“What do you want for Christmas?” I asked Daisy, Jenny and Larry Potter. They looked up from munching, reflecting on the question. Looking at them, I thought how content they looked and a new grooming brush, a few carrots or even a new food bowl wouldn't make much difference to their lives. But the one thing I could do that would make a difference was to make sure that at over the Christmas and New Year period, I spent some quality time with them so they had a sociable festive season too.
Whether in the brick kilns of India or green meadows of Devon – foot problems are an issue affecting donkeys across the world. Twenty-nine people currently practise farriery in our projects internationally, but some in different ways to others. To make the most of their wealth of knowledge and experience The Donkey Sanctuary recently organised a workshop in Egypt to bring people together from across the world to share ideas and put together competency standards everyone could take home.
With rugged hills and mountains, Dansa village in Hintalo Wijerat district, 9 miles from Mekelle city in Tigray region, is the home of 250 donkeys in 300 households. The community in Dansa village relies heavily on subsistence farming. Every Monday and Friday many donkey owners in Dansa village transport vegetables and fruits to markets in Mekelle town. Due to uneven hilly topography, donkey owners in the village have to fasten a strap to a pack saddle looping under the tail of their donkey to prevent the load from slipping forward. In the past the strap was a rough thin rope which caused a wound under the tail, known as a crupper wound, on many donkeys. Based on an assessment we did two years back in a focus group discussion with donkey owners in Dansa village, 97% of donkeys had crupper wounds.
Did you know that all of the UK’s beach donkeys require, by law, an annual vet check in order to certify them as fit to work?
In the same way, The Donkey Sanctuary vets check all the donkeys working at our 6 DAT centres twice every year. Each centre has a local vet for any emergency calls but The Donkey Sanctuary vets each have a centre to oversee which provides continuity and direct communication points with the grooms plus the vets, farriers and dentists involved in the everyday care. This allows us to pick up any problems that might affect the donkeys, or their ability to work, early. As the work they do doesn’t exactly require much exertion (compare them to racehorses for example!), it is important to check for subtle conditions that may go unnoticed.
Earlier in the year you may have read about our European partners' meeting, bringing together all our Donkey Sanctuary-funded outreach project partners.
Over the summer Andrew Judge, European Operations manager, and myself – Alex Thiemann, vet, have been visiting the projects to gain an overview of the similarities and differences and see how best to continue to support this work.
Our first visit coincided ironically with the momentous Brexit vote - we were in Cyprus when the news came through!
Every morning before turning the donkeys out, I walk the paddocks with my dogs usually with the wheelbarrow collecting any droppings.
The daily inspection allows me to check fencing, water butts and ensure no ragwort has appeared.
This morning the dogs started to bark furiously and on investigating found a party helium balloon wrapped around a fence post. Carried on the wind it could have come from anywhere.
Donkeys having a curious nature could have come to serious harm by taking it in their mouths.
I love my job, I love meeting so many people and their donkeys and am always bowled over by the relationship some owners have with their donkeys. But sometimes there are visits which are sad and emotional when owners contact me and ask me what they should do because their beloved donkey is not him/her self any more.