At The Donkey Sanctuary in Cyprus, two reserved and solitary donkeys have made a connection that has brought their personalities into full bloom.

The Donkey Sanctuary Cyprus cares for with a wide range of donkeys, with extra attention being paid to a group with additional needs. Within this herd, two donkeys have formed an incredible friendship in order to overcome not only their sight difficulties, but their reluctance to bond with others.

Rescue and relinquishment

Before finding a forever home at The Donkey Sanctuary, neither Harry nor George had enjoyed an easy start to life.

Harry was discovered alone and abandoned in a Limassol village with no microchip. He was blind in one eye, and there was no sign of anyone who could have cared for him. With nowhere for him to go, police handed him to The Donkey Sanctuary Cyprus in July 2005.

Since then, he has been attended to with patience, love and care by the sanctuary staff and grooms. Now at the grand age of 27, Harry has come a long way – but the scars of emotional trauma do not heal quickly. He can still be very nervous of human contact, and had not bonded with any other donkeys in the herd until meeting George.

Since joining The Donkey Sanctuary in 2013, George has made quite the impact. He was relinquished when his owner had to return to the UK to care for his father, but due to the fact George is partially sighted, his owner could not find a loving home willing to take him on.

George’s poor sight had led to his reluctance to bond with other donkeys – until he stepped in to play an unlikely role in an orphaned foal’s life. When little Helena lost her mother shortly after weaning, staff were surprised and enamoured to discover that their own lonesome George had taken the lost foal under his wing.

An unlikely bond

As Harry was well into his ‘golden years,’ our Cyprus team decided to move him into the herd with additional needs – and home to George – in order to provide him with specialist care.

Although George had learnt to care for young Helena in the past, he was still generally reticent towards interacting with other donkeys and humans. The team were overwhelmed to discover that the pair of reclusive fellows, both dealing with sight difficulties, quickly formed an incredible bond.

The two appear to look out for each other, and as if by magic have now truly come out of their shells. They are even seeking out human affection, ear scratches and play.

Managing partially sighted donkeys

Although Harry and George have become more playful and expressive since making friends, their visual impairments along with Harry’s age make it challenging for them to get as much exercise as other donkeys. Thankfully, our dedicated team in Cyprus take a lot of care to ensure they manage the pair’s weight.

Although Harry is blind in one eye, he walks onto the weigh bridge very confidently and stands patiently while staff check his weight and body condition score. The team always ensure to lead him on with his good eye towards them, in order for him to take in his surroundings and be sure of his footing.

George’s poor sight means that he cannot see objects that are close to him, making a task such as walking on to the weigh bridge rather more daunting for him than it is for other donkeys. Instead of causing him stress by asking him to step on to the weigh bridge, the team manually take his height and girth measurements with a tape measure, and use The Donkey Sanctuary’s weight chart to calculate how much he weighs.

Since Harry and George became companions, their transformation in temperament and trust has enabled their grooms to form a closer relationship with them both, making it far easier to perform routine assessments and to monitor their health.

As they spend the rest of their years together, the unlikely pair can look forward to receiving the best care possible – despite their difficult beginnings.

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