Newsletter Spring 1999


Flynn takes a stroll in the garden in front of the Top House.

With the farming crisis an undeniable reality this surely has been a winter of discontent.

If the farmers have suffered, in many cases their stock has suffered more as many hundreds of cattle, sheep, goats and horses have died from a combination of starvation and abysmal conditions. Were it not for the extreme wet weather the donkey, with his economical feeding habits, might have fared better. The increase in our field work calls shows clearly that this has not been the case and we have been confronted with some sorry scenes mostly resulting from a complete lack of shelter combined with negligible foot care. Some, happily, had positive outcomes.

Yet for all the winter's hardships the Sanctuary has been the recipient of some extraordinary generosities, particularly from people who have moved abroad. Here we thank Frauke and Simon for the gift of RSJ's for building a lean-to shed, hay nets and head collars; Hilde and Fritz for baby trees for planting and a huge quantity of timber for burning - gold in a year that was too wet to save the usual turf supply; and Linda and Tim who donated, amongst other things, a brand new water tank, hay nets, fencing materials, garden shears and a nine foot gate. Their generosity also extended to neighbours with farming equipment and to the Sligo SPCA with good quality jumble sale items. The Sanctuary extends heartfelt thanks for all these items and to the many faithful and wonderful supporters who, sometimes very generously, kept the cash flowing for hay, straw, haylage, concentrates, farrier's fees, travelling expenses and day to day running costs, to say nothing of fundraising efforts, gifts of items for sales of work and help with selling Christmas cards. Penny Liszt deserves a special mention for the gift of an exquisite hand made American style patchwork quilt which will be raffled at some future date in conjunction with the Sligo SPCA. Our thanks also go to David and Rebecca Lillie for the continued and unstinting use of their horse trailer, to the neighbours and friends who pitched in with practical help, and to Eleanor, Helen and Martin who combined efforts to give a much needed "away break". Once again thanks also go to Martin for formatting this newsletter.

Sale of Work

Two craft fairs in December, run jointly with the Sligo SPCA raised over two hundred pounds for each charity, mostly from the sale of exquisitely dressed dolls and hand knitted soft toys made and donated by Gwen Pearce, beautiful hand crocheted rugs made and donated by Joy Payne and jewellery, made and donated by Diana Jones. The standard of work was high and obviously appreciated by the buyers, many of whom complimented the ladies on their handiwork.

New Arrival - Flynn

Before Christmas we received a call from someone who needed to find a home for "an elderly donkey with very bad feet". The donkey had been dumped on this person and kept until referral to us.

Unfortunately, no mention had been made of the donkey's front legs which were bent out to the side as in a case of severe rickets. The journey home took its toll and Flynn arrived so exhausted it was many weeks before he recovered sufficiently to get up from a lying position unaided. It is possible that this was his normal condition and not as a result of the journey: we do not know.

The first month meant several nightly checks as he had to be helped to his feet every two or three hours around the clock to avoid pressure sores. It was like having a new baby in the house! X-rays showed an inch of extra bone had built up on the inside of the front knee joints, though the outside of the joints appeared normal.


As our vet concluded he was not in pain, Flynn was encouraged to make a life for himself again and with the help of herbal and homeopathic remedies and MSM he gradually improved. As a precaution against him hurting himself the walls of his stable are lined with old mattresses and foam rubber, mostly donated by sympathisers. He has now perfected the art of hopping up from lying on his left side, and we have perfected the art of aiding him from his right side! Except in very bad weather he takes his constitutional in the garden, happily munching his way through all the treasured plants and shrubs, sunning himself on the grass and generally enjoying a gentle life. As he is obviously not able to cope with the ebullience of the younger and stronger donkeys, it seemed all that was missing was a companion. Late in February Meggie answered that call.



Meggie came into the Sai Sanctuary as a result of a call to the Sligo SPCA concerning cattle. In the event the cattle were found to be in reasonable condition but as the Inspectors were leaving the property they stumbled on a very elderly, overweight donkey mare suffering chronic lice infestation and with extremely distorted, split, abscessed and overgrown hooves.

She is severely sway backed, probably from years of carrying overloads of turf from the bog, and was lame on both front legs. A close inspection of her teeth (what teeth?!) revealed that she is around 35-40 years of age.

The sad part of this story is that the two people who owned Meggie lived, themselves, in conditions that most of us would not have tolerated for animals. We were informed that many attempts have been made to improve their Lifestyle but for whatever reasons, they prefer to stay as they are.

Fortunately, they understood that Meggie needed the sort of help they were unable to offer and although after 26 years together it must have been a wrench to part with her, Meggie was relinquished to the SSPCA and subsequently collected and brought in by the Sai Sanctuary. The first couple of days she remained alone whilst she was wormed and deloused, but she had heard the other donkeys and was mad for company. Given her freedom she headed straight for Flynn's shed and to everyone's delight, including Flynn's, there she decided to stay. Her hooves were trimmed in two sessions which gave her time to regain her balance and literally "find her feet", then after an initial reluctance to leave her new haven, she gained confidence and now accompanies Flynn on his garden forays. They make a lovely pair, identical in colour, though she is as plump as he is thin.


Butler is a handsome dark brown working gelding who was bought by a concerned donkey lover and relinquished to the Sanctuary to ensure his safe future. He had originally belonged to an elderly man who had worked and looked after him well, man and donkey each dependent and respectful of each other. When the old man died Butler (now named for his original owner) fell into less happy circumstances lasting over seven years. When rescued by his benefactor he was in a sorry state having been, to all intents and purposes, abandoned on a derelict farmsite which his current owner had vacated. He had no food nor shelter, he was thin, his feet were in an atrocious condition and he suffered parasitic infestation. By the time he was delivered here he was physically already well on the way to recovery but his mental scars are considerable and it will take time before he learns to trust mankind again. Whilst he will happily touch noses he is not at all happy about hands, especially near his head! He is also slow to integrate with the other donkeys, preferring to stay around the yard, quietly keeping his distance and watching every move. Food, however, produces an unfailing and noisy response and recently he is gaining confidence through a friendship with Peggy, a small, dark brown, black nosed mare who was relinquished to the Sanctuary when her loving owners, Linda and Tim (mentioned earlier), had to move abroad. Peggy has a placid, easy going affectionate nature and adores human company - the perfect foil for nervous Butler.

Paddymac and Donna
Paddymac and Donna

Paddymac and Donna

Late in March these two donkeys were voluntarily relinquished to the Sai Sanctuary by their elderly owner who felt that he was no longer able to look after them properly. This gentleman had worked donkeys most of his life and wished to ensure that Paddymac and Donna would retire in comfort together, with a guarantee that they would never be separated except by natural causes. Donna is a small dark brown mare of around 25 years; Paddymac half her years, larger, grey in colour and very nervous of being handled. Both suffer with overgrown and abscessed hooves, partly due to wintering out on wet land but mostly due to a dearth in local farriers.


Unlike many who would "turn a blind eye" to the donkeys' suffering, their owner proved to be a man of integrity when, instead of trying to sell them on, he opted for sending them into care. Paddymac proved to be less of a gentleman as he resisted all efforts to be caught and loaded for his journey to the Sanctuary, only surrendering after delivering his intended captor a few (fortunately inaccurate) kicks to the thigh. When he thought Donna was going to be taken away he capitulated and judging from the silly look on his face when he landed a couple of hours later in a clean dry field with newly bedded shelter and haynet provided, he is rather pleased he did! The resident donkeys soon spotted the newcomers and bellowed a rapturous welcome fit to be heard across several counties.

Isaac ventures forth in search of a snack.


Through the continued efforts of Clem Ryan, Chief Welfare Officer for The Donkey Sanctuary, Co Cork it is hoped there will soon be a voluntary welfare officer covering the counties of Sligo and Leitrim and a second, full time, paid welfare officer nationwide.

This gives us at the Sai Sanctuary deeply appreciated back-up facilities as it means that, through referral, we need never refuse to help any donkey, anywhere in the country.

Please never hesitate to contact us and/or leave a detailed message if you know of a suffering or abandoned donkey.

The Last Word

One last vote of thanks goes to the youngsters who faithfully support the Sanctuary. One of these is Gayle, a young girl who adopted Solomon as "her" donkey three years ago. Since then Gayle has never failed to send, not only regular donations towards Solomon's upkeep, but presents of all descriptions to Solomon, the other donkeys and even Sanctuary staff! Similarly, Diane has continued to adopt, to fundraise and to sell Christmas cards on the Sanctuary's behalf. These are only two of many young people who take the donkeys' welfare very much to heart and we thank you all for your concern.

Here's wishing everyone a very good summer.

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