Today is the beginning of a story I’ll be updating for what I hope is a very long time. It’s the story of a little old donkey; blind, horribly malnourished and with a mouth that appears not to have had dental attention in a long time.
Not to mention love. When was that ever part of his life?
He can’t tell us anything about his past but I can talk about his present and his future. He was abandoned on Rt. 165 in western Exeter in early August, left terrified to fend for himself.
Now he’s living large in Warwick, on the grounds of the sumptuous Clouds Hill Victorian House Museum, owned by my longtime friend, Anne Holst. Her mother, the legendary Nancy Allen Holst – the nation’s first woman fire chief who also flew her own plane during Amelia Earhart’s time – always kept a donkey.
I live a half-mile from Clouds Hill, just a short drive for my daily visits. When I wrote of his cruel treatment and ultimate rejection, I knew immediately that I wanted to adopt him and shower him with love, attention and the best care possible. He is cherished and is rapidly becoming spoiled.
He’s mine or, more accurately, I’m his – totally in love with a little guy who touched my heart. I adopted him after going through a process of careful scrutiny and he arrived at his new home Aug. 16, which will be his official birthday. This is important because every resident of the barn gets a carrot cake with flaxseed and other goodies on their birthdays.
He has been named Eeyore, after my favorite childhood literary figure, and he is the star resident of the Clouds Hill Equine Center, owned by Andra Collins, whose passion for horses and knowledge of their special needs is boundless.
Eeyore’s roomies are show horses and enormous jumpers who fascinate him. As they parade by en route to their paddocks, he nods as if to say, “Yo! ‘sup?” The big guys have taken a shine to the tiny one and now they talk in horse language. While he’s not braying yet, Eeyore does launch a Hee-hee-hee sound when he’s glad to see someone.
“It’s like he’s going to spend the rest of his life at the horse Hilton,” says Steve Mattscheck, director of the Exeter Animal Shelter, who authorized the adoption. “We did our due diligence,” he says of the decision. “Many, many people told us Clouds Hill is the top of the line.”
He also said that, when he informed the town council that he was letting me have Eeyore, not a single member objected. I confess to being touched by their ability to see beyond an earlier controversy which I covered extensively for the Standard and arrive at the bigger picture.
They understand the only important thing is Eeyore’s wellbeing. None of this is about me or them or anyone else. It’s about him. Period.
I called Council President Arlene Hicks to express gratitude and was delighted to hear her take a serious interest in the amazing prospects for Eeyore’s future.
Anyone who might be surprised that I not only wanted a donkey but also know how to care for one should rest assured: He’s brought me happily back to my roots as a West Virginia farm girl growing up surrounded by creatures great and small. My dad’s Uncle David, in his mid-80s, was still plowing with Belgian draft horses that were roughly his age; my Uncle Jim, who had a small dairy, kept a donkey just for me.
Every day I spend two hours with Eeyore, currying and brushing his coat, feeding him his favorite afternoon snack – cut-up apples, big, soft, marshmallow-y chocolate-and-coconut horse cookies and a quantity of Cap’n Crunch cereal, a favorite of Andra’s pony Care Bear, who lived to 57. Earlier this week, Eeyore wolfed down three bowls of treats before heading off to graze in his paddock while I mucked his stall.
He eats constantly – enriched hay and senior grain – and is working on adding the 75 pounds a veterinarian says he needs. He also loves to lie down in the wall-to-wall fresh shavings in his stall, flop onto his back and blissfully roll around until his mane and ears are covered.
Eeyore is also developing a network of loving supporters.
Jack and Julie Kliever, who own New Deal Farm Horse and Carriage, on Purgatory Road – famous for their Percherons – want to help pay for Eeyore’s dental care; a member of the Friends of Exeter Animals donated a hauler which Steve attached to his own truck and used to personally deliver Eeyore to Clouds Hill.
The sociable little donkey sports a handsome purple halter and lead line; in winter he’ll have a purple blanket. He’s got a purple-and-white nameplate on his stall door and a bin full of gear and goodies.
Meanwhile, Anne Holst is so smitten with Eeyore that she visits him every morning and has suggested Clouds Hill start a donkey rescue. And so, under Andra’s guidance, that’s what we’re doing.
We believe this little donkey’s story can become the inspiration to help save the lives of others who are lost and lonely. I call that the best happy ending. Ever.
Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .