Newsletter Autumn 2003
We thought hooves like these were a thing of the past in Co.Sligo!
Unbelievably this donkey was found only 12 miles away at Collooney and worse still, belongs to a family who has been visited regularly over the years by the Sai Sanctuary. A farrier was arranged on several previous occasions to trim the hooves of the donkeys on this smallholding so there was absolutely no excuse for not making the effort this time.
The pain suffered by this animal due to the abnormal tension on the tendons and muscles of the legs plus the discomfort of having to walk on these grossly overlong and distorted hooves cannot be underestimate. The owners have been cautioned that should such a situation EVER happen again they will be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act and the Protection of Horses Act. Severe fines are possible as it is obvious that this was an act, not of ignorance, but of wilful laziness.
Early in June and during the most appalling weather before our beautiful summer got started builders Stevie and Justin Hannon of Castlebaldwin stoically soldiered on with the building of the new Information Centre which was funded by an ex-gratia payment of 4,438 euros from the Department of Agriculture.
Instead of building anew we decided to renovate an old garden storage shed for the purpose, as it is an ideal situation positioned opposite the main donkey sheds, in the garden and under a magnificent horse chestnut tree.
The resulting building of 16ft x 6ft internally, gives us adequate space in which to display welfare photographs, educational material, details of the Sanctuary, its aims and purpose, identification of the animals on site, old harness, bits etc and much more for the enjoyment and education of the many visitors who struggle up the hill to meet the donkeys and ponies every year.
Heather coloured quarry floor tiles were very kindly donated by Messrs Gilroy Tiling of Grange, Co. Sligo for which we say a grateful and appreciative thanks.
Comings and Goings:
As always when giving shelter to aged and abused animals there are some losses and this time we are sorry to have had to say goodbye to dear old Nellie, who has been with us since 1996.
Nell was an old lady on arrival and was estimated to be around 40-45 years old when she died, quite simply of old age. But she enjoyed her last years tremendously, especially having the warm sheds during the cold nights and wet days of both summer and winter.
She was always a favourite with visitors, particularly children, as she was so quiet and affectionate. She is buried next to Flynn and has a weeping copper beech tree to mark her memory.
Charlie Girl's hooves
This small, undernourished and very frightened mare with sawn off hooves was admitted in April throught the Gardai and Sligo SPCA when Julie, manageress of the Sligo SPCA, spotted her hobbled and tied to a stake in a field just off the main road near Castlebar. Charlie had tried to free herself and become hopelessly tangled between ropes and hobbles.
The men who owned her had "got rid of the old knacker and bought a new one" (we'd love to know what happened to him) when their old donkey was getting too old to bring the turf from the bog, but chances are that Charlie was never trained to do such work and was therefore confused and ultimately terrified.
Several months later she is in much better condition, no longer lame, but still traumatised. She will allow a tentative contact with people she knows well but remains terrified of men and is generally extremely cautious. It is thought she is only around 7 years old, though we have never forced the issue to look at her teeth for an accurate estimation of her age. She is a classic case of how a little mishandling can ruin a useful animal for life.
Neddy, at the other extreme, is a 40-ish grey gelding who has worked most of his life and was relinquished voluntarily to the Sanctuary by the O'Shea family of Dublin when they inherited a farm, donkey included, from an uncle in Co. Galway.
It is always heartwarming to find people who care enough about an animal to make arrangements for its care, even though its useful working days are over and in financial terms it is worthless. Ned has no teeth to speak of but is in good overall condition and is a delightful, friendly and affectionate person who soon got over the bewilderment of discovering that he was not the only donkey in the country and has settled in quickly to the routine of comfort, titbits, cuddles and visitors. Always first in line for the feed buckets, Neddy soon learned to nip round to the other gate for seconds while the other donkeys were still mopping up the crumbs!
Clara is a 13hh white pony suffering from laminitis who has come to us from Pegasus - Horses Help People, a charity in Grange, Co. Sligo which is dedicated to helping people with special needs through interaction with ponies. Clara is 18 years old but in extremely good health apart from the laminitic condition, which hopefully can be managed so she can continue to enjoy life for a long tme yet. More about Clara next time. . .
4 very small kittens were delivered to us by a neighbour who found them on his doorstep, apprarently abandoned in a bucket. They were wet through and frozen to the marrow. Unfortunately two of them lost the battle for life 10 days later after a courageous struggle. Happily the other two, Tiger Mouse and Tabitha Rose are thriving. The resident cats Button and Mittens and not amused. They 'new' kitties are now in a happy new home.
Among the many schools and associations who have taken the initiative to visit the Sanctuary to learn about their long eared friends we have been delighted to meet pupils from Headford School in Galway and Knockmeenagh School in Ballymote, Little Buddies Playgroup in Riverstown and several disabled adults and children who came on a trip organised by Fiona McHugh of Enable Ireland. It seems almost a guarantee that these groups get cold, wet days from their visits so we hope the warm welcome of the donkeys and ponies make up somewhat for what the weather lacks. It is unfortunate that even this year in the best summer we can remember for years, the groups exclusively choose miserable days!! We thank them all for their enthusiasm, interest and encouragement and for the wonderful "thank you" cards and posters sent to us afterwards. Anyone wishing to organise a group outing is welcome to contact us at the address given above.
We were also delighted to welcome Dylan Galloway from Baltimore USA who is at school in Belfast and who voluntarily gave a week of his time for summer work experience. His mother, Kathleen, started by trying to keep out of the way and amuse herself elsewhere for the day before collecting Dylan in the afternoon, but by the second afternoon she was so enthralled by the donkeys she stayed to help herself. As an acupuncturist she set to work to give Biccy, our small and very damaged pony, some sessions to ease the tension and pain in her back and legs with noticeable success. Thank you Kathleen from Biccy. Dylan got the heavier work and visibly grew in confidence as the week went on. An enjoyable and valuable experience for us all. The conclusion of his school colleagues was that he had the best work experience of all!
This year's Sponsored Walk which we share with the Sligo SPCA was headed again by Phil Conalty of the Celtic Youth Hostel in Grange. Phil had mapped out a wonderful route though Union Woods between Collooney and Ballintogher which, together with unusally hot and sunny weather resulted in our most enjoyable and successful walk to date. Julie and George of the SSPCA brought along their gazebo and we all pitched in with food and drinks to share after the walk. It was a lovely atmosphere and our thanks go to everyone who raised the sponsorship, walked on the day and/or helped in any other way. Particular thanks go to Phil of course, who hopes to lead again in 2004 and has already planned a more challenging and infinitely more scenic route. If we can just be blessed with the same gorgeous weather. Anyone wishing to walk for us next year should contact the Sanctuary no later than April.
New Land and Grazing
Due to a small personal family legacy a further 4 acres of land bordering the Sanctuary's existing fields has been purchased, which will take some of the pressure off our growing grazing problems. The land is poor quality but will improve with management. The perimeter is currently fenced with barbed wire which, though suitable for cattle, is a potential danger for horses, ponies and donkeys to the plan is to erect an internal fence 3m inside using sheep netting (so our pet sheep can clean up the grazing for the donkeys) and one strand of high wire which can be electrified if necessary. Some of the posts are already in place and two rolls of heavy-duty sheep netting donated by Inge and Elke made a good start on the materials needed to complete the job. The space between the fences will then be planted with mixed trees and bushes for shelter as and when our home grown trees grow big enough to plant out and funds allow for further purchases.
In due course a field shelter will be built and water supplied, so this area can be used independently. This is a good time to thank all those people who have offered grazing throughout the year. It is not always possible to take advantage of these offers when there is no water on the land, inadequate fencing, or the land is simply too far away to be practical but we very much appreciate the consideration. Currently the Sanctuary does not own a horsebox or trailer so moving the animals around can become a problem too despite the generosity of friends and neighbours willing to lend their equipment.
New Land and Grazing
This summer we are particularly indebted to neighbours Ingrid and Jurgen who found themsleves with plenty of grass and willingly took 13 donkeys for several weeks to let our grass recover. In this climate the grass generally stops growing around the end of September and often doesn't put on measurable new growth until May of the following year, so to have a good covering on the land before the winter is a major bonus.
This year we have two drawn designs, one by our faithful actor friend Michael Gough, now in his late 80's but still with the energy and determination to produce one of his wonderful drawings and get the cards printed at his own expense with the help of his charming wife Henrietta. The other is a delightful cartoon by a very talented Swiss artist Karin Widmer. Karin and her family have been supporters of the Sanctuary for some years and when Karin produced this amusing card I asked if it could be used for the Sanctuary to which she readily agreed. We are blessed indeed. The third design is our usual photographic format.
Due to the ever increasing costs of printing and postage the cards will sell this year at 1 euro each (80p sterling). Every penny earned from the sale of these cards go directly to the animals' welfare.
As ever we have a huge number of people to thank for their help and support throughout the year besides those already mentioned too many to list everyone though you know who you are and can rest assured we appreciate everything you do. Particular thanks go to Inge and Elke, Noel Walsh, Keenan Johnson, Eddie and Karen, Martin, Kean O'Hara and very special thanks to Eli and Hartmut Krinitz who collected over 2,000 euros whilst giving their tourist slide shows throughout Germany. This is a splendid effort which really helped us financially at a time when it was most needed.
Personal thanks go to Liz Cartwright and Kim Aldridge who travelled from UK at their own expense to donkey (and dog/cat/kitten/sheep/pony and horse sit) for a week in early September to give me a break. They kept the Sanctuary and all its inhabitants happy and immaculate and claim to have enjoyed the experience immensely. Serious "thank you" to you all. We cannot keep going without you!