I have known Mel for the last six years in my role as Donkey Welfare Adviser for the North East. When I received her request to relinquish her 15 donkeys I was surprised, but pleased they were coming in to us.
Mel has worked on Scarborough Beach for the last 10 years, and as she told me, it all happened by accident.
She said: “I was scrunching up some old newspapers I’d been given to light the fire when I spotted an advert for a job doing donkey rides on the beach at Scarborough.
“I’d always liked donkeys and was left a painting of a little girl with a donkey by one of my Grandparents. I was mesmerised by the relationship between the two of them.
“We weren’t allowed pets as children and I quickly fell in love with the donkeys and eventually I bought them and the business.
At my lowest moments of despair the donkeys gave me a reason to keep going.
“Over the next 10 years the donkeys have seen me through a divorce, my house burning down and three members of my family having cancer in the same year.
“At my lowest moments of despair the donkeys gave me a reason to keep going. I remember sitting in the field crying and gradually being surrounded by the donkeys. At this point they made me realise everything isn’t so bad.
“I have loved working on the beach meeting people from all over the world who want to fuss and chat about the donkeys. The donkeys have taught me so much just from watching and hanging out with them. They don’t need things, they just need food, time and love.”
"They have their funny little habits and traits.
"Rocky hates getting his feet wet, we have to allow 20 minutes longer to walk back from the beach if there are puddles. He loves dogs.
"Jay Jay loves dinner time as his saddle would be taken off, but could then never decide whether to get down and have a roll or eat first. If he ever started pawing the ground whilst carrying a child we would have to grab the child quickly as he wouldn’t think twice about getting down and rolling in the middle of the beach!
"Simon and Rooney have both won Best British Beach donkey in the past.
Over the last 10 years Mel’s back has become painful and carrying water and bales of straw and hay have become difficult.
“The donkeys are a 7 day a week job, I had no hobbies or time to do anything else.”
Mel retrained as a dog groomer at her son Ben’s suggestion to take a college course. An opportunity to take over a grooming business in the town came up and the time was right to give up the stands on the beach.
She told me: “It has been a struggle to think about parting with the donkeys, but knowing they are going to The Donkey Sanctuary has made the decision easier knowing they will be well loved and cared for.
“I would be so proud if they carried on their good work at a donkey assisted therapy centre or if they were re-homed to a loving family.
“I am very grateful to the supporters who make it all possible for The Donkey Sanctuary to continue their work and when I sell my concession I shall donate the proceeds - once I have paid back the Bank of Nan who has supported me over the years!”