St Patrick's Day (17th March) heralded the beginning of the week and what for me was to be a very busy and varied week. I received a call from the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) who were pursuing lines of enquiry as to a donkey who had been brought to a car wash and power hosed and shampooed in advance of attending a St Patrick's Day parade.
Photographs had appeared on the Internet of the donkey and resultant remarks had therefore began circulating. I found it inconceivable that such a reckless and foolish act had been carried out to the donkey. Who would do such a thing without considering the animal's trauma and fear? Never mind the potential health risk to its coat and skin. (The ingredients used in the shampoo were not surprisingly later found to contain a warning as hazardous to both adults and pets.)
The donkey was attended by a vet and following a cursory examination was found to be free from any injury or irritation. A 'warning' was issued by the PSNI to all the parties involved in the incident and verbal advice given to ensure that such an occurrence does not arise again.
On Wednesday I attended a relinquishment of a donkey in Newtownhamilton who had been abandoned in the area since Christmas and had been shunted from one farmer's field to the next and even spent days grazing on the roadside. This is a common occurrence with abandonments and thankfully one concerned local contacted us to intervene as he was concerned that the donkey would end up causing a traffic accident - killing road users and indeed getting killed itself.
And so I arrived to find a small brown donkey with long hooves who looked quizzically at me. Here was a donkey who oozed character and was weighing me up, no doubt having learnt to survive on his own instincts and quick reactions in the past.
I always carry feed and some sugary treats with me on attending relinquishments as a means to reward and encourage the donkey to be caught. The donkey did not respond to donkey cubes when I offered them to him in a bucket and looked away suspiciously. What else did I have to tempt him? I went back to my jeep and found some Marmalade sandwiches that I had hastily made earlier. The little donkey quickly tucked into the sandwiches that I offered him, tentatively walking into the trailer when encouraged to do so. Having realised his love for marmalade sandwiches, I named him Marmalade thinking that it was the most appropriate name.
A further relinquishment the same week involved lifting a donkey called Jack from a private home in Co.Down. The donkey's owner was no longer able to manage him having had to be taken into the care of a nursing home. The immediate family could not commit to manage or care for the donkey from here on in and so the Sanctuary swiftly stepped in to oversee and care for Jack. He certainly has a few behavioural issues having had the opportunity to have his own way over a long period of time. He is also a prolific kicker. His hooves are significantly long and his general condition is unkempt. It looks like we have just reached him in time before his condition started deteriorating with unfavourable consequences.
And so Friday arrived and it was back to my holding base to care for a donkey that I have been nursing for several days. She is called Fifi and is a very sweet and kind (also obese and aged) female donkey that has been relinquished into our care but had unfortunately gone hyperlipaemic.
Hyperlipaemia is brought on by stress. When donkeys stop eating enough, fat is mobilised into their blood stream to be converted to glucose by the liver. This process is regulated by complex hormones which in small ponies and donkeys does not shut off efficiently. Large amounts of excess fat can cause the donkey's liver and kidneys to degenerate and fail. Stress can be caused by pain, travelling, change of diet, change of environment or loss of a companion. Hyperlipaemia can be fatal and early veterinary intervention is required. Symptoms include loss of appetite and depression. If your donkey appears unwell or stops eating call your veterinary surgeon.
My vet attended her and tubed her with rehydrating fluids and glucose. I am following this up with regular repeated drenches in the hope that we can get Fifi interested in eating again. Let's hope that we see some positive progress with sweet little Fifi over the next few days.