Arnie has always been a favourite among grooms and visitors at The Donkey Sanctuary Derbyshire, with his kind nature and striking appearance. We pay tribute to the gentle giant who found a place in so many of our hearts.

At The Donkey Sanctuary, we pride ourselves on the life-long care we give to donkeys and mules who have been abandoned, rescued or relinquished. Eventually, the day comes when we have to say goodbye to animals that join our family.

Arnie, an adored member of our Derbyshire centre, recently came to the end of his journey with us at The Donkey Sanctuary. Grooms noticed that he was getting increasingly uncomfortable on his feet and lying down far more than usual, so called out the vet to investigate further.

Arnie's feet have been historically difficult to manage, and the vet's x-rays confirmed our groom's worst fears. His pedal bones (the bone at the base of a donkey's foot, underneath the hoof) had rotated and were pushing down on the soles of his feet.

Kat Haynes, one of Arnie's grooms, was there when the difficult decision was made:

"Arnie was managing on the highest dosage of pain relief, but the vet knew that it would only be a matter of time until the pedal bones rotated further - and then the highest dose would not be enough to keep him out of pain."

With this in mind, our team made the heartbreaking decision to put Arnie to sleep before his discomfort grew.

The grooms who dedicated themselves to caring for 'Arnie bear', as they affectionately call him, have felt his loss tremendously - but knew that it was the kindest option for their gentlest of donkeys.

"He was much loved by us all and will be sadly missed." says Kat. "The Derbyshire centre won’t seem the same without our Arnie bear."

Among the herd that Arnie has left behind is Dotty the mule, who supporters may remember from her rescue at Appleby Fair last year. Dotty, along with the rest of Arnie's field companions, have been given extra care by their wonderful grooms, and are coping well with the loss of their friend.

In addition to putting their energy into caring for Arnie's friends, grooms are also taking special measures to remember the donkey who made a connection with so many of them.

"Because he made such a big impact on us all, we will be having a plaque made to remember him by, as well as having a plant planted in his honour in our little wood." Kat explains.

Over time, the Derbyshire Centre team are going to build a memorial garden in their wood as a monument to donkeys like Arnie that have made their mark over the years.

Kat and Farm Manager Chris Pile were there to unload Arnie when he arrived at the centre over nine years ago. Kat spent time grooming and scratching him the day before he was put to sleep, and Chris - although heartbroken - stayed with Arnie in his final moments. Farm staff like Kat and Chris ensure that the donkeys who arrive into our care also leave it with a friendly, familiar face at their side.

Although Arnie has left a hoof-print shaped mark on our grooms' hearts, we are sure that they left a mark on his, too.

Your generosity helped to change Arnie's life.

Your support can provide more donkeys with care until the end of their days.