And so I found myself attending a call to view a mare and foal in the remotest part of Connemara. It was clear from the outset that the foal was in considerable difficulty. It had an abnormal temperature and was also weak and unable to stand without assistance. The foal desperately needed veterinary assistance now (rather than later), no owner was identifiable and following several calls to local practices (who were currently engaged in other work) I concluded that the only option was to load the foal into the van and head for the nearest surgery, a 45-minute drive over some of the roughest roads in Connemara.
I phoned our vet department in Cork for advice and the prognosis for the foal was not a positive one. ‘Karl’ a vet from a local practise had very kindly agreed to delay his own calls and wait for me to arrive with the foal. A local “donkey friendly” vet is a huge benefit to our work even when it sadly means bring an end to suffering and life.Following this sombre case, it was on to my next call where hopefully I could action welfare work with a more positive outcome.
The second call involved a donkey whose elderly owner had moved into the permanent care of a residential home, leaving it unmanaged and unattended. A neighbour called Ann had raised the concern and brought the donkey’s plight to our attention. The donkey proved to be a 20 year old stallion with long hooves and proved somewhat difficult to catch. Ann herself had limited financial resources but was keen to help and assist with managing the donkey. Thankfully I was able to show her how to catch and handle the donkey and it was agreed that The Donkey Sanctuary would assist Ann to care for the donkey through our Donkey Welfare Improvement Scheme (DWIS).
Ann’s dog who accompanied us during the visit was a beautiful lively retriever who had energy to burn and was constantly jumping up and down on her to get attention. I noted that she used the Irish word Láichín to try and calm him down. This has no direct translation into English but broadly means steady on and be more gentle you over enthusiastic animal! And so the association with the word Láichín and a suitable name for the donkey came about.
Láichín’s long hooves have now been trimmed by a local farrier whilst a local vet has actioned identification for the donkey initiating the first step in making the transfer of ownership to Ann legal.
Ann provided me with the following update recently -
“Láichín is already so much happier and training is going well. I managed to get the head collar on him when Bryan came and I've been getting the head collar on him since and taking it off again, seems to be working wonders. He can be such a sweet donkey. We've quickly become the best of friends. I am very grateful to The Donkey Sanctuary for their help and continued support. Without it I would not have been able to keep Láichín”.
In retrospect the day highlighted two important messages to me. Firstly the sad reality of what can go seriously when donkeys do not get proper assistance and support and secondly when help is sought and what can be achieved when assistance is provided. Our scheme known as the ‘Donkey Welfare Improvement Scheme’ provides us with the means to assist owners to keep their donkeys and thus reduce the huge demands placed on us to take donkeys into our care. It also enable bonds like that between Ann and Láichín to flourish and thrive. Now if only there was a single word to describe this…
You can find out more about the Donkey Welfare Improvement Scheme on 022-49013 or see here http://www.thedonkeysanctuary.ie/welfare-improvement-scheme