After being rescued, Daphne and Murphy have overcome the odds to not only survive, but thrive in their new life at The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland.

Discovering Daphne and Murphy

Late one Friday afternoon, welfare adviser Ian Colton discovered the helpless mother and son near a run-down farm surrounded by bog and forest.

Parking at the side of the road at twilight, Ian walked up a lane, littered on both sides with piles of tyres, silage plastic and pallets. It was then that he saw the small, grey mare and foal, lurking close to the scrub as if scared of being detected.

The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland has forged a strong relationship with the Department of Agriculture, which supports the charity’s Donkey Welfare Improvement Scheme (DWIS), an initiative to improve the lives of donkeys in private ownership.

Ian, who gives welfare training courses from his home on behalf of the sanctuary, sought the consent of the Department of Agriculture to take the animals into his personal care. He could see instantly they needed a lot of help.

Donkeys in distress

“The mare was very thin, and her long and twisted hooves were in the worst state I’ve ever seen,” he says. “She was in so much pain she needed to lie down whenever she wasn’t grazing. The foal had no hair on his lower legs, a sign he had been spending most of his young life up to his fetlocks in mud and wet peat.”

Daphne leaves trailer on overgrown hooves
Daphne's overgrown hooves
Daphne takes respite from standing with Murphy
Daphne and Murphy were both in extreme amounts of pain when they were found by The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland

The welfare adviser called for urgent reinforcements in the form of The Donkey Sanctuary’s farrier Eugene Butler, who has considerable experience in dealing with deformed hooves.

They named the mare and foal Daphne and Murphy. Eugene first pared and bandaged Daphne’s hooves, and started her on pain relief medication. However, it was soon poor Murphy who was giving the most cause for concern as, turning his head to the wall, he went into decline.

After inspections by dental technician Niamh Mulligan and vet Tom Griffin, Murphy’s blood sample was sent to the laboratory at the sanctuary’s veterinary hospital in Liscaroll, County Cork. The results showed kidney problems and, although fluids were administered by intravenous drip, he showed no signs of recovery. The sad truth dawned; there was a strong likelihood the suffering animal would have to be to put sleep.

Daphne's and Murphy’s transformation

But veterinarian Tom refused to countenance this last resort without organising an operation. The emergency intervention, administered at Ian’s property, involved the removal of a stone the size of a conker from his urethra, the tube between his kidney and bladder.

After a week of recovery at University College Dublin veterinary hospital, Murphy and his mother were well enough to be taken into the care of the grooms at the Liscaroll sanctuary.

Although X-rays show Daphne has severe bone deformity from years of neglect of her hooves, she is now able to walk normally. With regular hoof trimming and reshaping, coupled with a healthy diet, the prognosis is good that that her hoof growth will straighten enough to accept her weight without pain.

It’s a joy to see Daphne and Murphy grazing peacefully in the paddocks at the sanctuary after all they have been through. Now Daphne’s long coat has been clipped and she has gained weight, she is transformed. And Murphy is relaxed enough to enjoy running around with other young donkeys.

This rescue and care by such dedicated professionals is made possible by the support and generosity of the public as we work together to ensure donkeys in need can live a happy and healthy life.

Daphne and Murphy grazing at sanctuary
Daphne and Murphy well recovered
Daphne at The Donkey Sanctuary Ireland
From their first steps on our pastures to now, we've been amazed by Daphne and Murphy's turn-around