What’s the best way to be upstaged? Appear alongside Alvis! It’s ok your eyes are deceiving you Elvis has not appeared here in the UK. Alvis is a 24 year old donkey from our donkey assisted therapy centre in Birmingham who I had the pleasure of spending time with this week. Alvis and his friend Cisco were my fantastic assistants (actually I think I was their assistant!) at the launch of The Donkey Sanctuary and TopSpec's new collaborative feed product 'Donkey Forage Balancer'. The balancer was launched at the BETA International trade which is a showcase for all things equine held at Birmingham's NEC. On display were the latest fashion accessories, saddles, grooming products and feeds for horses, oh and of course two donkeys!
I was invited, alongside Michael Bacon from TopSpec to launch the product in the demonstration area with a packed audience from the equestrian industry. This was a great opportunity to let people know about our new donkey specific product, talk to a new audience about the Sanctuary's work worldwide and promote our advice services. Of course I did my best but it's not easy when everyone's attention is focused on the main act... the owners of those four beautiful long ears! Alvis and Cisco were the perfect performers and stood wowing the crowd with their good looks. This pair have natural stage presence and don't seem to suffer with stage fright!
When our spot in the limelight was over it was time for our launch reception at TopSpec's stand. Somehow we had managed to talk the NEC team in to letting us take Alvis with us. It would be unfair not to allow Alvis to meet his fans! Cisco is a little livelier than Alvis so we waved him off back to the lorry to munch on some hay. Alvis lead the way with his very own security guard and rather a large entourage, think of the Pied Piper and this was Alvis! I think the sight of visitors mingling on trade stands suddenly going silent and beaming with a smile at the sight of Alvis will stay with me for a long time; some folks appeared to have to rub their eyes and check with their neighbours if it really was a donkey that had come shopping?
Alvis took up his place centre stage at the TopSpec stand ready to meet his audience and was swamped!
I now know what it feels like to be the support act on a pop tour watching the adulation from afar. I have to say Alvis deserved every compliment and cuddle that came his way. So many people wanted to touch him and have their photo taken with him.
I wonder if he really could give Elvis a run for his money?
Even Alvis's security detail seemed relaxed and were smiling, no tough man tactics here, Alvis was clearly in control!
Things were so relaxed that everyone seemed to forget that there was an equine in our midst and some of the stand visitors started to play with the very large Jenga game that was on the stand that makes an almighty bang and clatter when it hits the floor, well you guessed it that's just what happened! I jumped a good few inches in the air as did everyone else on the stand... except for... you’ve guessed it, Alvis! Alvis stood serenely, cocked an ear and looked at me as if to say "you humans really are quite spooky aren't you?". There is never a better look to bring you back to earth than the knowing look from a wise donkey.
Alas it was time to leave for home, Alvis had a date with a haynet and I had a long journey back to Devon. I can honestly say I am happy to be upstaged by a donkey anytime; they are their own best ambassadors, if only they could talk! Just one last thing to say... "Alvis has left the building"! Sorry, I couldn't resist!