When I first visited the Mrvik family farm, I had no idea of the history for the desire of donkeys, their journey to fulfil that dream and what a massive impact two little donkeys would have.
Elaine Mrvik applied to rehome two donkeys from The Donkey Sanctuary before a stable was built so she had a real blank canvas to create a super environment for her donkeys and to design the building so looking after them would be so much easier.
On my initial visit we discussed minimum requirements with the size of the stable and ideal ways to store the bedding, feed, mucking out and donkey grooming kit and tack, also the hard standing area round the stable, the bigger the better to help their hooves dry out.
Elaine and I talked many times on the telephone until she told me she was ready to have her “home ready” check – when I visited, I was blown away – Elaine and her family had created a donkey palace with a wonderful large stable and hard-standing area. The building incorporated a huge barn area and a separate tack room for the donkeys’ equipment.
All the time Elaine’s daughter Jade was involved in the design decision making, but what I didn’t know was Jade’s story, when she told me, I asked her if she would mind sharing it so others could be inspired and perhaps two little donkeys could have the same impact Vinson and Webley have had on others
Our Journey to fostering Vinson and Webley.
In May 2009, shortly after my 17th birthday, I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma Cancer. My whole world fell apart and I spent the next six months living in and out of hospital going through intense chemotherapy treatment until I was thankfully given the all clear and put into remission.
In early 2010 when I had started to regain my strength and at last my hair was slowly growing back, I started to think about my future, I had been given a second chance at life and I was going to live it!
Throughout my illness my family and friends had been an amazing support to me but also my much loved family pets had been a huge comfort to me and were always there when I needed them. Growing up I have always had a love for animals and so I decided to enroll on to a Level 2 Diploma in Animal Care at Broomfield Hall College in Derby which I started in September that year and absolutely loved it.
The following summer in 2011, my Dad came home with some very exciting news. A farm that we had always liked had come up for sale, he had been to see the owner and put in an offer that had been accepted. The following week we went to see the farm and we were straight away eyeing up parts of the land in hope of having some donkeys one day.
We quickly sold our family home and in February 2012, we moved to our new home. A new start, focus and new way of life for the whole family, just what we needed. We spent the next couple of years renovating the farm and during that time, I went on to do a Level 2 and 3 Agriculture Diploma at Broomfield Hall. Before long we had a small herd of Hereford cattle, 2 pet pigs, pet pygmy goats and lots of chickens... however, one thing was missing - donkeys!
My mum has always been such a huge support to me over the years and knowing how much she loves donkeys, I wanted to do something special for her, so I did some research on The Donkey Sanctuary website and discovered that they did donkey care courses - perfect!
Christmas was just around the corner and I thought it would be a great present. I emailed Liz Horton and told her I would like to book myself and my mum onto the Stage 1 Donkey Care Course as a surprise for my mum. I didn't realise at the time that the courses were free so when I found this out, I kept winding my mum up telling her I have got her the best 'free' Christmas present ever!
I printed out our confirmation email for the Donkey care course which was for the following April and attached a piece of paper on the front with photos of Donkeys and wrote what we will be doing for the day, then I put it all in a folder and wrapped it up.
On Christmas Day 2014, my mum's face was a picture opening up her present, she was so excited and wanted it to be April already.
Stepping out the car and walking into The Donkey Sanctuary at Buxton in Derbyshire is a day I will never forget. Being greeted by so many lovely donkeys, big ears, big eyes, they were absolutely beautiful and I immediately fell in love.
From that day on, our journey to getting our own donkeys began.
Over the next few months we went on to complete all the courses available including the stages 4 & 5 behaviour courses with Ben Hart, which we found very helpful and interesting, especially before getting our donkeys.
In July 2015 my mum contacted The Donkey Sanctuary about fostering donkeys and this is when we met Pam Moon, our lovely Welfare Advisor who came out to visit our farm to advise us on the stables and paddock. And so we spent the next few months building and preparing the stables for our future donkeys.
In December 2015 Pam came back out to do a final inspection on our new stables and paddock. She was very impressed and straight away put us on the ready for rehoming list - yay!
Earlier this year in February we had a very exciting phone call from Vanessa at The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth to say that she had two lovely young donkeys that she thought we would love and make perfect pets for us, their names are Vinson and Webley - exciting!
At last on the 9 March the big day arrived when our lovely donkeys were due to arrive. We got up extra early and went over to the stables to prepare their bed etc. ready for their arrival.
Seeing the big blue Donkey Sanctuary transport lorry arrive made us feel very emotional and climbing up the ramp and finally meeting our beautiful boys, Vinson and Webley for the first time was a very special moment that we will never forget. The excitement that went through us that day is too much to put into words.
One month on and life has never been better. Our boys have settled in lovely and their personalities are really starting to come out. We love them so much and can't imagine our lives without them now. Rehoming a donkey for The Donkey Sanctuary has been very life changing for us and we are already considering fostering more in the future!