Her journey began in Bulgaria and was meant to end in an Italian abattoir. Packed into a transporter with 30 other donkeys, no food or water and a five day journey from hell. Such journeys take place daily on the continent for countless donkeys, mules and horses. This particular lorry went via Belgium where a dealer bought the entire load for the then lucrative British market. Not out of compassion, but to make money.
The journey took its toll and when the ramp was opened on arrival in Suffolk, the conditions in the lorry were appalling with the weaker donkeys in a dreadful state. The donkeys were given little or no care and put up for sale. I went along to see them with a friend of mine who bought Violet and Rosie. Violet was then in her late teens and Rosie somewhat older. Rosie collapsed in the lorry on the way to her new home but received immediate veterinary treatment and, although not in the best of health, enjoyed six months of love and kindness. Violet was then very unhappy on her own, as are most donkeys, and so came to live with my donkeys.
Violet is almost black in colour and the white scarred areas on her withers and shoulders bear testament to the ill-fitting harness which caused open wounds. Her joints and back are weak due to pulling heavy loads and her lungs have also been compromised. Her life would have been hard, possibly producing a foal most years. Despite all this she is the sweetest donkey you will ever meet and loves people.
This was all 15 years ago and Violet is now in her early 30s. I think she has enjoyed her time with us, bossing all the boys around - even her special friend Jack, who hardly ever leaves her side. One look from her with the occasional nip and Violet gets what she wants!
Violet has lost a few teeth this year and needs regular dental checks as she has difficulty eating hay and straw. She has a special diet with two or three feeds daily. In the winter months, she prefers her water warmed by the addition of hot water and wears a cosy rug as well as having a thick bed to lie on. Arthritis affects her joints and pain relief is given when needed although due to their stoical nature it is important to look for small signs of discomfort in donkeys.
I know she is nearing the end of her days and when the time comes that I feel she has no quality of life and the pain becomes too much, I will give her the ultimate gift and ask my vet to put her to sleep. Such a hard decision with any pet but especially with the stoic donkey who masks pain. I would recommend anybody faced with this situation to watch the Sanctuary’s helpful video Growing Old Gracefully which deals with assessing the older donkey and when to make that final decision. It’s about doing what is right for them, however painful for us, and I am sure they would thank us if they could.
For now, she is bright and happy and I am so grateful to have had Violet in my life for the last 15 years. It has been a privilege and a pleasure to know such a special Bulgarian Lady.