When faced with insurmountable odds, I know that my response and my fellow Welfare Advisers is to go that extra mile for donkeys in need. And so when asked to respond to two abandoned donkeys in a forest reported to be over 100 acres the thought process was not so much how on earth do I find them but let’s do our utmost to locate them and bring them the care that they need.
On entering the forest the enormity of the task struck me as I was surrounded by eerie silence and realised I was very much on my own and needed all my senses and wit about me. I followed a trail parallel to farming land and then deviated into the darkness of the woodland in a vain attempt to find two donkeys that really could have been anywhere. I noticed old donkey droppings in a grassy clearing area of the forest but the trail ran cold after a while and I could not pick it up again.
What to do next?
After a twenty minute search I stopped to gain my bearings and it was then that I sensed something moving in amongst the darkness of the trees. Frightened, I froze to the spot as I realized two sets of eyes were watching me. I focused more intensely as I couldn’t see in the darkness of the woods and lo and behold I could just about make out the shape of two donkeys before me. I was exhilarated that I had found them but realised I needed to keep subdued as I did not want to risk scaring them off. I quietly said ‘hello’ and their ears perked forward. I had found my abandoned donkeys but how on earth was I to persuade them to follow me out of the forest? I approached them to see if they would tolerate my presence... one of the donkeys let me touch his nose but then backed off distrusting and afraid.
I had located my abandoned donkeys but needed help. I had to retreat from this area of the forest quietly not disturbing them and sought the help of a local farmer to come back with me to the same spot, supplied with cattle feed and rope to try and persuade them to follow us. Somehow, and I am not sure how, the donkeys slowly started to follow me as I rattled the bucket of feed. At times they backed off and wandered away and I thought ‘no! please don’t!’ but we persisted slowly and with patience we eventually led the donkeys out of the forest.
Only when out of the forest and when the donkeys were secured in a safe environment did I realise the extent of their poor body condition. They were covered with lice, were noticeably thin and were badly dehydrated - drinking a bucket of water each readily. They were also frightened and nervous having gone without human contact for who knows how long.
Swift arrangements were put in place to remove the donkeys to the care of The Donkey Sanctuary and the two donkeys now named Darkley and Squirrel were removed to safety to start their new life.
Both donkeys are approximately 2 years old. Darkley in particular was in a pitiful condition when he arrived. You could see from his body stance he was quite ' tucked up', thin and despondent when we took him in. His coat was and still is in a dull and lack-lustre state - the result of lice infestation. Both he and his companion Squirrel have been treated for lice and have been introduced to a feeding regime that will hopefully help them put on some condition. Their hooves while not long, had been crudely chopped off at the toes, have now been re-trimmed and dressed by a farrier.
These donkeys will need considerable care to bring them to an acceptable state of health that will take several months.