A lovely couple, Ray and Margaret Chester, from North Devon, sadly lost their precious Barnie to liver disease but still cherished his sweet friend, Aidan. They asked if The Donkey Sanctuary could find Aidan a new donkey friend. We chose Bartley and, as soon as Ray and Margaret met Bartley, they fell in love with him and he and Aidan are living happily ever after in their foster home.
And here’s the real one!
So - Ray and Margaret are real people and it’s such a privilege to meet superlative foster owners like this couple. And it’s true that their treasured Barnie succumbed to liver disease - so common in older donkeys - and they were left with lovely but lonely Aidan. The problem was that Aidan is a senior donkey citizen (30+ years) and it’s very hard to find a suitable companion for such a mature donkey. It wouldn’t be fair to either donkey if we sent a youngster to keep Aidan company in his golden years - Aidan may want to pursue more sedate activities whilst the youngster may just want to play all day! But, the sad reality was that Aidan was not a happy boy on his own, so the hunt was on for a perfect soul mate.
Along came Bartley! A very handsome and rather sedate donkey whose age was a bit of a mystery to us all as his front teeth were so worn that it was impossible to tell with any accuracy and Bartley wasn’t saying anything! He came over to us from Ireland and many donkeys in our Irish Sanctuary have either a sad history or just no history at all - simply abandoned, unloved or unwanted. Such was this sweet natured old donkey.
Bartley was soon picked out by our fabulous grooms - Abi and Katie - as a potential foster donkey as he was in good condition with impeccable behaviour. But, still he kept his secret - how old was Bartley? After much deliberation we decided that he was probably between 25 and 30 years of age and he underwent a rigorous medical examination - surely there must be something wrong with such a mature boy? But, no, his feet were as near to perfect as possible, his vision was good, he was very well behaved, his cheek teeth were pretty good and he sported such a beautiful shiny coat. Could this be a friend for lonely Aiden?
As this was to be such a special pairing we asked Ray and Margaret to visit. We secretly thought that they couldn’t fail to fall for Bartley as he was so friendly and loved human attention. And so the day arrived and Bartley had a pamper morning in preparation for meeting his potential new foster owners. Beautifully groomed and spruced up - what could possibly go wrong?
Oh dear! What none of us had had banked on was that Bartley was going to have a ‘foodie’ day! For those of you that don’t know, a ‘foodie’ day is one where a donkey seems to have nothing but where the next mouthful is coming from on his mind! He said the briefest of hello to Ray and Margaret and promptly turned his back on them and went into the stable where he stayed for the rest of their visit demolishing the lovely fresh straw in the manger! This was definitely not going according to plan!
Ray and Margaret were polite and charming but I could tell that this wasn’t love at first sight! And it’s true to say that they left the farm without having made a decision. The great news was that Ray and Margaret gave the whole matter a good deal of thought and decided to give Bartley a chance.
To cut a long story short Bartley was transported to North Devon to meet Aidan and, after a slow but steady start, the relationship between these two very wonderful donkeys has blossomed. Again, maybe not love at first sight but a growing and very endearing friendship between two truly special donkeys. Aidan is no longer lonely, Bartley fitted in like he’d been there forever and Ray and Margaret tell us that they play together, eat together and sleep together! It doesn’t get much better than that and we hope this happy partnership goes on for ages to come.
A big thank you to Ray and Margaret for taking Bartley on despite a rocky first meeting, thank you Aidan for welcoming Bartley to your world and thank you Bartley for being, well - just for being Bartley.
Fairy stories always have happy endings but here’s a real story with an equally happy one!