It has been a fairly busy start to the year and there is lots for me to tell you about but for the moment I would like to tell George's story.
Hopefield Animal Sanctuary, who are based in Brentwood, Essex, contacted us recently about George, a five year old lovely looking dark brown donkey with an identity crisis! He is pictured here with Lianne, one of the managers of the Hopefield and it was Lianne who contacted The Donkey Sanctuary in the hope that we may be able to help with George's behavioural problems which seem to be getting worse.
As we are more than happy to help any donkey owners if we can, I visited to see George and find out his background.
George was relinquished to Hopefield as a 2 year old, having been orphaned at birth. He was hand reared and his only friend was an Alsation dog. Sadly this may be the root of George's problems as he does not see himself as a donkey and by the time he joined the small group of resident donkeys at Hopefield, he was very human orientated but knew no boundaries or correct donkey behaviour and proved a real challenge to the staff.
Orphan foals are not that common but the best thing for them is another slightly older donkey to learn how to be a donkey and then input as to how to treat humans.
George was very aggressive to the other donkeys and so he was put with just one donkey friend to see if things improved. It didn't. Whilst young male donkeys will play/fight for fun, it can look very rough at times with biting and rearing which is totally natural behaviour. George's behaviour went beyond this and his friend was clearly suffering.
Another friend was tried with more success and Noah is now his companion.
Unfortunately George has become more difficult to handle and tries to kick, bite and generally push humans around - his way of playing but not a lot of fun with 200 kgs of donkey! He so wants to be with humans but because of his behaviour people now don't want to interact with him which makes him frustrated and more aggressive.
The first thing we advised was a health check, including dentals, to rule out any physical problems. It has been found that George's eyesight is not the best although the vet is unsure how much, if at all, this will deteriorate. Sadly this won't help George to cope with the world round him but we now hope to work with the team at Hopefield to improve George's behaviour to a point where he can safely be handled.
Stimulation is very important for donkeys and I have also suggested some playthings such as old wellies, dog pulls and such like to provide a distraction.
As this is a challenging case I have once again called on the expertise of our behaviourist, Ben Hart, so here's hoping that gorgeous George can become a happier donkey in himself.