Donkeys have been a huge part of my life for 28 years. The four-legged, long-eared ones; some two legged ones have been for much longer than that.
For me, there is not an animal-joy that can compare to the excitement of a new born babe. The softness of their fur, their velvet nose and incredible ears – holding them in your arms like a baby is something to experience. It has been such a delight to me, and as Chief Dan George says: “My heart soars.”
But equally emotional on the other end of the scale, is the day they leave. It is not for missing them that I am sad. I am always confident that they are going to a wonderful home where they will have even more love and attention than I can give them. It is for the moms that I grieve.
This weekend, all three of my summer babies have gone off to their new lives. Summer Solstice … I called her Sully, but her new parents are calling her Summer, is joining her sister, ‘Colette’, who they adopted last year. They are great folk who have obviously love her a great deal and have kept in touch and sent photos to keep me updated. I am so happy for both Sully and Colette, to have each other.
Paddy O’Malley was adopted on Thursday by a lovely young couple with two small children. I could instantly tell that he was going to have a wonderful life. In fact, I saw myself in the mom – the excitement and enthusiasm of getting her first donkey – I can still feel that. But it was her genuine concern for Maggie that endeared me to her. She kept saying ‘I feel so badly for her.’ And so did I.
That’s the very hardest thing about raising donkeys. Not letting them go, but watching the mothers frantically looking for their babes. I cry every time. I can’t even think about it without crying. I tell them over and over – “I’m SO sorry, I’m so VERY, VERY sorry.” They are my dear friends and I hate to see them grieving. It just tears your heart out to see them running and pacing, and hear them crying out. I can’t look out the window.
When this young couple got Paddy – who I have I have actually called ‘Chocolate’, I warned them: “I just need you to know, this won’t be your only donkey. Be prepared to fall in love. He is just going to be your first, he won’t be an only child.” I was speaking from experience. Donkeys, for animal lovers, are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.
The phone rang on Friday, it was Chocolate’s new parents. They were smitten in record time. ‘Yep, we’re in love.’, the husband confirmed. ‘Can we get that little white one too.’ ‘Sure, when?’ I asked. ‘Would an hour be okay?’ was the answer.
I am so happy for Paddy O’Malley and Molly Malone. Not only are they going to have the most wonderful life with people who clearly love them already, and will grow up with two darling little children, but they will get to be together.
It was a little easier on me to have all three moms lose their babies at the same time. When there’s one missing, they particularly panic. This time, they seem to have settled quicker, going back to their old pattern of hanging out with the girls.
They'll be okay, and so will I.