I get to meet some lovely people and Jenny Mitchell is one such person. I met her through Kate Selley in our veterinary hospital who said "I know you two are just going to get on so well"! So what's the connection between donkeys and seatbelts?
Jenny works for Unwin Safety Systems, an international family owned business based in Martock, Somerset whose core business is in producing a variety of safety systems for wheelchair users in Transport, and, many other items such as seatbelts for the more able bodied, much of which uses a webbing material. Jenny is aware of the Sanctuary's work in developing countries, and got in touch to see if we could use any of the many varieties of Unwin webbing to help in the rehabilitation of donkeys overseas. The company was delighted to support the initiative.
Many of you who have read Chris Garrett's blogs will know that he can turn his hand to most things when teaching donkey owners to make harnessing for their donkeys and Jenny's webbing has proved a very useful and valuable resource for harness making.
Kirimisu's new harness
The saddle in the picture looks very crude, two blocks of wood and some seatbelt webbing. But this donkey called Kirimisu, which works hard 6 days a week, pulling the worst cargo (water) doesn't have a mark on him.
That little saddle, as opposed to the metal arch one used previously drops the harness price by half, from 650 KS to 350 KS (about £3 for the whole set) and the manufacturing/skill levels are also drastically reduced, meaning Chris can teach just about anyone to make it in an hour or so.
Always wanted a donkey
Kate introduced me to Jenny and her husband, Tim, over a coffee in the Hayloft Restaurant and Jenny told me that she had always wanted a donkey. After being given 4 acres of land as a wedding present, she was really looking forward to having her own donkey someday.
One day she saw in a newspaper a donkey for sale - a 2 year old colt. She arranged to meet the owner at Taunton Market and the donkey seemed fairly quiet. At the end of the day, if she had known what she knows now, she wouldn't have bought the donkey. But having listened to what Jenny had to say from this point, this donkey was about to receive an enormous amount of tender loving care.
After getting Henry home Jenny notice that he didn't seem very well. He wasn't eating and didn't seem to drink. She called the vet out 5 times as it appeared that but Henry wanted to eat but couldn't. In frustration , Jenny asked another vet to come and take a look. She realised it must be serious when he called the Sanctuary and arranged for blood tests.
The results didn't look too good. Two of our vets went to see Henry and after examining him, thought the best place for him would be a stay at the Sancgtuary's hospital where they could keep an eye on him and do further tests which revealed he had facial paralysis - no wonder he couldn't eat. He was also 13 years of age rather than only 2 years of age. Jenny told me how angry she was. The owner turned out to be a dealer and had lied to her.
Jenny had Henry at home for about 3 weeks before he came into hospital and they all thought he was coming round with all the veterinary care available. Then one day Tim took a call and Jenny could tell by his face "…love, I've just had a call. Henry's had a bad turn". He had collapsed in the paddock. Within the hour Jenny was with him and she could see he was very poorly. Shortly after, Henry died in her arms.
The story doesn't end here, but that's for another day.