The rain was closing in Saturday morning as I drove over the mountainous Glenshane Pass and pondered on Fred’s situation and how we were to manage his collection. It was not long before I was meeting up with Allen Andrews (my regional welfare officer) and we were on our way travelling unto our destination outside Garvagh. The terrain was becoming more remote and rugged as we entered the forestry. There were signs of deforestation and other areas of density. We drove for a good while along stony tracks heading deep into Garvagh Forest and I started to wonder how were we ever to catch a donkey in this wide open terrain and a nervous one at that!
As we turned a corner I spied two long ears behind some trees and then saw our donkey – gosh he was a very striking tall dark donkey, standing upright, surprised by our presence in this wilderness. Well done to Allen for finding him! We parked up our vehicles and prepared the trailer for loading, supporting it with guided pen gates. Fred watched us warily as all this activity was taking place. Allen had brought some slices of bread to tempt him, remembering that this is what he favoured having being fed it by the foresters. For some strange reason hard feed in buckets seemed to scare him. Fred ate a few morsels of bread but he was not for co-operating with our plans to load him unto the trailer. Every time we seem to get near him, he backed off and trotted away from us. I got close to him on several occasions, he clearly could smell other donkeys from me and even put his muzzle up to my face. But Fred was not for giving himself up easily. We tried various methods for trying to 'bond’ and catch him but to no avail. 40 minutes had elapsed and we decided to give him a break from being caught.
We sat on the trailer ramp a little puzzled wondering what other methods we could try. Would we be able to catch this donkey in the middle of nowhere or were we going to have to seek further assistance or even have to leave him here?
We moved the trailer into a more narrow location and renewed our attempts to drive him quietly and slowly towards it. It worked! He walked towards the trailer ramp and we walked behind him with the lunge lines. One hoof was on the ramp and then two. He then walked on of his own accord – brilliant! Clearly here was a donkey who had been on a trailer before. The ramp was put up and I entered the trailer to give him a pat and a small slice of bread as a reward. Fred seemed a little bit more confident on the box and did not flinch or appear frightened when I gave him a quick health check. He appeared to be in fairly good condition, his hooves could do with a ‘tidy up’ trim but certainly were not extreme. Thankfully we seem to have reached Fred in time. I dread to imagine what state he would have been in over the upcoming winter months.
And so Fred’s journey and new life were only beginning, we droved out of the forest grounds and were soon winding down out of the mountains and on our way.
Who would have dumped such a precious and innocent animal in such a remote forest and left it to defend for itself? I shook my head and drove on.