As most of you will probably know, donkeys can live a long time. Sometimes they outlive their donkey friends, occasionally they can also outlive their human carers.
Let me introduce you to a very special foster donkey called Elijah. Sadly Elijah is no longer with us as he was put to sleep this year at the great age of 36.
I first met Elijah in 2003 when he was living in Hampshire with his elderly guardian carer. Sadly Mr Ewens passed away after a sudden illness and Elijah’s future suddenly became less certain.
Having had a veterinary check-up it was decided that although he would be OK to transport a short distance, it was felt unwise to transport him back the long and potentially stressful journey to Sidmouth due to his arthritis and general age-related issues.
He was completely devoted to Mr Ewens, as was Mr Ewens to him, and they spent many hours together on a daily basis. I believe that Elijah, in his own quiet way was indeed grieving for his carer. Fortunately he was able to be relocated to another foster home with two younger donkeys about 10 miles away.
It was with trepidation that the three donkeys were introduced to each other. Certainly the concern was that the younger donkeys would chase and bully Elijah. Not a bit of it! Elijah soon established himself as top of the trio, and swiftly developed an impressive flick of his heels should the youngsters invade his personal space when it was unwanted.
Elijah then spent the next three years happily dividing his life between paddock time with the boys, being greeted and fussed over by the village dog walkers who used the footpath next to his field, and most impressively his regular weekly walks around the village with his loyal carers George and Mandy.
Mandy reminisces with great fondness Elijah’s purposefulness on his weekly jaunts saying that as much as he loved attention, it had to be on the move as once Elijah got going he didn’t like to stop.
According to Mandy: “Everyone in the village knew Elijah and when walking in the village everyone would want us to stop so that they could say hello to him, but if he was up to speed, it was almost like he was saying 'lovely to see you but I must keep going, can’t stop now' and off we would continue and he was always very determined that we couldn’t stop!”
Elijah had quite a dipped back, and this seemed to make him appear older and frailer than perhaps he was, and in many ways to further endear him to others even more. He became a real feature of the village and seemed to bring a smile to the faces of all who either knew him, or encountered him on his trips.
All animals are special, and donkeys are certainly no exception. Some seem to really get under your skin. Some are just so special to you that they leave a mark in your heart. Elijah was just such a donkey. Special, wise, and always able to raise a smile…he will be missed.