Newsletter Autumn 1999
Doris and Atumi
Late in April we were made a gift of an elderly dark brown donkey mare in very poor condition, Kelly, as she became known, almost certainly owes her life to the kindness of one woman who organised the necessary funds in the neighbourhood to buy her from an uncaring owner and arranged for her to be brought into the Sanctuary.
Kelly had been worked for many years pulling heavy loads of various commodities through the harsh coastal terrain of north Sligo, wintering out without shelter or supplementary feeding until she was as thin as a hat rack and covered with rain scald sores and lice infestation. When we went to collect her she was so stiff and sore she seemed barely able to graze and stood holding up first one front leg, then the other.
On arrival at the Sanctuary she was given a warm feed and bedded in a dry stable with deep straw. She slept almost constantly for two weeks. Now at the end of the summer she is back to her proper weight, glossy coated and healthy but still a little shy of strangers and easily upset by loud noises or anyone holding a brush, shovel, stick or similar. Her hooves, which had been incorrectly pared far too close, gave her great pain for a number of weeks but have now grown sufficiently to be properly balanced by our farrier so she is comfortable at last.
When visitors come Kelly tends to stay in the background unnoticed though she is gaining confidence and anyone prepared to give her affection is rewarded by her gentleness.
This summer saw a spate of voluntary relinquishments - mostly elderly donkeys who's owners had died, gone into care or, after last winter, simply realised their animals needed more care, shelter and feeding than they were able to provide on farms already pushed to the limit to feed cattle, sheep and horses.
The month of May saw five new arrivals. First was Toffee, a small, elderly chestnut mare. Although otherwise in good condition, Toffee's hooves had been sawn rather than trimmed and taken too close for comfort, so it was no surprise to find that when it came to touching her legs and feet there was a resounding "No" from Toffee who buck-kicked, reared and bit in a vicious attempt to protect herself from what she was sure was to be another painful and frightening experience. It took many weeks of patient work with her before she realised we meant her no harm. She is a very curious little donkey, always wanting to meet people and to know what's going on, an advantageous character trait as each kind new person she met helped her to gain confidence. You could almost see her keeping a mental notebook of "Ok folks".
Next came Edward Velvet Lugs, an absolute dear of a donkey. Edward is a tall, skinny type of donkey in his late twenties, with an unusual cream coloured shaggy coat and enormous fluffy ears from which he gained his title. He had been a working donkey and an essential part of the farm for rnany years until his master died. Although he had always had the company of cattle or horses Edward was delighted to meet more donkeys and integrated with the herd very quickly. He likes tit-bits, especially bananas, but otherwise much prefers his own kind to people.
Doris - pretending?
In mid-May Doris arrived when for personal reasons her owners felt they could not give her a proper life, Doris was supposedly " expecting" with a foaling date of around St. Patrick's Day. Although undeniably rotund we were not convinced she was that close to foaling, if in deed she was to have a foal at all, and we watched her progress with fascination throughout the summer.
Even our vets remained inconclusive about her pregnancy as a donkey mare is able to "hide" a foal most successfully and can carry for anything from nine months to fourteen and a half months. Twice Doris fooled us by "bagging up", only to reduce to normal within a couple of days.
Then at last, in the early hours of 28th August, Doris produced a fine, healthy jack foal who is almost pure white apart from a smudgy brown blanket over his rump and some soft grey in his mane. We have called him Atumi and his antics are guaranteed to brighten the greyest of days.
Sue feeds a few starving donkeys!
Then came Thomason, a two year old gelding who was bought by animal lovers from a neighbouring farmer because they were horrified at the conditions the little fellow was having to cope with throughout last winter.
His muscles were wasted through lack of exercise and his back and legs were open sores due to being constantly wet and dirty. Having spent many months tied outside without shelter he lay down immediately in his offered stable and slept solidly for 48 hours!
When, later, he was given to the Sai Sanctuary, he bonded deeply with one of the mares whom, no doubt, he sees as a surrogate Mum.
Esau arrived late in May, brought in from Roscommon by caring owners who wanted to ensure his future comfort. A splendid, very large dark brown gelding with enormous ears and hooves the size of a horse's, Esau proved to be the perfect gentleman in every way. A working donkey all his life he is well used to being handled, loves children, other animals, food and fuss of every description. Although his feet were long on arrival, they had not been neglected and so trimmed back in one session to "a good shoeing hoof". It is a joy to see a donkey of Esau's age (estimated at around 40 years), in such beautiful condition.
Early in June Noddy Noos arrived from Enniskillen with a problem. A small, Lightweight, mouse coloured gelding of around 25 years, Noddy didn't seem to realise he was a donkey and took fright when introduced to Meggie and Flynn who live most of the time in the yard and garden. With head held high, tail stuck out straight as a stick and nostrils distended, Noddy huffed, puffed..... and fled! Several attempts to reconcile the situation failed miserably so ultimately it was decided to leave Noddy loose in the yard and garden too until he grew used to the idea of sharing his space with these strange beings. Over a period of a few days he accepted Meggie and Flynn, and one by one the other donkeys were brought into the yard for a few minutes, extending to a few hours a day until his fears were allayed. During this time, however, we enjoyed some real and rare summer weather, so the door of the house was left open and Noddy saw no reason to miss the opportunity of becoming a household pet. Once in the house he refused to use reverse gear leaving us with the unethical option of bribing him out of the other door with a tit-bit, only to see him reappear through the first door seconds later. The time had come for Noddy to accept that he was a donkey and out into the field he went! Fortunately, he soon befriended Disney, a black gelding in his thirties, who had arrived the same day as Noddy.
Disney had been bought by a man in Co Leitrim at the beginning of the winter. Although, as he said, he needed a donkey like he needed a hole in the head, he was deeply distressed at Disney' s poor condition and not knowing what else to do with him he put him in the cow byre throughout the winter with his cattle. Disney had obviously relished the warmth and feeding but was even more delighted this spring to be introduced to other donkeys and turned out to grass with them. He is a comical looking fellow of strange conformation and with a fuzzy afro hairdo - hence his name - but he proved to be the most lovable of animals. His feet were atrocious due to long term neglect and will take constant skilled farrier care. Clipping the hardened cow dung off his belly and legs was a summer's long task but he stood patiently for an hour at a time without complaint. He just loved the attention!
Late in June we brought in Sally. a small elderly grey mare who had fallen on hard times through circumstances rather than intent. She was desperately thin, lame and her breathing displayed signs of emphesema. Unfortunately Sally's story is not a happy one as despite all our efforts and the support and help of our vet and farrier, her lameness increased and her breathing became more and more laboured. X-rays showed that one front hoof was completely "clubbed" so the bones inside were permanently damaged. Painkillers could give temporary relief but could not be used long term at the necessary dosage without incurring further problems. Added to this was a facial sore that refused to heal. After nine weeks her breathing deteriorated dramatically and was unresponsive to treatment, so with great sadness and regret we knew we had to let her go. She was put to sleep quietly and painlessly in the familiarity of her own stable and is buried here at the Sanctuary. It is never easy to accept the loss of any animal but we take comfort in knowing that her suffering was minimised as far as possible and she died knowing plenty of human kindness.
Betsy's story is a happier one, She may be known to some local people as the dark brown mare who grazed many summers along the N16 at Curry. Her owners loved her dearly and were distressed at parting with her, even knowing she was moving to a situation of permanent care. Betsy is around 35 year old and stiff, sometimes having difficulty getting up from lying position but otherwise in good health. She loves the company of other donkeys having spent much of her life either alone or with cattle and soon made special friends of Esau, Noddy and Disney with whom she grazed during the day, though she greatly appreciates a warm shed overnight. She is a sweet natured donkey, well used to children and very affectionate.
Josh & Tommi
Early in September Butler, Paddymac, Donna, (featured in the Spring '99 newsletter) Toffee, Edward Velvet Lugs, Esau, Disney, Noddy and Betsy were transferred to The Donkey Sanctuary at Liscarroll where they will receive the very best of care for the rest of their days. There they were received into the loving hands of veterinary nurse, Emma, temporarily covering for Helen Barrett who was busy with her new baby girl. Emma had spent a summer here two years' ago prior to completing her training, so she travelled up the weekend before in order to get to know the donkeys personally, and to give news of the many other donkeys who had been transferred previously. It was sad to hear that Susie had been put to sleep in June when the bones finally and irrevocably punctured the sole of her left front foot; Beth was put to sleep for the same reason in early September and Martha had died of old age. Otherwise all of the donkeys transferred recently were in good health and spirits. Jilly, who was devoted to Susie, has made firm friends with Biddy and Ziggy. Biddy's foal, Star, is now mostly independent, having found friends of her own in a younger crowd and our beloved Amos, at the age of 41, remains just as lovable at the front end and as cantankerous at the rear.
We are greatly indebted to the staff of The Donkey Sanctuary for taking on so many of "our" donkeys from the West of Ireland as without their help we would be dramatically curtailed in our activities. We still only have winter housing for a maximum of a dozen animals so as soon as the weather breaks in the autumn we do rely on The Donkey Sanctuary to gather in our surplus numbers.
Our First Mule
Robin, a 35 year old mule, was a welcome addition to the family late in August. Shy by nature he is nevertheless a gentle and well mannered fellow, not much bigger than the donkeys. His owner wanted to be sure he would be properly cared for in his dotage and that he would be able to live out his days in comfort and with company. Robin quickly integrated with the main herd but appreciates overnight stabling and the inevitable bucket of grub! He is a great character in his own quiet way and already a Sanctuary celebrity.
In all it has been a busy summer and but for some decent weather in July and August, and the kindness of Inge and Elka who offered grazing for six donkeys and our six pet sheep in Leitrim, we could have been very short of grazing. Thanks also go to Joe and Sinead for fostering a little stallion donkey who was initially called Joseph but has since been nicknamed Harry Houdini for his ingenious acts of escapism and to Barbara who looked after another donkey for us for a number of weeks. We are grateful to David and Rebecca Lillie and family for 14 bales of hay, to Gerry and Eugene for 10 bags of donkey feed and the proceeds of a holiday collection, to Phil, Marian and their colleagues at Petwatch, Dublin, who generously shared a major fundraising event with the donkeys, to Mel for his secret donation and to the many, many others who have supported the Sanctuary with both financial and practical help, given encouragement, added enthusiasm and generally" kept the wheels oiled" for another season.
Our Internet Pages
Many readers with access to the Internet will have noticed that the Sai Sanctuary now has its own Website (http://homepage.eircom.net/~donkeys) courtesy of Martin Byrne who has spent many hours collating all the past newsletters, other literature and photographs (he also continues to format the newsletters). Until the Sanctuary updates its own equipment all correspondence comes through Martin, who has offered to e-mail current and future newsletters to anyone willing to send their address. This, of course, has the added benefit of saving the Sanctuary on the cost of paperwork and postage.
Finally, we are pleased to have two occasion cards available this Christmas using photographs from a selection taken by Cerola and Bern during their summer holidays in Ireland. The couple are professional film makers and photographers in Germany but generously gifted their photographs for Sanctuary use. It has to be said they make charming cards which are available, as usual, from the Sanctuary address below at 50p each plus postage. The inscriptions inside read - "Love, peace and harmony" for the card with the two donkeys sharing a bucket, and "Wishing you a warm and joyful heart" for the one of three donkeys munching straw. All proceeds from the sale of these cards goes directly to the Sanctuary.
May you all have an enjoyable Christmas season and a wonderful, healthy and liberating millennium year.
Wishing you a warm and joyful heart - Sanctuary Card, Image courtesy of Jungle Films