Newsletter Autumn 1997
Sue with Luke and Morestina
One of the questions I am often asked is why I started the Sanctuary in the first place.
To say it started by accident when I witnessed the sorry state of so many of Ireland's donkeys is true enough but nevertheless touches only part of the motivation. The main reason was something from the heart, not easily expressible and I am greatly indebted to Wendy Valentine of Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norfolk, England, for verbalising what I have so often failed to express. She speaks of a horse called Beth .
'Beth doesn't make the grade in any way that would make her useable again...... but Beth is the reason society need places such as ours, places of refuge for nonperformers in a performance based culture. Beth and all the others to whom we have given sanctuary from abuse, neglect and slaughter, are mere whispers in a world with the importance of such as performance, competence, viability and productivity.'
Well said Wendy! And thank you.
So when we at the Sanctuary are criticised for caring as much about animals as about adults and children, I gently remind these individuals that all is one and that if our children can understand a world that allows places of hope and healing for animals, then maybe, just maybe, they will grow up with a vision for a world full of hope and healing for us all.
When we, as humans, were given 'dominion' over the animals we were given great power: power to care. The word dominion, literally translated, means lordship, a word which encompasses caring and responsibility towards those in our care. Why else do we accord our great religious leaders the title of 'Lord' - Lord Jesus, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha etc.?
Here, at the Sai Sanctuary, we have physical space for only around a dozen donkeys at a time with their pony and sheep comrades and resident dogs, ducks and cats. The Sanctuary is a tiny star where we strive to create a miniature heaven on earth for these old and imperfect animals who have nothing left to give except their considerable love, where they can co-exist in peace for the rest of their days. It is an ideal which would have no place without the support and enthusiasm of all the you's and me's of which society is made.
There is always a kiss for old friends!
This summer has seen an increase in call-outs to check on the condition of both donkeys and ponies. Happily, I believe this increase is due to a growing awareness rather than a growing neglect of animals, as overall the quality of care is improving. Mostly these checks involve concern for animals in poor and restricted grazing where the highly poisonous weed, ragwort, is prevalent, and to the inevitable overgrown hooves.
To deal with ragwort first. In truth neither equines, nor cattle, should graze land infested with this plant as it has a sinister and accumulative poison which attacks the liver of animals eating it. Provided there is plenty of other grazing this may not become a major problem, though equines, in particular, become very partial to this plant once it has wilted, which happens, of course, if the plant is trodden down or cut. Anyone who has witnessed the distress of an animal dying of ragwort poisoning would not wish to repeat the experience. So please do take measures to eradicate ragwort from your pastures and check any bought-in hay thoroughly. Where possible, ragwort is best eliminated by hand-pulling with the root, and incinerating the whole plant, but if this is not viable consult your nearest agricultural advice centre for information on other methods of control .
Summertime hoof problems are mostly connected with trimming (or lack of it) and it is disheartening to hear the everlasting excuse that donkeys' hooves should be kept long so they do not sink on the bog. Whatever semblance of truth there may be in this belief it does not compensate for the discomfort of the animal which is forced to stand and move unnaturally. Overgrown hooves shift the balance to the back of the heel with the result that the bones inside the hoof become stressed and misplaced. The pedal bone, in particular, moves and drops, ultimately piercing the sole of the hoof and causing the donkey untold agony. Not just donkeys either! Only a few weeks ago we were called out to a small pony mare who's back hooves measured over a foot long! The resulting trimming and adjustment of balance, stretching of shortened tendons etc. is painful and unnecessary and all for the sake of a few minutes attention by an experienced farrier once every two or three months.
Benjamin and Mickey
Early in May we were alerted by the Gardai to the plight of a very elderly gelding donkey which had been found, apparently abandoned, lying in the middle of a country road. He was thin, lice and tick infested and with badly split hooves, one of which was completely turned under and twisted in such a way that the donkey was almost unable to walk. His breathing was extremely laboured. Naturally we brought him into the Sanctuary where a veterinary check revealed that he had serious emphesemia. His age was gauged to be 'around forty'. Later that same day another gelding donkey was brought in with extremely painful feet. He was younger but subsequent X-rays revealed that the pedal bones had dropped in three of his feet so he was only marginally more mobile than his older companion. Once again, we witnessed first-hand the complete waste of a beautiful donkey due to neglected laminitis and/or neglected and bad trimming of the hooves.
Benjamin and Mickey, as the donkeys were christened, soon formed a threesome with our dear Martha, star of the last newsletter, who had become a very special and much loved member of our little group. So when it was decided that Benjamin and Mickey should transfer to The Donkey Sanctuary in Liscarroll, Co. Cork, where they would have 24 hour on-hand medical and farrier care, Martha went too. We miss them all, especially Martha, who was unusually affectionate and a great favourite with visiting children but we rest in the knowledge that they will enjoy a kinder climate and facilities better geared to their special needs than were able to provide for them here. As with our own beautiful Susie, who also suffers with a dropped pedal bone, we know Mickey is on borrowed time. Once he bone pierces the bottom of the hoof the pain is extreme and the only merciful recourse is painless euthanasia.
A Sanctuary scene
During September Jimmy and Cob were delivered to the Sanctuary needing extreme care. Both were malnourished and in poor condition generally. Jimmy's front feet and all Cob's feet had been badly trimmed, leaving them very footsore, though Jimmy's overlong back feet had been left untouched. Little Cob also has a serious arthritic condition of the forelegs which makes it extremely difficult for her to walk and she stands for short periods only. Initially she would attempt to get up every time she was approached, so her legs had to be bandaged constantly to protect her knees and fetlocks from becoming raw, but gradually she is learning to trust enough to stay lying down when her food is brought to her, or even just when we go to see how she is and give her a hug.
Two weeks later Isabella, a very seriously malnourished mare of around fifteen years, was also delivered, again suffering from sore feet and several body wounds, the worst of which was a nasty tail rub, probably gained through travelling in a rough trailer without a tail bandage as protection. Our vet was horrified at the condition of all three donkeys and would not pass them fit to travel to Liscarroll. Happily, one month later, they are showing some improvement. Mostly, their care fell to an Australian friend, Geraldine, who had taken it on herself to look after the Sanctuary during what is normally the quietest time of the year, in order to give me a holiday. Having done a brilliant job of looking after all the animals and visitors, Geraldine broke her leg the first morning of our return and spent the next week in hospital having a pin placed in the tibia bone! It has been said that if she had to break a leg, then her timing was perfect, but it seems a rough reward for having completed such a valiant task. We offer her our deepest thanks and will now do our best to look after her until she is mobile again.
The Sanctuary Christmas Card, 1997
Last year's Christmas cards proved so successful we decided to produce them again. We have kept the same simple message 'Wishing you joy, peace, love and rainbows' so they cover all beliefs and occasions.
They retail at £4.99 for a Pack of10, or sell individually at 50p each. They measure 6 x 4 inches, include envelopes, and are available direct, or from various shops including Ryans, Castlebaldwin; Tir Na Nog, Sligo; Cassidys, Ballymote.
All proceeds go direct to the Sanctuary. Please order early as we have a Limited supply.
Once again we thank every one of you who have helped in any way to support the Sanctuary's work and send our admiration to those who have been involved in fund raising events and all the hard work they create. Special thanks go to Gwen Pearce for her wonderful collection of knitted toys and baby clothes for resale, and to Toni Spears a long time friend of animals in general, who donated a very generous sum with which to buy winter feed. Whatever we say by way of thanks it is still difficult to express our full gratitude.
Locals may be interested to learn that there will be a talk with video footage, photographs etc. on the subject of donkeys at an Open Evening by the ISPCA Sligo Branch, which is to be held at the Southern Hotel, Sligo, 8pm on 5th November. The talk will be given by Clem Ryan, Welfare Officer for The Donkey Sanctuary, Liscarroll, Co. Cork and will be both informative and entertaining. Please come early to ensure a seat and bring a note of any queries you may have concerning donkey care while we have experts on hand! Speakers on other animal welfare issues will also be present. Admission is free.
Once again, with winter looming ahead of us and Christmas already 'in the shops', may we wish you the very best for the season ahead and thank you once more for your continued support.