On Wednesday morning I packed my steel toe-cap boots, camera and equipment and boarded The Donkey Sanctuary lorry with three donkeys and Eugene. Eugene has been working for the Sanctuary and driving donkeys around the country for over 25 years so I knew I was in safe hands and good company!
The Veterinary team declared the three donkeys fit to travel and off we went. Two of the donkeys on board were called Salt and Pepper and hailed from County Clare. Their owner Brendan contacted the welfare department and asked for help with his two stallion donkeys, the welfare department suggested that he consider the ‘Donkey Welfare Improvement Scheme’.
As well as castrating Brendan’s two stallions our Veterinary Department microchipped them, completed passport application forms and conducted other welfare improvements such as farriery, dental work and vaccinations. This scheme provides a range of services and supports to privately owned donkeys and will help to improve the quality of life for donkeys throughout the country and will also help tackle the amount of indiscriminate breeding of donkeys in Ireland.
The Veterinary Department welcomes calls from veterinary practitioners and donkey owners that may wish to refer their donkeys for treatment. Often the answer to boisterous male donkeys and excessive donkey numbers in homes is castration; our expert Veterinary team have performed numerous castrations for grateful owners who made generous donations to The Donkey Sanctuary in exchange for veterinary treatments. Castration offers huge benefits from a behaviour, husbandry and management viewpoint. Salt and Pepper spent a week in the care of the Sanctuary where a number of welfare improvements took place and they recovered well before being delivered back home to their loving owner who was waiting with arms open.
After our first ‘donkey delivery’ we proceeded onto Oranmore, Galway where donkey Hendrix was about to meet his new friend Moritz in a loving Guardian home. Here we also met Senior Donkey Welfare Adviser and Veterinary Surgeon Joe Collins, Joe took bloods (as part of our service to Guardian Homes) from Morritz as he recently lost his companion donkey Bon Jovi. The bloods taken were sent to be analysed in our lab in Liscarroll as there was a risk that he could be suffering from Hyperlipaemia. Due to the stress of losing his companion, Morritz may stop eating which causes his own fat stores to mobilise and overwhelm his own body organs. The liver and kidney may stop working as a result. Hyperlipaemia can be fatal and early intervention is the key to success. Joe also treated dental issues in Morritz as Bon Jovi had digestive issues and we want to prevent same in Morritz. We also delivered barley straw to this home (an essential component of a donkey’s diet).
Morritz was very excited to see a handsome skewbald donkey trotting up the avenue. Hendrix was intrigued by his surroundings and his new friend as he walked around his paddock and adjusted to the old stone wall design. We departed the home happy in the knowledge that Morritz and Hendrix could now look forward to a long and happy future together.
After this heart-warming experience we proceeded to another Guardian home also in Oranmore, overlooking Galway Bay as we wanted to visit Polo and Dominic. This home was idyllic in every sense of the word as the sun was setting and the donkeys were clearly a part of the family. The two donkeys shared a paddock with some pigs and they loved to look into the pig sty and keep an eye on the activity. It was a pleasure to witness another unique and loving home and as the sun was going down it was time to make our way to Sligo where a mission of stark contrast awaited us the following morning.
Joe, Eugene and I had an early start on Thursday and awoke to a dense fog and minus temperatures. The welfare office received a call about a group of nine donkeys that had been abandoned on a mountain range and were in dire need of rescue.
We travelled to the Sligo/Leitrim border where we met with a member of the Department of Agriculture, the Local Authority and a local farmer that had been feeding the donkeys. Nine wet, cold and hungry donkeys waited for us in an enclosure. The initial sight of the donkeys with overgrown, deformed feet and forlorn expressions will stay with me for a long time. The lack of farriery had led to their severe overgrowth and hoof distortion which means they need urgent and specialist farriery care. Joe and Eugene micro-chipped the nine donkeys on site for identification purposes and discovered that these nine adult donkeys were all stallions – which the Veterinary team will address ASAP by gelding them in our Equine hospital in Liscarroll.
The nutritional value of the forage on the mountains was insufficient for the younger donkeys that had body condition scores of 1 and 2 as the bones protruded from their weak bodies. What struck me most about these donkeys is how all they wanted was affection and someone to pay them attention. It was a somewhat heroic feeling loading them on to the lorry and driving out of there knowing that their suffering and solitude was over and happier times lie ahead.
Happy times lie ahead for the donkeys but costly times lie ahead for the Sanctuary in providing these donkeys with the specialised care that they require in their rehabilitation process and for the remainder of the lives and did you know that donkeys can often live past thirty years old?
As you have now had a glimpse into our work and have seen that The Donkey Sanctuary provides a comprehensive service ranging from work on private donkeys, Rehomed donkeys in Guardian Homes and rescuing abandoned donkeys, you can see why we are so grateful to our existing supporters and why we need to continue to raise much needed funds in order to carry on our work. If you would like to donate towards the care and welfare of our donkeys please read more here http://www.thedonkeysanctuary.ie/donate