Next-door to the Poitou donkeys up at Buffalo Barn, you'll find an interesting, mixed group of Long Ears, Short Ears – and a Miniature donkey called Cobus. Today Phil and I decided to spend part of the morning giving this little group some extra love and attention.
First to greet us in the yard was Ruby, a little chocolate brown donkey who we had taken for a walk a few weeks ago. Pleased that she had recognised us, Ruby got the first cuddles of the day, followed by a good grooming. As Ruby went back to the barn, two other donkeys walked over to claim their little piece of love and cuddles - they were Beamish and Teddy...
Beamish is a large, good-natured brown donkey who just loves being cuddled and fussed. He particularly likes to rest his head on Phil's shoulder – which is Beamish's signal for Phil to rub his ears! Teddy is an amazing donkey, who to all intents and purposes seems just like any of the other donkeys in the group. He looks the same, acts the same, responds the same – except Teddy has been completely blind since birth. Unlike donkeys who go blind later in life, Teddy has only ever known a sightless existence, and as a result has learned to cope perfectly well using sound, vibration and smell. So while Phil was taking care of Beamish, I cuddled, groomed and chatted with Teddy.
Just as Phil was finishing Beamish's grooming, he was nudged by a small brown donkey wearing a warm winter rug. The little donkey looked expectantly at us for a few moments, waiting for the penny to drop...which eventually it did - “It's Derek!” Phil and I first met little Derek way back when we first started as QTVs, and although we've called in to see him from time to time over the months he's always been rather shy and reserved. Today though Derek seemed very keen to get our attention and happily stood for ages while Phil not only groomed him, but also gave him a really good back scratch – which Derek clearly loved, judging from his closed eyes and quivering muzzle!
When Derek arrived at the Sanctuary in the early spring, he came with his bonded companion Gallega, a stunningly beautiful chestnut mare of the short-ear variety! Until today neither Phil nor I had managed to get close to this lovely horse. Perhaps Derek assured her we could be trusted, or maybe she watched us and decided for herself, but Gallega stood quietly while Phil took off her rug and groomed her. She even rested her head on my shoulder while I brushed her neck and face.
Over the months Gallega has formed a friendship with the other horse in this group – a large grey mare called Dommy. Dommy is partially blind as she has only one eye, but even so she seems to cope really well. Both of these horses tower over most of the donkeys but the most incongruous sight of all is seeing Gallega and Dommy standing next to Cobus, who is a Miniature donkey, barely 3 feet high!
Cobus originally came from Holland and was relinquished to another animal sanctuary prior to arriving at The Donkey Sanctuary several years ago with his friend Pedro. Now Cobus maybe small in stature, but he is a giant in the personality stakes! Perhaps it's because he so often hears visitors' comments about him being a sweet little foal, when in reality he is a fully-grown, 17 yr old adult? Or maybe it's because he needs to periodically remind the other donkeys to respect him? Whatever the reason, it was Cobus who stood firm, the day when Erin (or was it Inky?) one of the Poitou donkeys next-door, opened the adjoining gate with his teeth! In through one gate stormed 19 large, hairy Poitou donkeys, while out of the other gateway scarpered 16 or so smaller donkeys and 2 large horses! The only animal to remain unperturbed was tiny Cobus, who was discovered by the grooms happily chomping on barley straw in the midst of a forest of large hairy Poitou legs!
Having spent an enjoyable couple of hours with this lovely group of donkeys and horses, Phil and I headed back to New Barn to keep our appointment with four donkeys who would be waiting patiently for their promised walk – Billy and Jubilee, and George and Chico!