Newsletter Autumn 2002
Spring 2002 started with an unusual focus more on horses and ponies than donkeys. In order to help out with the Sligo SPCA we took in a beautiful silver dun 13hh mare who had been allegedly roaming the roads for some weeks, being fed by animal sympathetic people along the way. Eventually she was taken in by a woman who noticed she had a penetrating wound in her buttock as if she had been gored with a cow's horn, or impaled on a silage tine. She was also lice infested, underweight and her hooves were in poor condition. The SSPCA, the vet and the Gardai were called and it was decided to take her into care until her owners were found. We called her Silver Lady as lady she was, allowing regular bathing and syringing of the wound without a murmer, despite the fact that it must have been extremely painful. She stood, quiet as a lamb, ears laid flat, teeth gritted and never once offered to bite or kick quietly moving out of the way when it became too much. Happily the wound healed completely leaving a circle of bare skin about one inch in diameter over which the coat may grow again in due course.
Gradually Silver Lady's story unfolded. Her owners were found. Her name was Pongo (we stuck with Silver Lady!) and after a month she was returned to her owners but because they had inadequate facilities for looking after her she went into stables where her immediate care could be continued.
Soon afterwards we were delighted to help the SSPCA with a thoroughbred mare found on a hillside in mid winter in very poor condition. The owner had had previous dealings with the Gardai over cruelty to pigs and certainly deserved to be prosecuted for his treatment of this mare who was severely undernourished, eaten raw with lice and needed heavy painkillers before she could walk due to splayed, cracked and infected hooves. Eventually the owner agreed reluctantly to sign her over to the SSPCA so regardless of whether or not a prosecution followed, she would NOT be returned to him. Coaxing her to move was a serious affair of pushing, pulling, bribing, cajoling.. until she turned the corner and saw the horsebox waiting then she let out one huge whinnie and almost ran! She knew she was out of there! It took many weeks before she gained proper condition and will take at least a year before her hooves will make marked improvement and our thanks go to Mark Carter for his patient handling of her. As a finely bred mare she has a thin silky coat, even in the depths of winter, yet she was asked to live out on a hillside with no shelter, no rug, no feeding and no companion. I wonder how her owner would have fared had he been left in similar circumstances with nothing except his pyjamas! Thanks are due to the Henry family of Templevanny and Skreen who have kindly offered grazing for her with the company of one of their mares while she continues her recuperation.
A miniature skewbald pony mare, Pixie Pocket, also known as Flossie, came to us early in the year with a mixed story of abuse and neglect for most of her ten years. Rescued out of the Cork Horse Pound by Siobhan Brady of Waterford who is starting her own horse and pony rescue centre, Pixie came to us to enjoy some good days and friendship with little Lucky Biscuit, our tiny black pony. Alas, she had so many problems that her time with us was very short and she died late in September. It was the saddest loss to see one so pretty and trusting leave us in what should have been the prime of her life but we enjoy lovely memories of her happy, more carefree days throughout this summer.
Two little runaway mules, now named Dustin and Hoffman, had been seen in various parts of the country until finally they landed in a neighbour's field and were transferred to the Sanctuary. North West Radio kindly broadcast their whereabouts for their owner to contact the Ballymote Gardai in order to secure their release but at the point of writing no-one has come forward. They are great fun, Dustin playing the 'straight' man and Hoffman the ever ebullient comic, full of mischief and raising belly laughs from the most serious of people despite a nasty injury to one of his back legs. Both animals are nervous of strangers, Dustin being the more shy of the two.
Our oldest donkey mare, Meggie, now something over 40, had been in dubious health for some months with her 'ups' and downs' as variable as the weather. Earlier she had displayed all the symptoms of cystitis but had not responded to treatment. She continued eating, became very affectionate but was obviously uncomfortable. The skin inside her back legs was scalded and sore as she was continually 'leaking' urine and it was looking as if euthanasia was going to be the kindest option. In desperation I patted into the sores almost a whole sachet of vibhuti (a sacred ash manifested by the Indian Master Sri Sathya Sai Baba, after whom the Sanctuary is named) and the next day Meggie laid a bladder stone the size and shape of a chicken's egg whereupon she was again able to pass a normal stream of water. For some months Meggie improved even putting back some of her weight loss but then started to decline again, leaving us peacefully on July 30th. One of her special friends, Noirin, brought a beautiful beech tree to plant in her memory so we can watch it grow and remember the delightful and affectionate little donkey she was. Thank you Noirin. Meggie's best donkey friend Flynn seemed to understand that it was Meggie's time to leave and stood at her side the whole day before she died. Towards evening he left to return to the Golden Oldies section where he spends most of his days. Meggie spent a peaceful night in her own small stable and departed the next morning. Flynn has shown no sign of pining, much to our relief.
STALLIONS TO CORK
It has been a while since we had to take advantage of the facilities offered by The Donkey Sanctuary in Cork but in May there was little choice except to contact Welfare Officer Linda Thompson and ask if she could arrange for six donkey stallions to be taken into care. One of the stallions was only a year old, two were two years old and the other three were aged and beyond the time when it would be safe to geld them. We extend our thanks to Paddy Barrett and his team, particularly Linda and driver Eugene, for their patient handling of the boys. The old fellows will spend the rest of their days lazing around at the 'Old Jack's Farm' and the younger ones will be castrated in September before joining the main herd. As and when they make a special friend they may be fostered out into private homes where they will benefit from a more personal interaction with their fosterers. Some donkeys prefer to stay in a small herd situation but many, given the chance, enjoy the extra attention and involvement gained through a private home. Later in the summer Linda arranged for two more stallions to be collected and taken to the Cork Sanctuary but one other little fellow was offered an immediate home with Julie and George at the Sligo SPCA. His owners were happy to relinquish him as he displayed many stallion tendencies, particularly biting and 'attacking' without apparent provocation. He was castrated, given the gentle name of Moses and asked to live up to it which, bit by bit he is doing!
Pandora, a shy but active little donkey mare of around 30 years old, was intended to accompany Moses but her prudish disposition was consistently affronted by Moses' amorous advances. She registered her displeasure by hammering him hard with accurately planted heels whenever he even looked in her direction so for both her dignity and his safety something had to be done.
Ultimately she joined the 'Golden Oldies' section here at the Sanctuary and Alfie, one of our younger and more boisterous characters went to meet Moses in the hopes they would make friends. Within an hour the two boys were play-fighting, grooming each other and apparently velcroed at the hip so at least that part of the bargain worked out all right.
Pandora may take a couple of months before she is fully comfortable with us but meanwhile she has shelter, food, deep bedding, good grazing and a choice of stable where she can chill out on her own or join up with some of the other donkeys. Currently a liason with the delinquent Jenny seems a possible option which guarantees mischief afoot!
CRAZY ABOUT CREATURES
Once again we extend our thanks to everyone who supported our sponsored walk, Crazy about Creatures, run jointly with the Sligo SPCA on May 26th at Streedagh Beach, Grange, to Phil Conalty who led the walk again and to Moran's Pub in Grange who kindly accommodated us afterwards with tea, coffee and hot dogs a welcome repast for the hardy walkers. The event raised an amazing 1,500 euros for each charity which was far in excess of expectations and a real pat on the back for everyone who gave their time, energy and enthusiasm to make it such a successful day. Phil has already agreed to lead next year's walk at a different venue through Union Woods at Collooney (where we can keep dry even if it is raining in theory at least!) Hopefully we'll all met again on a sunny Sunday in May 2003.
New lean-to under construction
Peaceful ponies with the hill of Kesh behind
A rare state of speechlessness followed an extraordinary gesture made early in the year by Michael White of Blackrock and his friends Austin and Eamonn who offered to build, absolutely free for the Sanctuary, a brand new donkey shelter measuring approximately 20 x 30 feet. The lads gave up a full week of their holiday time in Sligo to come and build the shed from scratch unfortunately in the most appalling weather conditions that could be imagined for early July. They had hoped their families would be able to join them for a picnic lunch and spend time enjoying the donkeys and the magnificent scenery from the Sanctuary but every day blew a gale and lashed with rain while they stalwartly soldiered on (sometimes, no doubt, wishing they'd kept their mouths shut!). The concrete was barely dry before the donkeys moved themselves in and left their mark of approval in time honoured fashion. This is one of those special occasions that should be marked with a plaque but Michael, Austin and Eamonn insist they want no fuss. Which makes such a gift the more valuable and the more appreciated and totally impossible to say an adequate thank you. Let's hope next summer will provide the opportunity for the missed picnics and gentle times with the donkeys.
Other thanks go to the many friends of the donkeys of who donated their time and money to keep the Sanctuary running, with a special mention to Peter and Jose Allman, Toni Spear, Jill of Devon, Waltraud Wagner, Lesley Finch, Maureen and John Burns of Rossinver and a little girl, Hannah Coogan-Murphy, who raised an amazing 100 euros by selling her old toys, books and bric a- brac at a Christmas sale outside her house in Drumcondra.
The summer workload was considerably lessened by two wonderful volunteer helpers, Caitllin Benson of Washington, Seattle, USA and Amanda Hammond of George, South Africa who spent four and five weeks respectively helping out with all manner of Sanctuary tasks in return for board and lodgings. Their presence allowed for time off to visit relatives on the Continent and later to escape completely for a week to Cyprus where we met up with The Friends of the Cyprus Donkeys at a little village called Vouni, in the Troodos mountains, where it was both interesting and educational to learn of the different problems common to working donkeys in a hot climate as opposed to our cold, wet one. Their donkeys seemed rarely to suffer hoof problems such as we encounter here on a daily basis, but harness wounds and hobbling wounds due to being tied by their legs with wire, are all too common. Their website is http://www.windowoncyprus.com/friends_of_the_cyprus_donkey.htm for those who are interested.
There are four new designs this year bearing Christmas messages plus one blank card. One card has been delightfully hand-drawn, printed and donated entirely at their own expense by Michael Gough and his lovely wife Henrietta, to whom we extend heartfelt thanks. The production price (cost) of these cards including the envelopes is 60c each, plus post and packing. In order to make them available to everyone we ask only that this cost price is covered - anyone wishing to make a further donation may do so at their discretion in the absolute assurance that they will be helping directly to fund the donkey's welfare. As always we can accept most currencies in cash, bank draft, electronic transfer or personal cheque with the exception of the old eurocheques which are still sometimes used in Germany. We regret we are not able to accept credit cards.
Cards 3 and 5 also include the following message on the inside cover:
I looked at all the animals in the Shelter the cast-offs of human society. I saw in their eyes love and hope, fear and dread, sadness and betrayal. And I was angry. 'God' I said, 'this is terrible! Why don't you DO something?' God was silent for a moment and then he spoke softly. 'I have done something,' was the reply. 'I created YOU.'
If we all accepted this challenge of responsibility the world would soon be a better place for animals and people. Happy Christmas from all at the Sanctuary with wishes for peace, love and rainbows in the years to come.