Among hundreds of stories of abandoned, abused, neglected donkeys, there are a few that fill our hearts. The ones that tell us of much loved donkeys, who arrive at The Donkey Sanctuary’s Italian base Il Rifugio degli Asinelli after a lifetime of love and care. Like Moro and Linda, the oldest donkeys homed at Il Rifugio degli Asinelli, who sadly passed away a couple of weeks ago, just a few days from one the other.
For 25 years, Moro worked in the Pre-Alps Mountains: he used to look after the flock of sheep and carry the lambs that were too small and weak to follow their mothers on his comfy back.
Moro’s job was never too hard and he was well looked after by his owners. And every Christmas he had an important role in the local living nativity scene, so calm and sweet, his breath warmed up the little child playing baby Jesus.
As the years went by, his work started to become too heavy for Moro’s strong back. The paths looked every day steeper and the young donkey that joined to support him did not hesitate to point out his superiority with bites and kicks. So Moro’s owners donated him to Il Rifugio degli Asinelli, knowing that it was the best place for a well-deserved retirement.
So, that gorgeous donkey born in 1982 came to us, in the barn that is dearly known as the retirement home of "granny donkeys”: there he found Linda and Ringo.
Linda, like Moro, had joined us after a life full of human love. But with no experience with other donkeys, they looked like weird creatures in her eyes before meeting Ringo, who had been through difficult and painful years before being rescued by Lisa and, then, to enter Il Rifugio degli Asinelli.
They found and chose each other, because there is not a deadline for soul mates; and when Moro arrived, they became an amazing trio.
Ringo was full of ailments, but they didn’t affect his Latin lover attitude; under Linda’s perplexed look, Moro play fought him, with joints that creaked and hooves that occasionally lost a shot.
They played a lot, maybe for the first time in their lives, happy, without a care; and their game was the best show in the world.
The first to leave was Ringo, two years ago. He was not cheated by age, but mostly by the effects of his painful past.
Then Linda, one month ago. Her strong yet old body seemed to change day by day into a donkey of glass - delicate, fragile, to handle with care. And you should have seen the care with which she was treated by Marina, her previous owner, the person who shared more than twenty years of life and affection with her, before taking to our care.
Throughout Linda’s last weeks, Marina came to see Linda each evening; she brought tender grass and chicory, that Linda loved so much, and thin slices of cool carrots to help her eat; brushed her while gently talking; made her feel that she was there by her side.
And there's no doubt that Linda felt that love! How often, after a day inside her stable, without the strength and the desire to go out, it was Marina's voice which guided her where eyes were no longer able to lead. Also at the very end, Marina was there, right by Linda’s side.
Just ten days passed before Moro left us too. After the latest and most violent of the respiratory crisis that lately had given him no rest, our vet put him to sleep to prevent death by suffocation and because, sometimes, the most compassionate choices are the most painful ones.
This is the story of Moro, Linda and Ringo. And for the record this is enough, together with the awareness that we were able to give them a lovely home and serene last years, as well to the other donkeys that, through a thousand roads and a thousand stories, have come to us. It is the mission of our work.
However, there’s something more we want to add. Because we do not tell fairy tales, but a fairy-tale ending is what our old, missed donkeys really deserve.
We hope that Moro’s hooves, which travelled so many kilometres and walked so many paths, have lead him to his friends, that surely were waiting for him, with pricked ears and no longer blurred eyes.
Under an apple tree, or above the clouds which today tower over the Pre-Alps: somewhere Ringo is having a show in front of Linda, while Moro, after having watched him for a while with his well-known patience, is ready for a header warning.
What a show it must be, and how much we would love to see it once again, yet we cannot; but we can imagine, anyway, a smile of tenderness and gratitude for all they have left and for all they have taught us.
You never get used to farewells, but as a wise someone said “How lucky we are to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”.