There hasn’t been a single day in the last 16 years I have not enjoyed going to work, but driving through Sutton Park this morning I have a sickening feeling that today may be very different. The drive through the park feels like it’s taking a lifetime when really it only takes five minutes. There are areas of the park I haven’t taken the time to notice in sixteen years. There is a part of me that stops at our gate and thinks about turning around and going back home but I always knew this day would come. When I turn into the driveway I instantly smile as I see twenty pairs of ears enjoying the autumn sunshine, munching contently on their hay. The only problem is there’s a pair of ears missing. Today would have been the perfect day that 'mommie's little soldier' would have enjoyed and if he had got his own way (like he always did with me!) he would have sneakily managed to keep his night rug on whilst enjoying the autumn sunshine.
Pascoe has been a part of my life for 27 years, as I was only 6 years old when he arrived at our home. He was relinquished to the Donkey Sanctuary as a 7 year old from Burton on Trent where his original owners could no longer look after him due to their age. I remember mom and dad going to collect him one evening and waking up in the morning to meet our new donkey. From that day Pascoe has stayed with us, being one of the original donkeys when the Sanctuary's Birmingham donkey assisted therapy centre was built in 1994.
Looking back at his time at our centre, I knew I was not the only person who fell in love with him. Pascoe made many people, old and young, very happy. It makes me smile when I hear that donkeys always bond in pairs, because in Pascoe’s case he loved to bond with people. It is only now that I realise how close my bond with Pascoe has always been. Pascoe was one of our original adoption donkeys. It would always bring a smile to my face when I watched how he’d interact with the visitors in the centre. I knew that, after spending just 5 minutes with him, they would love him as much as I did. Pascoe was our mascot; visitors would automatically go to him and ask for him when he wasn’t around.
Before he retired as a riding donkey, I always remember children arguing over who would get to ride Pascoe because he would always canter rather than trot! I also remember, when we first started doing outreach work, how much the elderly loved him. One lady used to sing Pascoe songs, but didn’t realise that Pascoe was a donkey. In the end we had to give up and agree that Pascoe was a beautiful 'doggy' (although I had to pocket the dog treats she gave me to feed him!) Pascoe was even there to greet me for my 30th birthday. After some time off, I walked in to find Pascoe with a 30th birthday sash around his neck and a big pink balloon! Even though it brought tears to my eyes, nothing could have made me happier.
Talking about all the memories I have made with him makes it easier when I see that one pair of ears missing in the autumn fields. Although they will never bring him back, the times I have shared with my little soldier will stay with me forever, as I’m sure they will for the all the people who have met him. Saying goodbye to him was the hardest thing I have had to do but I made a promise many years ago that I would be with him until the end. Pascoe was one in a million and can never be replaced. In his time Pascoe has interacted with around ten thousand additional needs children; he has visited hundreds of homes and hospices and he has thousands of supporters around the world. Despite all this, he will always be my special little soldier.
5 November 2013
Amber Brennan is a Riding Instructor at our Donkey Sanctuary Assisted Therapy Centre in Birmingham. Her mother is the Centre Manager and prior to the Centre being opened in 1994 the charity ran a mobile unit to additional needs schools in Birmingham and the donkeys, including Pascoe, were kept at their stables at home.
Pascoe walked over the Rainbow Bridge on Sunday 3 November 2013 to pastures new with all our other donkeys that have gone before him. Farewell from all of us both two legs and four legs.