Newsletter Spring 2002


Can we really believe Spring is here again after all the wind and rain of January, February and March?


The winter started with a 'run' on stallions. The first was a welfare callout to a young stallion reported to be tethered out on a bog without shelter.

In the event the little chap was found to be in good condition and the owner did bring him down to the house and stables when the weather became really cold and wet but the gentleman had a problem in that he had two stallions and two mares: a recipe for disaster if they all got in together! He had been trying unsuccessfully to sell this particular stallion for some months so, as we knew of someone who was looking to buy a companion donkey, we made some hasty phone calls. The deal was agreed provided we would organise the gelding operation before delivering him to his new home where there were already a mare with foal and another gelding.

With our limited facilities at the Sanctuary we had a problem. It was not wise to bring a young stallion into contact with our elderly mares, especially as the combination of post-operative care, plus three weeks to ensure the stallion was 'safe' meant he would be here for at least a month, so we started enquiring with friends who might be able to help out.

At this point it was Jim to the rescue: Jim already has six donkeys of his own, one of which was also due for gelding, and had land available where the two youngsters could keep each other company until the operations were over so we were quick to accept Jim's generous offer to look after our little fellow for the duration.

With animals things are rarely straightforward, however, as we were to discover and Jim certainly got more than he bargained for! Our donkey Lennie, as he was called, turned out to be haemophiliac (would not stop bleeding) and Jim had a worrying night following his operation when the vet had to make an emergency run to administer the clotting agent and to check for internal bleeding. There were some critical hours during which Jim played nurse but thankfully the morning dawned on Lennie struggling to his feet with the worst behind him. Jim's own little donkey fortunately had no complications seeming hardly to notice the operation and was reunited with his gang the next day. Lennie took a little longer to recover and regain strength but a month later he was delivered to his new home where he has made good friends with Scooby-Doo, Noddy and Amy. He is a lovely natured little donkey who deserves his good home.

Our next stallion came in from a small farm where, due to an incident with the Gardai, the owners had left the country, abandoning the donkey along with many other animals and fowl, most of which were in poor to disgraceful condition. These were subsequently rehomed through the Sligo SPCA. Rob is an elderly stallion, very gentle and with lovely manners so sooner than try to geld him at his advanced age, he joined Lob and Nob in a permanent local foster home, settling in without a bother and soon proving to be a favourite with everyone. But more companions were on the way

Murray and Mint were bought by a donkey lover from very unhappy circumstances and signed over to the Sai Sanctuary. We had known about these donkeys for many years but had been unable to persuade their owner to part with them. He, for his part, had always kept just the right side of the line that would have involved Gardai intervention and prosecution though the conditions the little donkeys suffered in the winter were consistently miserable.

One of the pair is in his teens, the other well over 30 years, again too old to risk gelding, and as they had been together for most of the younger one's life it would have been cruel to separate them at this stage. So they too joined Lob, Nob and Rob at their wonderful manor house home. Their long suffering foster parent would be well justified in thinking he has initiated an 'old Jack's home' - a sanctuary for donkey stallions! Fortunately they all get on well together, though Murray likes to think he's the Mafia boss!

snow donkeys

Alfie - wish you were here?


In February we were happy to welcome Alfie as a resident to the Sanctuary. Alfie is Cassie's son, who was given to friends by his original owners at the time Cassie was admitted to the Sai Sanctuary. Alfie was later sold on and has spent 8 happy years with Tracey and Tom at Manorhamilton were he was trained to the cart and became very much a part of the local community. Tracey and Tom have now moved to Australia but wanted to be very sure that Alfie would not fall on hard times in their absence so asked for him to be admitted to the Sanctuary.

Four years ago Alfie came here for a month's holiday, during which time we thought he and Cassie recognised each other as they took an unusual interest in one another, but sadly it is not so this time .Cassie is adamant that she is too old now to be bothered with young things except to keep them firmly in their place. She prefers to spend her days comfortably settled on the heap of building sand in the yard where she is sheltered from the wind and gleans whatever little bit of sunshine is going!

Alfie for his part soon adjusted to his new surroundings, enjoying the shelter of the big lean-to and the company of many young companions though he does sometimes stand gazing into the distance with a wistful look in his eyes and we wonder if he is wishing he could have gone to Australia too! He is a very friendly, softie of a donkey who will enjoy the extra attention of the summer visitors


Sadly in November we lost Robbie, our little mule. Although 37 years of age Robbie had always looked and behaved much younger so we were somewhat taken aback when he started to fail. He lost a great deal of weight rapidly and blood tests showed he was suffering from advance cirrhosis of the liver. No he was NOT an alcoholic! In farm animals the most usual causes of liver damage are due to either liver fluke parasite or accumulative poisoning from that most dangerous of weeds, ragwort. There was no way we could be decisive but unfortunately the damage was irreversible and dear Robbie became weaker and weaker until he eventually chose to come into one of the small stables in the yard, where he died a few days later. There is an old Irish saying that if someone in the family dies, one of the animals of that family will follow them. It is strange that just two weeks before Robbie left us the brother of Robbie's previous owner had taken his long journey. We pay our respects to them both. Robbie's special friend, Hezekiah, a big black donkey of similar age, took the parting very well, perhaps because they had only been together for less than a year.

Early in the winter Meggie became severely distressed with a kidney complaint which caused her much discomfort and difficulty in passing water. She lost a great deal of weight very quickly and as she is over 40 years of age we feared the end was near. We did everything we could to keep her comfortable including rugging her with a quilted and padded rug and gradually she improved again, so at the time of writing though she is thin and frail, she is still with us, still eating well and still showing an interest in life and her companions. She 'loses the plot' sometimes halfway through her feeding, as if she forgets what she is doing, so she has to be followed around with her bucket and reminded to get on with the job before some other greedy donkey takes it from her, then she resumes feeding with great gusto. Can we hope she will enjoy another summer with us?

Flynn, too, has exhibited his usual resilience though just before Christmas he took exception to sharing his bedroom with all the elderly ladies and moved back to his gentleman's club ­ an old stable in the yard, close to the house ­ very convenient for late night and early morning checks without disturbing the main dormitories, and excellent for Flynn's secret supplies of extra grub! He is deep bedded on thick straw, has his own personal radio and seems to have weathered through yet another winter, much to everyone's surprise.

With Meggie's age and Flynn's severe disabilities, every additional month is a bonus but while they are content to be here we are delighted to do what we can for them.

Robbie the mule

Robbie the mule passed on in November 2001


Winter donkeys



As usual most of the welfare calls concerned donkeys with overlong or badly pared hooves and donkeys which appeared to be without shelter. Fortunately none have proved disastrous and this winter all could be corrected but it cannot be stressed enough just how important good shelter and hoofcare are to the wellbeing of the donkey.

Shelter can be simple provided the donkey can get out of the rain and wind and have somewhere dry to lie down. Hoofcare demands careful attention: trimming by a qualified registered farrier at 8-10 week intervals and access to a dry, preferably hard or sandy surface for a few hours a day.

Donkeys left out in all weathers, on wet and muddy land generally pay with foot rot or abscesses in the hooves and a condition known as mud fever when the backs of the heels crack and become infected due to being constantly wet. In severe cases the infection can travel up the legs causing serious lameness.

The other extreme of keeping the donkey inside for the whole winter is equally unsatisfactory as they do require exercise and mental stimulation, plus a little bit of green fodder in their diet. Beyond that they are really very undemanding. Not too much to ask for the pleasure they give in return.



Once again we extend grateful thanks to everyone who has kept the Sanctuary running with help (both 'hands-on' and in more subtle ways like installing a new programme in the computer and teaching me how to use it), donations, supplies of feedstuffs and carrots, selling of Christmas cards and fundraising and to all, from all over the world, who took the trouble to send letters and Christmas cards to the Sanctuary. It cannot be stated often enough that without your support and encouragement there would be no Sanctuary so please give yourselves a well deserved pat on the back! Thanks to you all.

May peace, health and good weather bless us all for the summer months and always.

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