Because so much of our international work involves helping overworked and neglected donkeys, it’s easy to get the impression that owners simply don’t care about their animals. That’s why I wanted to pass on this very moving story from one of our staff in Ethiopia, about an owner who appreciated his hard-working mule so much that he stood up at a community event with the mule by his side, and made a heartfelt speech about the difference she had made to his life.
The story was sent to me by our project leader in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, Dr Teshome Worku. He described how the owner, Anynew Sinte, brought his mule, a mare called Hulubanchi, to an animal welfare awareness event, where he was being honoured as an exemplary owner. Anynew told the 500-strong audience that his mule – now retired from work - had served him faithfully for 20 years, enabling him to make a living by delivering goods by cart. He put a garland of flowers around the mule’s neck, and said:
“I didn’t have anything before, but now I have a well-furnished house, I sent my children to school, I have a decent life with my family, and this is all because of Hulubanchi.”
The name of the mule, in Amharic, means “It’s all because of you”.
Anynew went on to say, “It’s because I care for her, and treat her as one of my children, that she has served for such a long time.” He urged other cart drivers, particularly those who were young and starting out in the business, to follow his example.
This story brought a tear to my eye. It was lovely to know that Anynew felt such gratitude to his mule that every time he said her name he was also saying a personal ‘thank you’ to her. But it was even more encouraging to hear how he paid this tribute to her in public. Our teams in Ethiopia tell us that the main problem they have to tackle in their work is a generally negative attitude towards donkeys and mules, whose owners often give them less care and attention than their other animals, and take their hard work for granted. This man’s willingness to stand up and praise his mule, in front of hundreds of people, speaks volumes about the way our team’s work is changing people’s attitudes, causing them to see their donkeys and mules as vital and valued members of their households.