Charity our first ever Rescue Donkey
Many people move to Spain to live the dream and think they would like to have a donkey in their garden, or in some cases take pity on a thin one owned by a farmer down the road near where they live and often end up buying it To their delight, their thin donkey gains weight (because they think the extra feed and attention is making the animal gain condition) but that delight turns to amazement and often shock when, several months later, their donkey gives birth!. This is just one example of the many stories we have heard from people contacting us for help and advice who through kindness, have taken on a donkey or two then later realise they have a lack of knowledge of how to care for these complex but wonderful creatures. We ourselves knew very little about donkeys but we had to learn a lot very quickly when we rescued Charity.
In April 2009 Charity was spotted on a piece of waste ground tied up with no food or water along with two other donkeys and a horse. In the early days the police did not want to get involved and due to the condition of these animals it was feared that they would not survive due to malnutrition and dehydration. Within 48 hours and with the help of the public the Rescue Centre was able to raise the money to rescue Charity and the other two donkeys. These two seemed in much better condition and we were able to place them instantly in a good home. However, Charity was in a really bad way so she and the rescued horse that we named Chance came to live at the Rescue Centre. Charity was around 25 years old with rotten teeth, broken ribs, poor back alignment, arthritis, hoof infections and much more. The old halter she had on was tied together with string. This must have been on her a very long time as it had become embedded into the flesh between her ears. She was indeed a very sorry sight. The biggest challenge was to get her to eat again as we had to get her stronger so we could start to treat all her problems.
We tried everything we could think of but she showed no interest in anything. Out of desperation we found some mince pies in the freezer left over from Christmas.
I warmed one to get the aroma of the spices and took it to her to see if it would arouse her interest and that was it! Charity loved them. Luckily Cookezie, a catering company, had boxes of them left over from Christmas and they gladly donated them for Charity. We had to warm them up as she would only eat warm food and then slowly started to introduce her to proper food. We also found that she liked warm tea with soya milk and this is how we got her to drink again. For the rest of her life with us she had many bowls of tea throughout the day. Kay Barry, our equine dentist, worked miracles with her teeth, levelling out the rotten stumps then filling them to hold them together. She was probably the first donkey in Spain to ever receive fillings. Tony our friend who is an international farrier actually flew over from England on a regular basis to treat her hooves and make special shoes to help her and of course, Dorothea, our equine vet was constantly treating Charity, attending to all her problems and needs. Because of all the love and attention she received she went from being an old, frightened, down trodden donkey to an amazing, larger than life personality that everybody loved and oh how she loved the public. On open days she became our "meet and greet" girl eagerly waiting for everyone to make a fuss of her on the horse tour. She spent her days in the garden or at the door of our house which we had to keep open for her summer and winter, so she could feel close and hear us when we were indoors. She only wanted to be with humans, she did not like other donkeys or horses. She even tried to sleep at night in the garden to be close to us but as winter came and it started to rain, we had to make her go into her stable which was a special stable, away from all the other horses, with her bowl of tea of course!
Because of her long legs and back problems due to old injuries we had to help her get up in the mornings. However, she would not try to until I brought her tea to her. Then, she would then sit in a position so we could pull her up. Even her breakfast had to be warmed up for her in the winter or she would not eat it. We had two wonderful years with Charity in our lives and we know she enjoyed every minute of her time with us.
Sadly all the years of neglect and abuse finally caught up with Charity and as we could not have her in pain we had to make the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye to her; in April 2011 she was put to sleep. She will always be with us and in our hearts as we loved her very much.
Quote from Dorothea our Vet
"Donkeys are behaviorally and physiologically different from horses. Both donkeys and mules are very stoic making it difficult to assess illness; it is likely that they will be much sicker or more painful than casual observation would lead one to conclude. There is a myth that says that donkeys and mules don't colic. This is not true, but mild bouts of colic are probably never observed because of their stoic nature. This means that many times diseases are already very advanced when they are detected and complications have already developed.
One particularly serious complication is hyperlipidemia. Hyperlipidemia is a condition in which there is an elevated level of lipids (fat) in the blood stream. Any problem that causes the individual to stop or reduce their food intake puts the individual at risk of hyperlipidemia. When hyperlipidemia occurs, the clinical signs may occur acutely and include jaundice, lack of appetite, weakness, depression that may range from mild to severe, incoordination, diarrhea, mild colic, fever, ventral swelling, and recumbence. In very severe cases, sudden death may occur due to severe fatty infiltration of the liver, rupture of the liver and fatal hemorrhage. However, one must remember that the primary predisposing problem may overshadow the hyperlipidemia. Obesity is a predisposing factor for hyperlipidemia, and people should remember that horse food is not adequate for donkeys because they get easily overweight.
Severe pain can be a cause for a donkey to stop eating, for example due to orthopedic problems like laminitis, arthritis, soft tissue injuries and hoof infections. Many times these problems come all together, and treating them can be a real challenge".
If you have any concerns about your Donkeys welfare, please do not hesitate to call your vet. As early intervention is always best.
We have since rescued 5 other donkeys that all live with us at the Rescue Centre together with the 46 horses and ponies that we also have here; more about them another time!
"To be loved by a horse, or by any animal, should fill us with awe – for we have not deserved it. "
MARION C. GARRETTY, b 1917
We would love you to come and meet our beautiful equines and invite you to visit on our Sunday Open Days here at the centre between 1pm – 4pm. Take our tour and have tea and snacks in "Charity's Tearooms" named in honour of our little darling. For more information on the EHCRC please
We hope you are enjoying our weekly column as much as we are enjoying sharing some of our residents' stories with you. If you have any questions on any animal welfare issues or for more details of the work of the EHCRC call Sue on 652021980 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Costa Blanca News Article January 2013