Newsletter Spring 1998
Charlie and Sammy - pretending to be donkeys.
Welcome to Spring 1998 and what we hope will be some warm dry days after a winter which boasted in excess of 150% average rainfall. Even for Ireland that is a lot of water but thanks to the continued devotion of all the lovely people who responded so generously to our Christmas newsletter, the donkeys have passed a comfortable winter in their well bedded sheds and concrete exercise yard. On better days they take it in turns to go out into the fields for a change of scenery. If they had any complaints at all it would be a question of boredom, though they find many ingenious ways of amusing themselves from playing tag with each other and chasing the cats, to knocking down stone walls in order to eat the few vegetables left growing in the garden. Their general health has been good with foot problems kept to a minimum with the exception of the chronic cases like Jilly and Susie. Jilly suffers an ongoing foot-rot condition and Susie has pain from dropped pedal bones within the hoof, a result of long term laminitis and bad farriership in the years before she came to the Sanctuary. In the event of phenylbutizone being phased out (except by veterinary prescription), she is responding well to a herbal blend called Zerobute which consists of a blend of meadowsweet, devil's claw, willow bark and chamomile and is available from Kane O'Hara at Annaghmore Stud, Collooney, Co. Sligo. It seems to be an excellent product which suits the donkeys well without the traumatic side effects of many chemical drugs.
Biddy and Star
Early in December we were privileged to have Biddy and Star come to stay for an indefinite period. Biddy is a large, dark brown mare of around 35 years and Star, her foal. Star (pictured left) is smaller but of the same colouring so at first glance it is often difficult to tell them apart.
Biddy is another donkey with ongoing foot problems, no doubt as a result of neglect or abuse in the years before she came to her present owners. Although the hooves look fairly normal from the outside, underneath they are rotten and diseased, so it is essential that she is kept as much as possible on clean, deep bedding and dry concrete surfaces until the problem is under control.
After November's torrential and unyielding rain, she was depressed and in pain, so her owners asked if she and Star could come into the Sanctuary, at least for the winter and possibly on a permanent basis, with the offer that they would contribute towards their upkeep.
Initially, Biddy, who had previously lost a foal at birth, was unduly anxious for Star, but gradually she has settled into the security of having lots of 'uncles' and 'aunts' to help her with this responsibility, whilst Star is in her element, playing and galloping around with the younger donkeys.
Jacob passed on in January 1998.
Many of our winter calls have involved donkeys living out on waterlogged land without shelter. It cannot be overstressed that even if the donkeys are fed in these conditions (which most are not) it is still unacceptable to leave them without either excellent natural shelter or a wind and waterproof shed. Donkeys do not have waterproof coats and their hooves are not designed to withstand constant wet, muddy conditions. Tailor made waterproof New Zealand rugs are available for donkeys which have to winter out, but these need to be checked at least once a day to ensure the fit is correct and rubs are not occurring. It is absolutely essential that a clean, dry standing surface is provided, otherwise abscesses, foot-rot and mud fever are almost unavoidable.
With fifteen donkeys in over winter we had a full house, so others needing help were picked up on site by The Donkey Sanctuary of Liscarroll, Co. Cork, with whom we continue to work very closely. Mr Dinks was relinquished by his caring owners because they were unable to look after him properly in such a wet winter and Dot was collected from near Strandhill when a vigilant neighbour alerted us to the fact that her owner had been admitted to hospital on a long term basis. The same neighbour also made herself responsible for rehoming two dogs and checking the situation of two horses, all victims of the same circumstances and it is to her that we give credit for the animals' good fortune. All too often no one thinks of the animals left behind in these situations and they are left to fend for themselves, usually with an unhappy outcome.
The winter, of course, took its toll of some of the very elderly donkeys and it was with great sadness that we had to say goodbye to dear Jacob, who suffered a brain haemorrhage in January.
He was about 40 years old and was active and happy right to the last, dying suddenly whilst eating his supper. Jacob was our founder member and a much loved character who spent as much time in the garden (and in the house if he got the chance!) as ever he did in a stable or field. His constant shouts for breakfast, more breakfast, a third breakfast and maybe a little bit of lunch often had us in tucks of laughter and we are so delighted he died with a full tummy. He is greatly missed.
Benjamin, who was also around 40 years old and suffering from emphesemia, was found abandoned on a roadside at Ballymote last June and died peacefully at Liscarroll in October. We suspect he had had a rotten life but revelled in love and affection for the last few months. We hope it made up a little for some of the not so good times.
Isabella, the severely malnourished mare mentioned in our autumn '97 newsletter, died at Liscarroll in January of liver failure. The cause of this cannot be certain but is most probably due, either to an infestation of liver fluke from being grazed on poor, wet land and not being dosed, or to the long term ingestion of the poisonous weed ragwort. Early blood tests showed Isabella to be extremely anaemic but despite every possible veterinary and dietary care, she failed to respond. Once again, in those few months she was transformed from a timid, fearful little thing into an openly affectionate donkey. She may not have responded to the medical care but she certainly knew she was loved and cared about.
Looking Up Old Friends
On a happier note all the donkeys transferred to Liscarroll from here last year, including Jimmy, Cob, Mickey and Martha are all greatly improved in health and very happy. On a recent visit to see them all Martha could barely spare the time to acknowledge us she was having such a great time with all her new friends! Neddie Flat-tyres and Nellie returned from their summer home to winter here with their friends, reintroducing themselves with a very noisy chorus of donkey yodelling before getting down to the serious business of eating.
Readers may be interested to learn that Isabella was one of three donkeys brought here to the Sathya Sai Sanctuary by the same man. All were in atrocious condition. This man was subsequently found, by The Donkey Sanctuary welfare officer, in possession of another donkey in equally poor condition. This donkey was confiscated by the Gardai and I understand there is a prosecution pending. It is alarming to think that there are people who will sacrifice desperately sick animals to the sympathies of the soft hearted among us, but unfortunately there are many, both ignorant and unscrupulous, who will stop at nothing to make a few pounds. As the season of horse fairs and marts starts again, please be on your guard for these people and report any badly treated animals immediately to the Gardai, ourselves, The Donkey Sanctuary, Liscarroll tel:022 48398, mobile 088 689259 or your local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Sligo Animal Helpline 071 86216). Please do not perpetuate this trade by purchasing the animals unless you are able and prepared to furnish one of the welfare societies with exact details of the purchase with a view to apprehending the people involved through the Gardai. Especially with the re-emergence of the live export trade it is essential that all such cases of neglect and cruelty are dealt with officially and severely.
Our thanks go to the many dedicated people who made and donated gifts which raised one hundred and fourteen pounds at a sale of work early in December. Particular credit goes to Mrs Gwen Pearce for a wonderful collection of knitted toys and to Mrs Joy Payne for beautiful crocheted rugs and scarves. The time and work involved in the making of these items cannot be fully reflected in the sale price: it is a real labour of love which is deeply appreciated by us all, especially the donkeys.
The sale of our Christmas cards stimulated a great deal of interest which resulted in donations and donkey adoptions. Here we extend special thanks to all who were involved in selling the cards for us, Mandy Ryan of Castlebaldwin; Tir Na Nog, Sligo; Cassidys, Ballymote; Diane Keevans, Michelle Carroll, Joy Payne, Jo and Stewart Gurney and many others. There are a few cards left which can be sold at the reduced price of 35p each and as they do not have a specific Christmas message, they can be used as general greetings cards all year round.
Once again fine moments have been occupied planting trees for shelter around the boundaries of the Sanctuary. All together over 1,300 have been planted, ranging in size from twelve inches to three feet high and including oak, ash, Scotch pine, alder, whitethorn, beech and some lodgepole pines for the outlying bog area where nothing else will grow.
Thanks are extended to Mrs. Claire Walsh of Castlebaldwin for a huge collection of ash seedlings which are potted up or planted in the 'vegetable' garden to gain a few years' growth before planting out, and to Mrs Joan O'Hara of Coopershill, Riverstown, who donated about a hundred beech seedlings. Some of these were large enough to plant in the shelter belts, others have joined the seedling plantation for future use. Hopefully most will grow to provide spring and autumn colour, shelter for both donkeys and wildlife and food and nesting sites for birds.
Thank you as always for your continued support.