Sound travels considerable distance in the still of a summer Sunday afternoon. Massey, Forde, Ruffles, Rory, Ted and Ryan are listening to the sounds of cheering and groans coming from the open window of a house as the various expressions of emotions reveal Ireland’s progress during the Olympics. But these six boys are quite content to be missing the action.
Massey came from a village near Ballinasloe Co. Galway. When I found him a farmer had shut him in a pen so he could not wander up and down the road. His feet were severely overgrown and while he did not look too bad, when I put a hand on his body it became obvious that his hair hid his painfully thin body condition.
Forde had been kept in a grave yard which in itself is unusual as most Irish graveyards have yew trees which are poisonous. No yew trees here but a very frightened donkey. He was turned out after his owner died but was being fed by a local farmer. He was terrified of being caught and a local animal charity asked for our help, as they could not handle him. He was extremely difficult but when he ran out of the graveyard and saw the open trailer he knew just what to do and ran straight up the ramp! I reckon if he had a boarding card he would have scanned it on the way in too.
Ruffles is another quiet unassuming small brown donkey that might not be alive if he hadn’t had what I refer to as a “fairy godmother”. These ladies take a special interest in a donkey and in this poor thin donkey’s case made sure he got food. He was too small to compete with the much larger ponies in the bog where they lived. He got around, but slowly, as his overgrown hooves reached out in front of him. He like the others did not have a microchip so ownership was unregistered. This does however enable the ever helpful Salthill Garda post a seizure notice, allowing us to take him. I asked his fairy godmother to feed him beside the roadway so we would not have to search the large expanse of bog for him. Then all I needed to do was to catch him and load him for transportation away from his misery.
Rory is a donkey with a distinctive white face who was living on the site of a fallen down cottage. He is one of those donkeys that wants company, just on his terms and not too close please. Local enquiries as to his ownership only resulted in his disappearance from the area. Several months passed with no word of his whereabouts. Then I get a call that a lady out riding was followed home by a donkey that magically appeared from a bog. I went to see this magical creature and immediately thought that I recognise him. Back home I referred back to my file which has a photo of that distinctive face. Yes it’s him. So he too is an abandoned donkey who picked just the right lady to follow. She kindly kept him safe while I arranged for his collection.
Ted and Ryan were wandering on a hillside in Mayo not far from a field containing a large group of horses. After some months they found their way into a field alongside a cottage. The cottage occupant became their “fairy godmother” and she contacted the Department of Agriculture. I met with the Department vet and we agreed to accept them into our care. We cannot be sure but it is probable that the donkeys were brought in by a dealer with a group of horses, the horses were kept but the donkeys being male were thrown out as having no value.
All have now been treated for internal parasites (worms) and external parasites (lice). Our Group of six boys are not competing for Gold, Silver or Bronze but have access to Copper and other trace minerals which will help them shed their winter coats and improve their general health. Their hooves have been trimmed by a farrier and they now move about freely. They are enjoying the long summer days with plenty of grass in peaceful surroundings. Does the sounds of the Olympics bother them? Not a bit, for them the struggle is in the past.
Many thanks to all the “Fairy Godmothers” watching over donkeys all over the country, they deserve medals but typically do not want to be identified, still, the donkeys know they exist.