In October I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to head over to Italy and visit our Italian centre, Il Rifugio degli Asinelli and other holding bases. These trips are generally conducted twice a year and give the UK veterinary team chance to catch up with our Italian counterparts and get to see the range of medical conditions that the Italian donkeys present with. The trips are an excellent opportunity for the vets from the two countries to share knowledge and experiences for the benefit of the animals.
Rather frustratingly, I left the UK in the midst of an Indian summer and landed in Rome where the rain was cascading down. This weather continued until my last day; I sat in the departure lounge in Milan airport staring at a beautiful sunny afternoon! Despite the rainy atmosphere I was made to feel most welcome by people and donkeys alike.
After some wrestling with the SatNav and having to resort to the old fashioned methods of a telephone call and following directions, I finally managed to find my way to my first visit point, the Atessa holding base. The small group of donkeys at Atessa are very well cared for by their current ‘owner’, who insists on the best for her donkeys and I have never seen such a clean and well scrubbed water trough! All the donkeys had an MOT and were in good health, queries over lumps and bumps and weaning foals were discussed with the local vet and since returning home to the UK we have maintained email contact so that we can discuss any treatments needed.
From Atessa the SatNav was much more efficient and got me safely to the airport in time to make my onward flight to Milan. The flight was uneventful, the drive around the Milanese ring road in the rush hour traffic was slightly more hair-raising but I made it safely to the lovely town of Biella.
The Italian arm of The Donkey Sanctuary, Il Rifugio degli Asinelli, is located a short drive away from Biella. I spent a very busy and fantastic day with the team there; farm manager, Denis, and vet, Luca, introduced me to the resident donkey and mule population, whilst the office staff and grooms went to great lengths to ensure I had an informative and pleasant day. Denis and I discussed the management and housing of the donkeys and I was most impressed by the effectiveness of the diet groups at reducing numbers of overweight donkeys! Luca showed me all of the long-term challenging veterinary cases and we determined ongoing surgical and medical treatment plans. It is always helpful to gain a different veterinary perspective and helps us to learn different treatment techniques and plans, benefitting donkeys in both countries in the long run.
My final day was spent visiting two more holding bases on the outskirts of Milan. Both holding bases were run by donkey enthusiasts and it was lovely to see the affection that they felt for the animals under their care. I was fortunate enough to be accompanied on my visits by the local vet, who spoke excellent English and saved my day as my interpreter had telephoned in sick that morning! I flew home to Bristol that evening, tired after the travelling but pleased to have gained new friends and colleagues in Italy.