Newsletter Spring 1997
Susie, Fiach & Jilly by the duckhouse.
Welcome to Spring!
As I write this newsletter Winter has lost her grip. There is still time for many a bad day yet but the Spring flowers are out, shrubs are breaking bud and the lowland fields are taking on their emerald mantle. Donkeys are as lively as lambs, delighted to be spending longer days outside yet always ready to come back to their warm houses in the evening.
They have had a good winter. An extra bonus to having the new hayshed is that we gained the use of the barn in the yard, so with the other two loose sheds it has been possible to house all donkeys overnight since October 4th, and to keep them in on wet days (most of October and February). During very cold periods (most of November and December!) and when the land has been waterlogged, they have been restricted to the yard and sheds in order to save damaging the grassland. This, combined with a strict mucking out/disinfecting routine added up to a winter without the usual hoof infections. Hurrah!
Perhaps this is a good time to thank volunteer helpers - Mark, Martin, Niamh who took on the physical work when I succumbed to the 'flu and have continued to be supportive on many levels, since. The help makes an unimaginable difference! Thanks too to Julie for her help with the new brochure and to all who contributed to this newsletter.
Jeremiah and Ashtar wintered away in order to keep a weanling horse foal company. Despite being fed and checked every day, twice a day, they are delighted to be home with their friends again. Ashtar, in particular, seems to have missed the "family" atmosphere of the Sanctuary and all the personal attention he claims from visitors. Jeremiah is very happy to be reunited with his pony friends Charlie and Sammie.
Sadly the ponies' owner, Mick Healy, our dear friend, mentor and neighbour, died in hospital on March 8th, after a long illness, leaving Charlie and Sammie permanently in the Sanctuary's care. He will be greatly missed and we are privileged to have the ponies as a living testimony to a beautiful and gentle man.
Mick Healy with Cinders
Charlie and Sammie recently spent time being schooled for riding and give every impression of having enjoyed themselves tremendously, meeting new people, other horses, exploring new territory and being kept warm, dry and fed throughout the storms of February. Nevertheless there is no place like home and the freedom of a few acres in which to gallop around with all their donkey pals. Thank you to Kean, Sarah and Norley for looking after them so well and teaching them manners!
In the early hours, when the strings of mind play soft and sweet to the heart, there is the memory of Michael. It's a bitter tear that falls across the sleepless cheek for death has come, and chalk is all the hard resolves that stoked a lifetime full. It seems now, at last gentle aspirations fill, to let slow embers rise. It is the wings of angels that hurries on the fire. All that is sad has it's happy past. Mick on the bog, still as air shrouded in mystery in native songs too old to know.
Mick the best and wholest Irishman, proud without fear of pride, gentle without the rush of charity, optimistic always in faith. In the townland they all say, "I knew old Mick" we do surely, and to say it is being the best of all we are. Mick will not pass beyond the gates above without a careful thought for us. So it is the healing hand of angels touching our hearts when we say "I knew Mick".
Hester came to us on New Year's Eve and died with us on April 15th. Hers is a story of great courage tinged with both sadness and triumph as she arrived with severe injuries to both front legs. These injuries were not new: she may have been coping with them for up to two years as far as our vet could tell and we were given no information as to how the accident happened. X-rays showed that the right front knee had been completely shattered to the point that it was inoperable. The left front knee was severely "overshot", maybe due to injury at the same time, but possibly due to weight overload as she would have had to manage for some time with no use of the other leg.
Hester was almost always cheerful, ate well, greeted us with gentle squeaky noises and called loudly for the other donkeys if left alone too long. Gentle Susie who also suffers chronic lameness due to neglected laminitis, was her most regular winter companion with the other donkeys "visiting" on occasions. On good days Hester would take a walk into the yard, lie in the sun for a while then toddle back to bed. But despite this great courage it proved, ultimately, too much for her and she died quietly and peacefully of heart failure. We are immensely sad to lose her but nevertheless feel a certain release and joy to know that her ordeal is over. Usually a donkey with a broken leg would be put to sleep at the time of the accident, or taken immediately to an equine hospital for treatment, but in Hester's case she had already survived the worst of it, before she came to us. She was housed, dry, warm, comfortable and much loved all winter. We hope we did the right thing by her.
Marty Martha came to us on Good Friday gifted by her owners of the last three years, because they could no longer cope with Martha's eccentricities. Martha's biggest problem is that she thinks she's human so she loves people but is terrified of most other donkeys, especially males! She is at least 25 years old, white and looked very strange on arrival as her owner had been advised to cut off all her coat in order effectively to treat a heavy lice infestation and to be able to bathe and treat the big raw patches of skin that Martha had rubbed on herself due to the intense irritation.
Martha on the day of her arrival.
It was probably due to this irritation that Martha kept breaking out and her long suffering owners had twice to rescue her from a bog hole where she had become trapped - first time with a car and the second time with a tractor. By any body's standards this was a traumatic way to live for both owner and donkey. Martha is settling in well. Mostly she stays in the yard and garden, following people around like a little dog, but she is put out with some of the mares and gentler geldings for an hour or two each day and is gradually gaining confidence. apparently she has been harassed by two stallions when, due to the lice infestation and trouble with her teeth, she was undernourished and too weak to fight off amorous advances so it will take some time before she is comfortable with the younger and more boisterous donkeys. Later on we will have to decide whether she is better off here or if she should be assigned to the geriatrics division at the Liscarroll Sanctuary. The trouble is she is such an affectionate little person it will be difficult to let her go!
Noah was rehomed with a family who already have one donkey, called Francis. (It seems I am not the only one who likes the Biblical names!) Francis was lonely, spending most of his days mooning over the fence trying to talk to the neighbour's cattle, who were just too bovine to be bothered with him. Francis' face on first sighting of Noah was an absolute study: he just couldn't believe his eyes that here was ANOTHER DONKEY! They are already inseparable: if one rolls the other rolls; if one gallops the other gallops; if one drinks the other drinks. Noah seems to be quite happy with his new friends and surroundings, and Francis is just delighted with himself. A happy match it seems!
Three of 'the gang'.
April is our month for the Spring/Summer worming programme for both donkeys and ponies. If keeping donkeys and horses/ponies together it is important to choose a wormer that includes lungworm as donkeys are notorious carriers of these parasites without necessarily producing symptoms. Most of the donkeys adore either (or both) mint sweets or ginger biscuits so an acceptable sleight of hand makes the job quick and stress free! For those of you who dislike administering drugs of any sort to your animals, remember that raw carrot and garlic are anathema to intestinal worms.
A new shelter belt of home-grown English and Sessile Oaks has been planted to part of the west boundary. Despite extensive netting there has been considerable hare damage. However, the baby trees (treelets?) have excellent root systems so they should survive to form oak bushes if not full trees. We have higher hopes for the undamaged few that still have leaders. The other shelter belts have been further infilled with native species including white thorn bushes donated by Ingrid and Jurgen Handel. Most of the saplings are looking healthy: some remain very small, others have raced away, so we still hold that dream of seeing some real shelter and wildlife within a lifetime! We have been asked to plant a few 'In Memoriam' trees for special people and we are, of course, delighted to comply with this lovely idea. A red chestnut and a deep red whitethorn have been planted for a dear and lovely lady, Betty Crawford.
The last newsletter asked if any of Misty's adoptees would object to her being rehomed with Nellie in the summer months. It seems everyone is in agreement, except Neddy-Flat-Tyres who prefers to keep Nellie's company for himself. So be it. Misty is a gentle, shy donkey who makes a very suitable companion for Martha. Once again things work out in their own way.
Now it is just to wish you a good, happy and healthy summer. As always our 'adopted donkeys Jacob, Isaac, Solomon (a special nuzzle to Gayle from Solomon), Ashtar, Jeremiah, Cassie, Misty, Jilly, Morestina and Luke thank their loyal supporters and on behalf of all the other animals I thank you all for your wonderful, consistent help which makes it possible for the Sanctuary to continue its work.
Do visit when you can. It's not always possible for someone to be free to show you around but we will do our best.