Staff, volunteers and supporters here at Ivybridge faced mixed emotions as Pip, our oldest donkey at the centre, was retired back to the main Sanctuary in Sidmouth, Devon.
Pip, along with Boomer who is still here at Ivybridge, was extremely instrumental in originally establishing the Ivybridge centre and making it the success it is today. Pip played a significant role in the original mobile programme that was run from Sidmouth to Plymouth for 4 years prior to the Ivybridge centre being built. His return to Sidmouth is with mixed emotions for the staff and volunteer team, many of whom have worked with him from the very first day.
Pip is a grey/brown gelding Irish donkey born in 1989. He was already an established donkey used for donkey interaction with children with additional needs when the centre was officially opened in 2007.
Over the years Pip had been considered the gentleman donkey of the herd. He never bonded with any of the other donkeys, instead choosing to be everyone's friend. He always had been a trustworthy, hardworking donkey who was kind, patient and gentle in everything he did. He simply loved the interaction with the children who attend the centre and immensely enjoyed being groomed.
In 2016 following a routine visit from the vet and further investigation by the dental team at Sidmouth it was decided in the best interests of Pip and his health and well-being to fully retire Pip.
There is no doubt that Pip has earned his rest and we know he will enjoy his retirement and extra support he will receive from The Donkey Sanctuary specialist teams for his medical needs. He will be deeply missed, however we are forever in his debt for all his hard work and stoic nature over the years.
Pip holds such a special place in many hearts of the staff and volunteer team and here is what a few people have to say about him.
Pip has always had a special place in my heart; he has a fantastic character and always worked well in all situations when the children were around. He was always one that stood back from the crowd but wanted a hug and a scratch when everyone else had gone. He loved to have a trot around when free in the arena or in the field; he has such grace and is a real gentleman. He did have a cheeky side and loved it when he went for walks in the field as he would try to have a sneaky munch of grass and would look very proud when he managed it. Pip was on all the mobiles when I first started and I feel he really looked after me and helped me settle in with my new position. It’s a very emotional time for me as he is such a special donkey and it was hard to see him leave what has been his home for 9 years, however it is for his best interest as he now requires more specialised dental care and feed. It will be lovely to see him once he is settled into his new home.
Sam - Staff Deputy Manager
When I first started back in 2007 and was learning the ropes I always liked to groom Pip as he is such a gentle, patient donkey and I really enjoyed working with him in the arena.
Lindsay Brooks - Volunteer
I was asked to hold Pip by the doors in the car park whilst the groom collected the next child in a wheelchair for their ride. By the time she came out with the child I was all the way down the car park thanks to Pip nudging and pushing me as he had gotten bored!
Sam Franklin - Volunteer
Allan Sutton, one of our long-standing volunteers, is lucky enough to have known Pip from the very start, and he was one of the volunteers to return Pip back to Sidmouth.
So Pip has left Ivybridge for his new home at Sidmouth. Except, he is going back to his old home, because for several years he worked hard in the Sidmouth donkey interaction centre.
I first worked with Pip in 2003 when he was chosen as a reliable donkey to work the mobiles at schools in the Plymouth area. He was one of about 8 regular donkeys who were used on these mobiles. A pair of donkeys would come down twice a week during the summer months and this went on for 4 years until Ivybridge was bought and built. The donkeys had to be adaptable to work in a variety of locations and in all weathers! Pip was a perfect choice for the job. He was very calm and would have a good influence on more nervous donkeys. One such was a donkey called Busby who later became one of their adoption donkeys.
Pip came with the first batch of donkeys to the brand new Ivybridge centre . He arrived on 8 March 2007 and I had the honour of unloading him! Since that day he has put in countless hours of work, patiently carrying hundreds of different children. A fairly big and strong donkey he also became a very useful carting donkey and an all-round performer.
Pip has been a perfect gentleman. In the 13 years that I have known him I have never seen him show any nastiness towards humans or other donkeys. His placid nature was evident when working because he never hurried. He was usually quite happy for others to take the lead.
Although not one of our adoption donkeys, Pip has developed a large fan club over the years. He is going to be very much missed at Ivybridge. However he has earned his retirement and of course it is important that he gets the specialist care that he needs.
I found it quite an emotional day travelling to Sidmouth with him but I left him there in good hands. He has a girlfriend already. She is 7 years old and I left them happily eating chopped straw together. When I got home in the evening I raised a glass to Pip and Dora! And you might like to too!