Well all kinds of things were happening today at The Donkey Sanctuary - Freddie was showing off his new leggings to me (bright blue fly-proof leg protectors), of which he was very proud! Lots of donkeys were queuing up for a walk - including Ashley, Zena and Mr Khan! Ashley was on his very best behaviour as he was being led by Jenny, one of the grooms. Phil and Zena quickly paired up, and I had the privilege of walking Mr Khan, who is a real cutie. Meanwhile in Shelter 1 there was a flurry of excitement among the donks as Daniel P had just retired from our sister charity, the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys, and had returned into the care of the Sanctuary over the weekend. And as if that wasn't enough brouhaha - Laurel and Hardy, together with their friend Tim and his new friend Gypsy, had all moved into New Barn today!
Now for those of you who may not be familiar with Laurel and Hardy and Tim - they were all rescued in 2009 and now live safely here at the Sanctuary. Laurel and Hardy are two lovable donkeys, and Tim is a cute little brown Shetland pony. Since arriving here, Tim has chummed up with another Shetland pony called Gypsy. So far, so good...
Many, although not all, of the donkeys in New Barn are our permanent resident donkeys. In some respects they quite rightly see themselves as the centre of the Sanctuary. After all, they are the ones who form the "Meet and Greet" teams who go out onto the main yard to socialise with the visitors, flying the flag for The Donkey Sanctuary on a day to day basis. This important role affords them a sense of gravitas. They have their set routines and they get a bit disgruntled if these routines are interrupted in any way, shape or form... especially if this form takes the shape of two excitable Shetland ponies.
Phil and I were alerted to the fact that something was going on in New Barn when we saw a large group of normally sedate and dignified donkeys scarpering in all directions at great speed across the hill. As we walked over to investigate, we bumped into Laurel and Hardy in the back yard, so of course we had to stop for cuddles, hellos and how are yous? As we were doing this, another group of elderly donkeys all huffed and puffed their way through the narrow gate, arriving in a rather undignified and dishevelled fashion in the yard. Seconds later, Gypsy and Tim barrelled around the corner and the donkeys promptly vanished into the barn.
Distracted by Phil and I, Tim and Gypsy ignored the other donkeys and followed us back out into the field, together with Laurel and Hardy. Phil and I settled down by the hedge to watch what would happen next. The two Shetland ponies and the two donkeys started grazing quietly together. After a while a small group of donkeys, led by Petrina edged closer, all of them staring hard at Tim and Gypsy. You could almost hear them, "Short-ears?" " Long tails?" "Big hooves?" "Strangest looking donkeys we've ever seen!" Petrina and her best friend Holly started to sidle quietly along the path by the hedge and past Gypsy and Tim, who ignored them. Once past, both donkeys rushed through the gate and into the safety of the yard.
A few minutes later, we noticed a cluster of donkeys peering through the gate all intently watching the two little ponies. Gradually more and more long-ears started to join the group, all of them staring at the two short-ears. Tim and Gypsy seemed oblivious to the great commotion their presence had seemingly caused in the normally calm and sedate world of the New Barn donkeys, and continued to munch happily on the grass with their friends, Laurel and Hardy!