Pat and Sylvia Carroll are regular visitors to the Sanctuary and have been supporters for many years. In May 2008 they came along to their ninth Donkey Week and said: "We can't wait for next year when we each get our own Donkey Week donkey!"
Earlier this week, I had arranged to meet them both in the Visitors' Centre today before walking down to the Main Yard to mingle with the donkeys. We found Jubilee, a 32 year old donkey looking a little forlorn. Sadly his close companion had passed away last week and he was in much need of some TLC. One of the grooms had been with Jubilee since 8.30 this morning keeping him company and talking to him. With not a moment to waste, both Pat and Sylvia were by his side giving him lots of cuddles. There were many visitors around to help Jubilee adjust and not to feel lonely.
The rain began to fall, so we took cover in the Hayloft Restraurant where we chatted over a pot of tea until the sun came back out. Sylvia mentioned they had adopted a donkey from our sister charity, the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust for Children and Donkeys. "We used to adopt Dominic until he retired, then Tapestry who also retired. Now we adopt Busby. We don't buy Christmas presents any more, we adopt some of the other donkeys for our friends and family, which we renew each year."
Pat and Sylvia were keen to meet my own two donkeys, Lady and Little Pippa, who now live at the Sanctuary. We passed the Isolation Unit where we waited while Mr Zebedee and Crumpet crossed the lane into an adjoining field. It was lovely to see Mr Zebedee trotting and galloping around the field after quite a bit of corrective farriery only two days before. The groom said: "He's still quite sore on his feet but he must wonder what's happened .. he hasn't stopped running around. I think he likes his new feet!"
We walked on down to Hurfords which is part of Trow Farm. As we approached, both Lady and Little Pippa were grazing. Pat asked if the donkeys would come over if I called them, so with a deep breath I shouted: "Lady.... Pippa...." Both heads turned with their ears pricked up and they began walking towards us. I heard Pat say: "How marvelous, they know who you are!"
In the field to one side were "the boys", a group of male donkeys aged between 2-7 years. They all came over to say hello and it was quite a picture seeing them all lined up against the fence with inquisitive noses each giving Pat and Sylvia their special attention.
Sadly, the visit was coming to an end, but it won't be too long before they will be back to visit the donkeys.