It's Not ALL Sheep.

Written on 03/02/2021

For as long as I can remember, I have always loved Irish donkeys. In fact, I still have a small stuffed donkey made out of wool, complete with turf carrying baskets, that my Auntie in Dublin brought over to the states for me when she visited back in 1972!  This wonderful donkey has now found its home on the fireplace mantle in our Irish home's sitting room.  

When Harry and I moved to Ireland, I was determined to eventually adopt a donkey or two from one of the many Irish donkey sanctuaries. The previous owner raised and trained beautiful horses on our farm – as well as sheep – so behind the house is a spectacular horse riding ring.  Not that we would ride the donkeys, but it does provide solid ground for wintering a few.

In 2018, a small group of very good friends from the states were visiting and, one day, while we were touring the lovely Mayo countryside, we came across a wonderful donkey. Based on the very worn pullover area, we surmised that this donkey was visited by many carloads of tourists throughout the day. She seemed to be keen to greet us – and we quickly realized she was hoping for a handout. With ripe blackberries just below her fence – we offered her a few and laughed with delight as her big, wiggly lips struggled to grab them from Mary's hand. With my iPhone, I took a few nutty videos of Mary and the donkey and, rightly so, you can hear me laughing on the video while commenting "That's a GREAT donkey!" 

A few weeks later I mentioned that we saw the perfect donkey down along the shores of Lough Mask to another friend, Eamonn. And, it was hilarious, he KNEW just the donkey! I told him that that was the kind of donkey I was hoping to find – but that I was not having any luck with any of the adoption sanctuaries – there never seemed to be any "available".

A few weeks passed, and the next time I saw Eamonn, he told me that he had run into the owner of that same donkey one afternoon, and he asked him if he would be interested in selling her. By this time, she had a donkey pal in with her. A one year old, smaller and darker, classic-colored donkey. (The first donkey was more brown than black, and much larger.)

The owner mentioned that they were his daughters’ donkeys and that he would have to check with them, but that he was pretty sure it would be ok if we wanted to buy them from him. Of course, I couldn't believe it. This was "MARY'S DONKEY"! I told Eamonn that we would for sure take them, and after sleeping on it, the next day we all decided we should ring him back straight away, worried he might change his mind – or, worse, decide to change the price! SO, we piled into the Land Rover with a borrowed livestock trailer in tow and went down to Tourmekeady to collect our new donkeys – "Jo Jo" and "Lucy". 

They were very shy, except to a bucket of nuts (big surprise), but we managed, with the owner's help, to get them up into the trailer. Once on the road, they settled down and seemed to enjoy the ride. We unloaded them both into the pasture with the horse riding ring in it and they went crazy, gobbling up the grass. I put out a bit of straw as it was November, and the grass was in need of a bit of supplemental fodder. We also built a simple, lean-to shed out of clearance sale garden panels with a corrugated metal roof where they could tuck in out of the wind, and sit on dry bedding if they wanted to. A rather large horse trough was already piped with fresh water right next to their new shed, so I would say, these girls had it made.

I renamed them Thelma and Louise – characters from one of my favorite movies, but over time, they seem to have reverted back to responding to Jo Jo and Lucy. Perhaps it’s just what they were used to. But I didn't mind. They come when they're called and that's all that matters.

The donkeys are now quite spoiled, but we love them, tend to their feet when required – about every six months – and visiting guests think it’s a hoot to feed them with fresh carrots and Polo® mints - a peculiar donkey favorite.

I am absolutely amazed that we were able to get that specific donkey (and her friend), but it just goes to show you, everything IS worth asking about. You just never know – they might say "Yes".