One area of my work as a Welfare Officer is to help private owners with all aspects of donkey care. I first met with Vicki through email enquiries to the Sanctuary as on impulse she had bought a donkey she felt sorry for at a local sale.
We chatted by phone a few times about various aspects of donkey care and well-being and the subject of donkey companionship came up. My personal view and first hand experience is that donkeys prefer to be with other donkeys and are often used as companions to horses, but given the choice they would rather be with another donkey. They are quite different animals and need particular management.
Vicki is an experienced horse owner, but hadn’t realized some of the management issues and risks involved when buying a donkey in such circumstances. We chatted about the Foster Scheme and that if she signed Bluebell over to us, but kept her in the home, she could become part of the Foster Scheme, get a companion for Bluebell as well as help and support from me.
This is quite a step for an owner, but also comes with the assurance that you have a fit and healthy donkey that is fully checked by a vet, vaccinated, has a passport, is microchipped and good to handle. We knew nothing of Bluebell’s background other than the seller was a dealer that I had heard of before. She had a passport, but it looked copied.
Vicki had a think about all I had told her and decided to go ahead with the Foster Scheme. We completed the paperwork, then Bluebell had to go through various medicals, tests and a dental before we could place another donkey with her. A faecal sample showed she needed to be wormed and also that she had liver fluke. A blood test was returned positive for a tick borne disease. All this was paid for by the Sanctuary. I also helped Vicki who was nervous picking Bluebell’s feet up.
As soon as Bluebell was given the all clear, Vanessa O’Brien in our welfare team set about finding a suitable match for Bluebell. Vicki had already done her Stage 1 and 2 donkey care courses run by the Sanctuary so was ready to go!
Holly has settled in well. She made herself totally at home and has proved to be quite an escape artist. On my first settling in visit I could see she had ventured into the neighbouring field and had visibly put on some weight, her neck looked fatter. Donkeys tend to gain fat in patches on the neck, back and hindquarters. I advised some better fencing and for Vicki and her daughter Abigail to take the donkeys for some walks.
I am pleased to say that they followed my advice (Vicki calls me “The donkey supervisor”) and it worked! A better gate has been installed and both donkeys were slimmer. They have great fun walking the donkeys and have plans for Christmas costumes, needing no encouragement from me.
I am so happy this has worked out, seeing Bluebell meet Holly for the first time, meeting Vicki and her family who are such fun and openly loving every minute of having donkeys. It really makes my job very rewarding.