Newsletter Spring 2001

Jenny arrived from Coopershill in February.

Jenny arrived from Coopershill in February.

Welcome to our Spring 2001 Newsletter. It has been an extraordinary winter in many respects, not least with the weather which started with bitter temperatures and almost monsoon rain throughout October and November but then became uncharacteristically cold, dry, bright and frosty and with an unusual amount of snow for a good part of December, January and February, a change of climate much appreciated by the donkeys who tolerate the cold well with their thick woolly coats, but detest the wet and windy weather usually endemic to Irish winters. Many of the older generation warn of the old saying "every month curses a dry February" so we very much hope we don't pay throughout the rest of year for what has been a fairly dry winter overall.

The new winter quarters for the donkeys which was built in appalling weather conditions by friends and neighbours Joost and Jurgen, works really well and is popular with both donkeys and visitors, to say nothing of workers who have everything close to hand. By the end of February numbers had increased to 24, a figure which could not have been accommodated in the old sheds. The "golden oldies" stayed in the part of the hay barn they had commandeered throughout the summer and enjoyed being able to chat with their younger companions over the half wall between the two buildings. All we need now is another hay barn for storage of straw and hay!

Early in November we were pleased to be able to help with a 6 week old donkey foal who was suffering from severe double pneumonia. The little fellow had been without shelter in atrocious weather since his birth on September 23rd, and as a donkey foal has absolutely no waterproofing in its coat, he had become thoroughly soaked and chilled over a prolonged period. His owner had not understood this and was devastated. A vet was called who returned daily for over a week to give fluid under the skin, shelter was provided with an infra-red lamp and deep bedding, and for three days and nights the mare was hand-milked in order to force-feed the foal. When the foal was strong enough to be moved he came to the Sanctuary with his Mum for continued care until the warmer weather, as his owner often has to work away and the little fellow needed constant monitoring for some weeks.


A 'Flectalon' coat was tailor made for him that would retain his body heat even in the event of his getting wet and fortunately the mare looked after him well bringing him to shelter at the first sign of bad weather. Over a long period he has made a full recovery and now delights visitors with his amusing antics and jolts the oldies out of their complacent snoozes with his boundless energy. He'll be greatly missed when he does return home, though it's good to know he will be reunited with three younger, fun loving playmates.

A 'Flectalon' coat was tailor made for him that would retain his body heat even in the event of his getting wet and fortunately the mare looked after him well bringing him to shelter at the first sign of bad weather. Over a long period he has made a full recovery and now delights visitors with his amusing antics and jolts the oldies out of their complacent snoozes with his boundless energy. He'll be greatly missed when he does return home, though it's good to know he will be reunited with three younger, fun loving playmates.


At the other end of the scale we were sad to lose dear old Jasper, a pale grey working gelding in his mid to late thirties who was relinquished to the Sanctuary by Mick Burke of Ballysadare and who had been fostered by Mrs. Joan O'Hara at Coopershill, Riverstown to keep her mare of 31 years company. Jasper and Jenny had been inseparable for the years they had been together so naturally there was some concern for Jenny's wellbeing when her dear friend died. Mrs O'Hara decided to let Jenny come to the Sanctuary to be with other donkeys as she would be unbearably lonely on her own. It was a brave decision as Jenny was born at Coopershill and has been the family pet for all of those 31 years. Parting with her, even over such a short distance, was obviously a wrench but it seems that for Jenny, at least, the decision was correct as she has settled in beautifully. She joined the 'golden oldies' of her own volition and now spends most of the day lazing around in the barn with her new friends, making occasional forays into the field for a munch of the green stuff and a quick sunbathe when the weather is good, then back for a fill up on hay, straw and titbits. I'd love to think I could be as adaptable and amenable at her age (pro rata!)

donkeys in snow

donkeys in snow

Snow, snow........


Early in the winter we were reunited with Noah, another Sanctuary donkey who is fostered as a companion to Francis, Their carer, a lady in her 70's, decided to take a well earned break to visit relatives in different parts of the world over the winter and asked if 'the boys' could come on holiday too. As it is a condition of all our fostered donkeys that the facilities of the Sanctuary are available at such times we were naturally delighted to welcome Francis and Noah. An old hand at this game (in all respects as Noah is well into his 30's). Noah seemed to remember where he was and quickly reunited with some old cronies. Francis, who is inherently a rather shy and timid gentle giant prefers the company of the older donkeys and the warmth and comfort of the sheds to the great and wild outdoors but both have made themselves at home and team up at the end of the day to share their news.

Next came Lisa and Peadar, a beautiful and healthy pair of donkeys who would seem to have no place in the Sanctuary. Theirs is again a human story as their owner, who is devoted to them, has had to return to UK for an indefinite period to nurse a sick relative. Temporary foster homes have been found for her other pets and we were delighted to be able to help out with Lisa and Peadar. We hope that everything works out for them all very soon. The two donkeys chose to be stabled separately for the first few nights but quickly made friends and integrated with 'the gang'.

Many of you have enquired about the progress of Lucky Biscuit, the small black Sheltland/Welsh pony who came to us last year. We are delighted to report that thanks to the wonderful efforts of our farrier combined with loads of TLC, Biccy is making slow but secure progress. Her hooves are beginning to look more like hooves and less like stilts, her joints have loosened appreciably and she is altogether more mobile. She still lies down for a disproportionate time compared with normal ponies but stands and grazes for ever increasing periods and remains her usual affectionate, cheerful and laid-back little self. Adored by all, she is a firm favourite with small visitors because of her extreme gentleness.

Flynn also makes good progress. Despite his horribly deformed front legs he too motors around the place with increasing confidence, eats well and loves meeting visitors (especially if they have a sneaky ginger biscuit in their pocket just for him). It is not unusual to find him up the field on warmer days, grazing with the other animals and giving every impression of a perfectly happy donkey doing the best he can and delighted to do it. Long may he reign.

donkeys in snow

And more snow..........


sale of work



Fundraising this winter has been tremendous. The photograph shows Trudi Young helping me with the Strandhill School Craft Fair just before Christmas where we sold exquisitely knitted toys and dolls, made and donated by Gwen Pearce of Marazion, Cornwall, UK. All the toys are fully washable, non allergenic and filled with fireproof stuffing so continue to be extremely popular as Christmas presents for small people. Many adult collectors also appreciate the beautiful craftwork. Once again we say a big thank you to Gwen for her continued support and generosity.


Trudi spent many hours with us over the winter months as she chose the Sanctuary as her venue to complete her Community Work and some of her fund-raising project for her Transitional Year at school. She also sold toys at a School Craft Fair and helped to sell Sanctuary Christmas cards - a welcome change from mucking out!

Fortunately for the Sanctuary Trudi was only one of a wonderful group of people who helped to swell funds for the donkeys, both in Ireland and abroad. Thanks go to everyone who sold Christmas cards ( and everyone who bought them - apologies to all who were disappointed when we sold out so early). Thanks go to Diane Keevans who also raised money for the Sligo SPCA on Wren Night, and to the many, many generous souls who remember the donkeys with donations and feedstuffs. The size of the donation is less important than the goodwill behind it, so we thank equally our young neighbours who regularly donate part of their pocket money; all the generous souls who gave what they could, to coffee mornings held in Cornwall; to Toni, a dear friend of the donkeys who donated £1,000. Special thanks also go to Phil, Matt and Marion of Petwatch in Dublin who fundraised £1,000 and added generously to this sum from their own pockets. It is extremely humbling to witness the love and energy so many people are prepared to give to this small project but none is as touching as the efforts of children. In this newsletter we especially thank Hannah Coogan-Murphy and her friends at Drumcondra, Dublin, who decided to hold a sale of work outside their house just before Christmas with the joint intention of helping the donkeys and giving their friends some ideas for Christmas presents. In spite of chilly temperatures they stuck it out and raised £50, to which their parents added another £30! What a tremendous effort. Many, many thanks to everyone. With these additional funds we will be able to complete the effluent tank, sand area and fencing around the new lean-to winter quarters and still have a little bit in reserve to meet ongoing bills for farriership, feedstuffs, bedding and general maintenance.

Some of this unexpected increase in fund raising is undoubtedly due to the unsolicited exposure given to The Sanctuary on RTE's Nationwide programme which went out on Monday 29th January. Our thanks go to interviewer Valerie Walters and cameraman Enda O'Byrne who spent an bitterly cold day filming at the Sanctuary to put together a powerful nine minute slot explaining some of our work, and to the team and producer of Nationwide who made it all possible. The response has been uplifting to say the least with letters and telephone calls of encouragement from all over the country plus a few spontaneous donations, some from people who did not even include their name or address. Thank you everyone. Thanks are also to be extended to An Post about whom we are generally all too ready to complain. Two days after the programme I received a letter addressed to "The Lady, RTE Nationwide, 7pm Monday, Sligo". It arrived without question or difficulty! It was from a kind gentleman from Dublin who, in his own words is " knocking up in years" and who wishes to donate to the Sanctuary on an annual basis. "It's only £50", he said "but as I intend to live to 90 you'll get it for a year or two!". Thank you Bernie.

a family scene

A family scene

At the time of writing all precautions are being taken to avoid the possibility of Foot and Mouth Disease reaching Ireland. The Sanctuary is temporarily closed to visitors as, although donkeys are not susceptible to the disease which only affects cloven hoofed animals, we do have our pet sheep ourselves and are situated in the centre of a close farming community. We apologise for any inconvenience to people who wished to visit during this time and appreciate their full understanding.

Finally, by popular request, we have "blank for your own message" cards for sale from the Sanctuary, picturing Atumi and Doris when Atumi was only a few days old. The cards sell at 70p each plus post and packing. There have also been many requests for a repeat of our Christmas card "The Choirboys". The minimum order for these cards is 500. If there are sufficient orders then, of course they can be repeated so please let me know before the end of August if you would like this to happen.

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