Almost everyone who visits the Sanctuary will meet Jubilee. If Billy is, “King of the Yard”, surveying all that goes on from one of the stable doorways, it's Jubilee who quietly gets on with the job of meeting, greeting and socialising with the visitors. Jubilee will happily pose for photographs, have his back scratched, be cuddled and hugged for the entire day and never grow tired of being with people - for you see Jubilee loves people almost as much as people love him.
Jubilee is 34 years old and came to the Sanctuary a few years ago after living with his lady owner for almost 30 years, until sadly circumstances meant she could no longer look after him. Jubilee missed her terribly at first and had to be watched carefully in case he developed a stress-related condition called hyperlipaemia, which can be fatal in donkeys if it goes undetected. Luckily Jubilee was in the right place and staff took good care of him and ensured he got lots of human contact and affection. This also meant he was just the kind of donkey who would be well-suited to the duties of the main yard Meet and Greet Team – a job Jubilee clearly loves!
Phil and I first met Jubilee on a cold morning back in April 2010 when we went out into the paddock behind New Barn to groom some donkeys. Most of the donkeys were at the far end of the paddock and were far more interested in nibbling grass shoots than being brushed by two new QTVs! Just as we were about to walk back to the barn, we saw a lone donkey lying down by the hedge. To our surprise this particular donkey scrambled to his feet and then following the worn, narrow donkey path, picked his way over to us and stood still. Phil looked at his collar and read out the donkey's name - Jubilee. “He's come to ask for a grooming!” So of course, that's what he got - from both of us!
All the donkeys have their own distinct personalities and character traits, their own likes and dislikes. Jubilee is a gentle and quiet donkey who gives so much and asks for little in return. The only time I've ever seen him upset and anxious was when he had a bit of a runny nose and could not go out onto the yard for a couple of days. He stood in a stable staring at the closed door that blocked his way to the main yard, ignoring the open half-door behind him, that afforded him contact with the other donkeys in the back yard. Jubilee kept his vigil until he was allowed back into the main yard once more.
One warm afternoon, during the summer I witnessed another of Jubilee's character traits - his tenderness towards other animals. Lying in the middle of the yard was an elderly Golden Retriever, his owners were busy photographing and cuddling donkeys. Gradually Jubilee made his way over to the old dog, both animals passively regarding the other, until Jubilee was almost on top of the dog. The owners of the dog seemed unperturbed and so we settled to watch what would happen next. Jubilee bent down and touched noses with the dog, who simply closed his eyes. After a moment or two Jubilee then very gently took the old dog's paw in his mouth and held it a few inches above the ground before placing it back down again. Jubilee then placed his head close to the dog's head and both animals stayed like that for several minutes more. I have no idea what was communicated between those two animals that afternoon, but whatever it was, it was gentle and respectful.
Last week Jubilee and I went for a walk together around the Sanctuary. Unlike the other donkeys, Jubilee was not particularly interested in saying hello to the occupants of the various paddocks we passed. He was content to walk by my side, nudging me every so often or pausing to greet visitors we met along the grassy paths. He stood quietly with me by the empty paddock at Shelter 6 as I remembered with love my special little Freddie who had lived there until very recently. Finally we turned to head back to the main yard in time for Jubilee's tea-time feed.
It seems a long time since that first encounter with Jubilee, and in the intervening months, he is a donkey I have grown to love. So if you ever find yourself down on the main yard at The Donkey Sanctuary - I am sure Jubilee will be there to welcome you!