Newsletter Autumn 1994
As I write, the sun is making a welcome appearance after two days of torrential rain which we feared marked the end of the summer, all too soon. Although we can boast of almost three weeks of dry weather in July/August, we have not enjoyed the heatwave of some areas and regret that it is now getting too late in the year to expect miracles in that direction. Hot days may not be everyone's choice but the donkeys love it. At the slightest sign of warmth they are to be found basking on the hillside, bellies to the sun!
We are constantly surprised to realise how few people understand that donkeys are indigenous to HOT countries, and have only been in lreland for around 150-200 years. They do not have waterproof coats so the lrish climate is hard on them. Their hooves are designed to grow quickly to compensate for being worn down on the rocks and sand of their natural terrain, so demand attention every six to ten weeks on the soft, wet, acid land we have in Ireland. Many is the time we hear the comment 'Ah, to be sure, they're walking on soft ground,' when we address the issue of overlong and malformed feet and have to repeat many times that when your feet hurt, they hurt whether you are walking on pillows or rocks.
The acidity of the soil here allied to the degree of wetness encourages foot rot at a terrifying rate and that, in turn, leads to abscesses, cracks, splits and a host of other difficulties which may or may not include laminitis. Strict control of the protein intake of the food coupled with regular paring by a qualified farrier are the essential ingredients of hoof care but readers may be interested to explore their local chemists and health stores for some of the best known homoeopathic remedies.
Animals in general respond well to homeopathic treatments which have the benefits of having no side effects and are safe to use alongside allopathic medicines as prescribed by your vet as well as independently if required. Some common remedies which are useful to have in stock are; ARNlCA for bruises, sprains, general painkilling and pre/post operative situations; RHUS TOX, given in the evenings for best results, for arthritis and rheumatic complaints; SILICA for abscesses and CALC FLUOR for laminitis. These remedies are most usually available in 6 and 30 potencies with dosages explained clearly on the packaging. On the subject of medicines it is time to remind donkey owners that September/ October are good months for the strong worming routine for which we use EQVALAN paste. Again dosages should be followed carefully, bearing in mind that most donkeys weigh around 150-225kgs.
One disadvantage of the warm weather is the problem with pestering flies which can be a real torment to the donkeys, even when they do have a field shed into which they can escape. With the help of our vet, who researched the subject for us, we found that whilst many of the pour-on fly repellants are not suitable for donkeys. RIDECT, BUTOX, and IVERMECTIN can be used to great effect. Ridect was our most readily available at a dosage of 0.2 mg to 1kg weight.
There is very little information about the proper care of donkeys documented, so serious owners may be interested to have a copy of THE PROFESSlONAL HANDBOOK OF THE DONKEY, which is compiled for The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon, England. tel: 010 353 395 516391. It is not expensive and gives a wealth of help.
Jilly when she first left the stable for a walk on her own
Readers of our last newsletter will remember Jilly, the tiny dark brown mare who was given into our care in March suffering from severe malnutrition and foot rot. We do have to admit to times when we doubted she would pull through but she has made a remarkable recovery.
Initially we had difficulty persuading her to feed until we realised that she was just too stiff and sore to reach down to a ground-level bucket. By holding the bucket up and later sitting it into the top of an old milk churn, she was able to eat comfortably. Very gradually she began to improve condition. Soon she was making short forays out into the yard where she enjoyed constant stimulation from the comings and goings of the Sanctuary helpers and visitors. She claimed lots and lots of cuddles from anyone who went even vaguely in her direction and proved to be a great timewaster.
By early June she was wanting to join the other donkeys for short visits and now spends most of her time with them. When the weather is bad, she is in season, or sometimes just because she feels like it, she returns to the yard where she obviously feels especially safe and secure. It goes without saying that she is greatly admired for her tremendous spirit and is a firm favourite with us all.
Our latest arrival is Susie, who came from a nearby farmer. She is beautiful. Very tall, elegant and silver grey in colour we say she is our unicorn in disguise. Her owner, now retired, had worked her for many years and recognised that she too, was entitled to her retirement. She is no stranger to us as she lived in a field next to a road we used frequently so we often stopped to chat with both her and her owner, who eventually availed himself of the services of our farrier when he called to the Sanctuary.
She was walked up to us early one morning to avoid traffic on the narrow road and subsequently spent the next two days patiently waiting beside the gate for her master to return. Once the penny dropped that there were other donkeys around she kicked up her heels and galloped off to join them. Soon afterwards it became apparent that Jilly had a 'crush' on Susie as she followed her everywhere. Maybe it is just a case of the two 'new girls' together or maybe Jilly thinks she can compensate for her small stature by having such a tall friend. They make a comical twosome at times - the short and the tall.
Polly the morning before she broke her leg
Sadly we lost our elderly and much loved ewe, Polly, when she mysteriously broke a leg one Sunday morning early in May. It seemed to be a straightforward break so our vet set it and we hoped it would mend. It didn't. After a few days Polly was obviously in pain so the vet returned, this time to give us the bad news that it was infected from the inside and we could not do any more to help. Polly was put to sleep quietly and gently and was buried in the Sanctuary cemetery.
The immediate problem then was to provide company for her lamb, Lazarus - Laz-Baz to his friends - who was bereft without her.......... and then came Borage and Basil, twin Suffolk ram lambs.
At first there seemed to be a bit of racial discrimination going on but eventually they integrated and settled down just in time for two more newcomers - or rather, wanderers returned. A fellow trustee had bought back from our neighbour farmer Hubble and Trouble, the two pet ram lambs we had raised in the Spring. It was a joyful reunion especially as we were to learn that they had been selected for the factory the very next day. Doubtless they are blissfully unaware of their timely reprieve.
Keeping the few sheep is obviously a pleasurable occupation but there is a practical application too. Sheep and donkeys ingest each others' worms so grazing the two together helps to keep the land clean. Moreover, sheep are not selective grazers and will eat the plants ignored by the donkeys, making better use of the land. Just as important is the welcome they give to visitors. many of whom may never have had the opportunity to stroke a sheep before. Borage and Basil are still shy but Laz-Baz, Hubble and Trouble have no inhibitions!
A Summer scene at the Sanctuary
On the Fence
One of our major ongoing expenses is fencing. Donkeys have extraordinarily long necks when it comes to reaching newly planted trees and shrubs for tasty tit-bits. Between them and neighbouring sheep and cattle who are convinced that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence ie our side, many of the fences have been severely strained and posts broken. Replacing the offending stretches before the onset of winter is our next concern. It is always amazing to see how resilient Nature can be and to watch decimated trees pop up with new growth again in the next year, but to give them a proper chance we are replacing many fences with higher posts as quickly as funds and weather permit. The land here is simultaneously very boggy and very rocky so fencing is always a challenge!
Happily, in spite of marauding animals and a hostile winter climate most of our last winter's planting efforts have been rewarded with good summer growth. There are some failures but overall the success rate is encouraging so we look forward to the day when the trees and shrubs are large enough to provide real shelter for the donkeys and refuge for a number of wild creatures. Special thanks go here to Brendan Dean, Charlie Langrish and Lylie Young for their generous donations of trees and to Brendan again for his continued advice and direction on planting and maintenance of trees. shrubs and other plants.
It was strictly with tongues in cheeks that we stuck all our raspberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, forsythia and buddleia cuttings into random spaces between the shelter planting. The buddleias have made it quite clear that they are not prepared to break any rules and grow on the bogland but all the other cuttings have given unexpected returns, even to the raspberries bearing fruit, much to the delight of the wild birds and one of our dogs, Pagan, who helps himself to the fruit when we 'walk the fences' checking for damage etc.
It has been suggested to us that cuttings up to ten feet tall of willow and poplar have been known to take quite easily in these wet areas. We'll keep you posted! Mith lreland being the least forested country in Europe we feel that any contribution towards tree repopulation is welcome.
Riverstown Steam and Vintage Rally
Early in June we were invited to take three donkeys to take part in the Riverstown Steam and Vintage Rally at Riverstown, Co. Sligo. One donkey was to help with a turf cutting display, one to model harness plaited from straw and one to look decorative outside a reconstructed cottage which was being used for a thatching demonstration.
In the event the day started bitterly cold and extremely wet so within a couple of hours all three donkeys and handlers were taking shelter in the stand provided for the weaver of the straw harness.
Gradually the day improved and the donkeys found they had a new task amusing the many children who wanted to pet them. Jeremiah, Tomas and lsaac were the chosen three and all were very tolerant of the constant fuss until late in the afternoon when Tomas and Jeremiah got a bit fed up and tuned their attentions to grazing. Isaac, on the other hand, refused all opportunities to have a break from the ever searching hands and positively pushed his way back into the limelight, even to getting himself on the regional television news with my colleague, Lea, and numerous children. We always knew he was a softie. Now we know he is also a potential filmstar. Altogether it was a lovely day made possible by the generous loan of a trailer in which to transport the three musketeers. and plenty of practical help from local young people, especially Michelle and Rachel. Next year we hope to have more notice of the event and get ourselves organised with a proper stand promoting the Sanctuary.
Thanks to your continued support we have been able to order New Zealand rugs for all the donkeys to wear this winter. The rugs will make a huge difference to their comfort as they will be able to graze outside in all weathers instead of standing morose and bored in the sheds waiting for the next net of hay to arrive.
Judy Gill of Gillrugs, Old Cider Lodge, Kilmington, Axminster, Devon, EX13 7SW. England, Tel 0297 33085, is tailormaking the rugs at a special price as we are a charity and we hope to take delivery of them by the end of September hopefully long before they are needed. Jacob is shown, left modelling his New Zealand rug.
Finally we have a very big thank you to make to T and J for the gift of the Amstrad PC on which this newsletter has been processed. It is my first introduction to word processors and computer usage and I am delighted to find out what I have been missing! The portable typewriter which has served well for many years is about to discover retirement as I am seduced by the miracles of technology. There is much to learn........
Many of you have renewed your annual adoptions, many more have given generously towards the costs of keeping our increasing family. We cannot mention everybody - indeed some would prefer to stay anonymous - but we do thank you all as without your support there would be no Sanctuary.
From all the animals - thank you.