Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Donkey Story
OK I have been talked into writing a blog.  So I wrote an intro to do what intros do, so here it is:

Hi Folks,  Ramsey and Emma's Kris suggested I tell my story of my rescue miniature donkeys.  So here it goes.  

First a little donkey background on me.  I’m almost 58 and originally from Ohio.  When I was very young age 4-11 or so my uncle had a house in the desert in southern California.  I would come out with my parents on spring or Christmas vacation.  There was a man called Andy the Donkey Man who lived in a trailer somewhere literally along Hwy 111 between Rancho Mirage and Cathedral City.  As my father and uncle would tell the story I insisted, stomped around the house etc, that we go for a drive to see Andy and his donkeys.  I can still see the vacant lot where he squatted with his donkeys.  So I have always been drawn to our long-eared friends.,8263672

On a drive trip back from Yellowstone to Ohio in 2000 somewhere in either far northern Wyoming or far southern Montana at the top of mountain my 10 year twins and I came across a herd of burros.  Of course we stopped and spent hours there with them.  They were leery of most of the people that stopped but went right to one of the twins and then over to me and then just hung out with us.  We had no treats just the time to sit and commune with them.

Flash forward to June 2008.  I had moved from Columbus to a 94 acre farm in southern ohio, northern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  The twins were graduating high school and at one of the grad parties a fellow student’s mother came over and asked if I wanted two donkeys, out of the blue.  She had a friend of a friend who worked for an equine vet in the Cinci area and he had 2 miniature donkeys that he didn’t want his wife to get in their divorce!  He had them hiding out at one vet techs barns and was trying to find them a home.  Without a second of hesitation I shouted yes. 
I really wasn’t sure of the height range so I did some research and made sure I limbed up all the apple trees.  On the 5th of July I borrowed a trailer, had a flat tire on it about an hour in to the trip.  Thanks goodness I hadn’t picked them up yet. 
When I arrived at the barn to meet Pistol and Pedro (already named) I was sure I was looking at other donkeys as they didn’t look very mini to me.  They were pretty tall and morbidly obese.  I couldn’t believe it.  They had been hidden for so long they were not let out of the barn for fear the vets wife would find them.  They were feed the same as the horses in the barn-alfalfa.
Now understand I had never ever loaded a horse or donkey into a trailer in my life.  Of course I had seen it done with all the ease of well-rehearsed dance.  Boy was I in for a surprise.  It was just the tech and my clueless self.  I wish someone had filmed it.  I was on my ass more than I was on my feet.  After 2 hours of trying every we could think of the tech called another tech from the vet office who came to our rescue.  Even with 3 of us it took another 30+ minutes to get them in.

On the 2 hour drive home I knew we hadn’t limbed the apple trees high enough and that there was immediate work to be done upon arriving home.  Even after taking more off they jumped and balanced on their hind legs to reach the apples.  It looked like the scene from Jurassic Park where the brachiosaurus makes a few attempts and finally reaches the highest leaves on the tree.
I had a little flower garden at the front of my cabin and had put a decorative fence based on what I thought how tall they were going to be.  Wrong again.  The next day I was out getting 6’ tall fence to keep them out.  I also had a vegetable garden that was already fenced to keep the deer and rabbits out but little did I know I persistent donkeys could be!!!  In a matter of hours they had eaten my sweet corn, stalks and all down to the ground.  Their palate did run much to squash and Brussels sprouts though.  And thankfully my tiny multi-color potatoes were below ground level, although I have no doubt they would have found them eventually.  

Well now it was time for my vet to come check ‘em out.  ROTFL 5 times over.  Sheath cleaning-yeah right.  We had Pedro tied to a tree, not a big enough tree.  The vet had me holding up his tail and my daughter in law holding his penis so he didn’t retract it before cleaned.  Thank heaven no one videotaping because I can just read the caption on youtube.
The vet did blood test and discovered the IR.  We had them on a diet, wearing grazing muzzles and I kept the grass mowed very short.

In December, in the middle of an Ohio blizzard, a retired military horse that needed a home arrived.  Well the donkeys knew horses but…….the horse, Carbonero, had never seen a donkey in 20+ years.  Well all hell broke loose.  No serious injuries but my oldest son, who is not a horse or donkey person wound up with a big ole horse hoof print in the middle of his back. 
It didn’t take long before the 3 of them became fast friends.  At the end of January we had a record breaking ice storm.  I was iced in for 12 days and without power for 8 days.  Carb slipped on the ice and went under the old farm truck and was stuck for 15-30 hysterical minutes.  The donkeys were surrounding him, either to see what the problem was or maybe to help but they were in serious danger of being killed by his flailing hooves.  The dogs were all crowding him and I was using a walker as I had a hip replacement 3 weeks earlier.  I called the sheriff for help, yeah right.  Wasn’t going be any heroic efforts like you see on the animal planet.  I called the vet who was iced in herself.
Carb accidently righted himself when a hoof anchored on the bumper and the thrust of his kick slid him out from under the truck.   Aside from a scratches and some bruising he was fine.  The vet made it out the next to give him a once over.
Well I had had it with the weather I grown up my entire life in.  Another of my sons lived in southern California and by the end of February I was out here visiting and looking at affordable horse property, now that’s joke affordable any property in California was about a year away.

On June 8 Carb, Pistol and Pedro were loaded on a trailer on their way to sunny socal.  I followed the next day.  Within days of arriving we could hear another donkey somewhere close.  About 1/8 mile away was a definite miniature donkey.  He was stuck in a pen standing next to a 30 year old black mare.  He was unsocialized and never got any exercise.  The lady who owned him ran a dog rescue and would never tell me how she came to own Badger.  Have you even a Poitou donkey?  They are kind of shaggy, long haired.  If they came in miniature size, which they don’t I checked, that would be Badger.  His forelock is long and wavy and he has bangs, I mean long bangs.  He never really sheds just keeps this fluffy coat all year.  He always seemed sad.

On many an occasions I tried to get her to give him to me, to be with other donkeys.  I offered to buy him.  But she refused.  My granddaughter and I would go over and visit him.  Well one day in the summer of 2010 the lady called me.  They had lost their house and wondered if I still wanted him- you bet I did.  We were over that afternoon to get him.  It was then she offered to send me with his favorite food that I started to worry.  She fed him what she fed her 30 year old horse-alfalfa and a highly molasses senior alfalfa feed.  I declined.  Telling her he should never be eating that.  Oh but he loves it, he gobbles it up, well of course he does.  I asked about his recent vaccinations and farrier visits.  Well he had his vacs but had never seen a farrier.  His hooves were in remarkably good shape though.  He had a bit of a pot belly.  My vet came out and did a complete check.  He was IR too; of course he was after being that sweet feed.  Within a couple of weeks he came down laminitis.  Although I was now feeding him a good mixed grass hay from Colorado the vet felt it was the result of previous diet, the transition and quick change of hay.  I immediately put him on Dr. Thomas’s For Love of The Horse IR/LAM/EMS formula and within days he was much better.  I was still fighting obesity in Pistol and Pedro even after years of dieting.  Dr Thomas suggested I put them on the same formula.  It worked wonders within a few months the farrier and vet commented on the weight loss and how good they looked.

Now you have to understand that southern California like a lot of the southwest does not have grass pastures, we have dry pastures-sand.  So monthly psyllium becomes a regime out here.  Badger was started on psyllium when he came to me.  Admittedly I cannot recall starting him off with a loading dose.  He continued to have the pot belly appearance which would seem resolved in the morning but would be back by late afternoon.  He also had that boney hip and spine look.  The vet wasn’t concerned but I continued to try figure it out.  More blood work, switching to Bermuda grass, nothing seemed to help. 

Last Thursday Badger walked away from his hay after eating only a few bites and lay down.  I was immediately alarmed and suspected colic.  I called the vet and administered For Love Of The Horse’s Colic Solution.  Badger pooped before the vet arrived but he still tubed him with mineral oil.  I stalled him for a day and started to reintroduce his hay after the oil was passing.  He ate very slowly.  I called the vet again and he suspected an ulcer.  I ran out and got generic Zantac and administered it for a day and a half.  Then Saturday night he did the same thing as Thursday walked away from his hay and laid down.  This time he tried to roll, and I caught him before he made a complete rollover.  Then he started a continuous flemening response.  It looked like he was stuck in a lip seizure.  I’m on the phone to vet who says that a pain response.  So Banamine and another tubing.  The vet now suspected sand colic.  He could hear ‘the ocean’ at the bottom of his belly.  Now remember he’s been on monthly psyllium since I had him.  First he said let’s give him his psyllium every 6 hours and he recommended an x-ray. 

He gave me 2 places to call.  The first one wanted 350, the same price as a horse.  So I called the Chino Hills Equine Hospital.  The doctor actually came on the phone listened to his history and quoted me about 150-175 for x-ray because he is so much smaller than horse, less films.  Plus an ‘office’ call for record taking etc.  That price was with an appointment not on an emergency basis.  So I made an appointment for the next day and trailered him 2 hours.  

 Well did he have sand!  On just one film you can see kind of a banana shape that is 3” thick and about 7” long of sand laying at the bottom.  The other films you can see separate sand collections.  My heart was racing all I could think was I had to him down because I could not afford a $10,000.00+ colic surgery, I was probably starting to tear up.  I think the vet sensed this and said no surgery.  We can fix this by tubing 2-4 cups psyllium directly into his stomach twice a day, plus IV fluids and a scope of his stomach.  Although relieved I was still seeing dollar signs.  He said 4-5 days, hopefully.  About 1200.00-1800.00.  Which although drastically less expensive than the surgery still was high. 

I had, in my donkey horse fund envelope 920.00 set aside for their 4 dentals by an equine dentist this Friday.  Well the dentist can wait this can’t.  I had taken 300.00 with me for the x-ray and visit so they took that as a partial deposit as long as got them a total of 1000.00 by afternoon. 

Much like Kris with Ramsey you look at this little guy who was neglected a good part of his life.  You know you have provided a good home for several and through no fault of his own has been storing this sand, for years the vet said.  I couldn’t say no to the treatment. 

So the news today, 24hours at the ER hospital, is that they scoped him yesterday and he had too much food still in his belly to add that much psyllium.  It would have made him way too uncomfortable.  Discovered in the scope were several stomach ulcers which was not a surprise.  They have IV fluids running.  At about 11:00 this morning they were going to scope again to see if belly clear of food and administer the psyllium. 
The other concern here is hyperlipidemia.  When they go without food their bodies start to break down their reserve stores and it causes the liver function issues.  I have not heard about his lab work yet.

So meantime back at home Carb is whinnying all over the pasture calling for his buddy.  Oh I guess I didn’t tell you.  Carb is about 16-17 hand black horse (like Badgers stall mate from before).  Badger latched on to him and rarely leaves his side. Pistol and Pedro being half-brothers hang together and leave Carb and Badg to their own devices.  Because equine generally groom each other and Carb is tall and Badg so short the only grooming Badg can do is chew on Carbs tail, which is pretty none existent any more.  I did mention this to vet and he immediately started looking for a hair ball on the x-rays.  They actually do get them and unlike a cat that would puke up the hairball equines can’t vomit.  So now, even though it’s almost too short to reach, it’s a braid and a tail bag for Carb.  I think it will just become a new pull toy but better than hair in the gut. 

By the way the vet says pelleted psyllium is throwing your money away and not helping your horse or donkey at all.  The pellets just don’t break down in time to become absorbent.  He says he hears several times a week a client tells him they have given pelleted psyllium and yet here they are with a sand colic. 
I mentioned above that badger always seemed sad.  Well now I know why.  It makes me terribly sad and mad that I did not catch this so much earlier for him.  I am hoping he will feel like a brand new donkey when this is all over!

OK well thats it folks. 


  1. Welcome to blogland! It's nice to learn a bit more about you and your herd.

  2. I enjoyed reading your intro. I hope Badger has a speedy recovery!

  3. There aren't enough donkey blogs out in the blogosphere! Thank you for sharing your story...I'll be back in the morning to check in on Badger!