmas and forever, may the year 2001 be a good one for the world.