This is a dedication to a very special donkey called Basil. While it is very hard to play favourites with the donkeys at the sanctuary as they all have their own special characteristics and charm, there are some that just quietly creep into your heart and before you know it you’re smitten.
Basil was one of those donkeys for me. In my role as a veterinary nurse, I used to be in charge of administering medication to the groups of donkeys around Slade and Trow farms. We used to have a group on a very steep hill in order to help them exercise. I had a donkey that quite frankly could have done with wandering down the hill every day for her meds, but never the less used to make me walk all the way to the top, while constantly hiccupping at me excitedly, knowing a jam sandwich was coming. This was Basil’s best friend and how I came to meet him.
He got to know the timing of my daily rounds and would follow me, up and down the hill. It was like that scene from Shrek, where every time I turned around he would be there, practically fluttering his eyelashes to see if he could get a sandwich too. Now Basil, like myself, only had to look at food to put on weight, so he was never given a treat (with the exception of Christmas of course) but still his tenacity reigned.
Eventually his infectious personality was noticed by more than just me and he was moved to shelter 1 where he could help with our outreach activities and meet the public. He did himself and us proud once given the opportunity, and before he knew it he was attending weddings (including one of our very own vet nurse’s), being filmed for children’s TV and being an ambassador for our junior vet days. He was the epitome of patience on these days, letting all manner of things be done to him, like having a look in his mouth, bandaging his legs and even letting me take his temperature without a second thought. Of course he was always rewarded in his favourite way: cuddles and ginger biscuits.
That’s why it was a real blow when one of the dentists flagged up an anomaly on one of his routine dentals, and after some investigation he was diagnosed as having a tumour growing in his mandible. The vet decided he was the kind of donkey that would cope with a new type of treatment, and like a trooper he proved he was up to the task. The treatment was successful and stopped the growth of the tumour in its tracks.
So Basil went back to being the superb teacher that he was. Unfortunately for me, the grooms took on the medication rounds at the farms, and coupled with the hospital's exciting move to Brookfield Farm it meant that I didn’t see Basil as much, but I would always pop in for a cuddle when I could and kept an eye on his remission on his computer notes. But a few weeks ago after one of his regular mouth checks, the vet reported that the tumour had started to grow again, and that no more could be done.
He was given pain relief and everyone was given the chance to say goodbye. It was heartbreaking as he was still in such good spirits, even though you could see he was uncomfortable. He gave me the best cuddle and when I shouted goodbye over the fence he threw up his top lip in salute. Forever the showman!
I want to thank everybody that was involved with Basil’s peaceful passing, but I mostly want to thank Basil for being such an extraordinary donkey and bringing so much to so many people.
Written by Vicky Banfield, one of our vet nurses.