I was chatting with Kate Jones from Paccombe Farm the other day about donkeys and she said, "We've got a couple of donkeys that it would be great to tell our supporters about this Halloween!". It was a done deal... Kate would take the photos and I'd do some research into their background. Read on...
It turns out that the first donkey she mentioned was nearly one of the first to have come into the Sanctuary's care. His name is Spider and I'll start with an extract I found in one of my collection of donkey books at home called In Defence of Donkeys...
To almost all animals being in a market is a terrifying experience. Having been uprooted from familiar surrounds, the animal suddenly finds itself surrounded by other terrified animals being herded by blows and shouts. Spider, a four-month-old foal, was put into a West Country market in September 1979 and was surely no exception. He had been transported to market in a large box containing a mixture of horses, ponies and donkeys and up to the time of actually being herded into the pen, had managed to keep fairly close to his mother. However, unfortunately for Spider, his mother was herded into a separate section of the market and poor little Spider found himself alone, being consistently pushed and kicked by the other donkeys with him. Although he brayed pitifully for his mother, and could in fact hear his mother calling out to him, Spider never saw her again from that moment. About four hours later he found himself pushed into a small ring where he was poked and prodded with sticks whilst people began to bid for him.
At this point, Spider’s luck began to change, as he was purchased for £28 by the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society. The society was extremely worried by the conditions in this market, particularly for the young animals which had been abruptly separated from their mothers and were being sold unweaned, and it was only the fact that he went to a knowledgeable home that saved young Spider’s life. The same society had previously rescued a donkey called Timothy who had been severely vandalized by having both his ears cut through. They had sent Timothy to us and had been delighted with his amazing recovery. From being so anti-social that he attacked every person and animal in sight, Timothy had settled down with the sanctuary, and the Dartmoor Livestock Protection Society felt sure we could help Spider in a similar way. He was kept by them for approximately five weeks before being sent to the sanctuary. When he arrived he was unnamed and as I walked into the box and saw this pathetic little animal I felt ‘Spider’ was a suitable name, as his life even then seemed to be hanging on a thread. He was extremely small and weak and his forcible weaning had certainly taken its toll. We immediately set about continuing the skilled care he had been receiving and this, plus the love and attention he got, soon began to show results.
Extract from Elisabeth Svendsen’s book
“In Defence of Donkeys” published by Whittet Books, 1979.
After reading Spider's start in life, who would have thought that 32 years on he would be enjoying a very happy and contended life with us?
Here he is pictured with a donkey called Pumpkin (I feel another story brewing!).
Spider's home is Brook Meadow on Paccombe Farm which is very sheltered and close to our specialist facilities we have at Slade House Farm, making it ideally suited to our older donkeys with various special needs.
Spider's records show him as being only the 709th donkey coming into our care.
Just out of curiosity, I looked in our records to find out who is the latest donkey coming through our gates and saw it is a 12 year old donkey called Ned Noon whose collar number is 11,464.
Doing a quick calculation, that's a staggering 10,755 donkeys who have arrived at the Sanctuary since 1979 when Spider came into our lives!