It's always a sad time for us when we have to say goodbye to an old friend. More so when their owners travel about 600 miles in a round trip to visit at least once a month... just like Liz and Dave Barrett have been doing for the past 9 years to spend time with Hector and Smokey.
There is no fitting tribute to Hector than in Liz's own words which follow.
Hector Barrett 1989 - 2013
It is with much sadness and a heavy heart that I have to tell you all that my Hector was put to sleep last week. He had had a hard winter at Town Barton Farm - the weather had not been kind to his old arthritic legs. Then a few weeks back he developed an abscess in his lower jaw that turned out to be linked to a tooth problem. In a younger healthy donkey, the vet told me he would have taken the tooth out and treated it with antibiotics but Hector was not a young donkey and he did have other problems. The upshot was that it was for the best if we called it a day.
I cannot praise the staff at Town Barton highly enough - they did all that they could for him to make him comfortable in his last few weeks. Lots of warm rugs and extra food rations. He was a well-loved donkey.
The vet was wonderful answering all my questions fully and giving me the benefit of his years of equine experience. I doubt there can be anything that he has not encountered. He was willing to wait a few days in case I wanted to make one final trip down to see him. I didn't. It would have been too traumatic for me and Hector would have known instantly that something was very wrong. Like all donkeys Hector was a very sensitive soul.
I cannot begin to fully explain just how much he meant to Dave and I. Signing him and Smokey over to The Donkey Sanctuary in 2004 was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Yet we did not have a choice. If he had stayed with us the asthma both boys suffered living at Morton would have left them with permanent lung damage.
So the boys started a new life in Devon… and we visited as often as we could. Usually once a month. People always asked me whether they recognised us when we visited - of course they did! They quickly got used to the fact that we would turn up with packets of ginger biscuits and take them for a walk round the farm. We would be there for two mornings and then we would be gone again! And so nearly nine years went by…
Now our big beautiful Hector is gone. This morning I went out to the paddock and looked long and hard at his old field shelter and stable… at his favourite rubbing post and the gorse bush that they nearly decimated all those years ago and which has now fought back. Even now both boys are still there in spirit playing chase, hiding behind the caravan whenever the farrier used to come and rushing over for biscuits or waiting for Dave to take the chair out so he could sit and read them a story! Hector may be gone but he will never, ever be forgotten.
Sleep tight my friend.
Through your tears you will begin to smile at fond memories you have shared over the years.
As with all our donkeys and mules who have lost their best friend, they need time to mourn. Until your next visit, we will be there for Smokey offering him love and hugs.