Patrick came to us many years ago along with his old companion called Alice. They had both been very much loved but as they started aging their owner felt both donkeys needed a little more care and expertise than they were able to provide.
Patrick and Alice settled in quickly and soon became very popular. Alice was significantly older than Patrick. Then Alice was in her early forties and Patrick in his mid twenties. From early on Patrick had bags of personality. He was happy go lucky, very inquisitive and always eager to be fussed over. Alice, however, was a little bit different. She also had bags of personality, but in a slightly darker manner. Just as Patrick was eager to please, Alice was eager to be pleased! If her feed was late – she let you know, if you didn’t brush her exactly as she required, Alice would tell you with little nips and a repositioning of her body until you got the right spot. If there was mischief afoot – tiny, elderly Alice was creating it! She became an expert at breaking through the electric fence to get to the grass on the other side, which Alice knew was always greener. And Patrick would follow her.
As we took in more donkeys Patrick made friends will all new comers, young, old, feisty and frightened. Patrick definitely helped the new donkeys settle in. Alice however was often scathing of new comers. Except for one time when we took in a mother and son, the boy donkey was about 5 and for some reason known only to herself Alice took to him. I often wondered what memory this young brown donkey jogged in Alice’s old donkey brain. Alas the mother and son did not stay long with us – as they were soon rehomed – so Alice’s interest in the youngster never developed. Given the vast age difference it was probably a good thing.
As the years passed Patrick became the donkey who went places. His good nature took him on visits to the local nursery school, the Brownies in town, to the Palm Sunday service, where he walked into the local church and to everyone’s delight brayed during the singing of a hymn, to victory at the village Pet Show etc. So the years were kind to Patrick but Alice started to physically deteriorate. Her eyesight began to fail. To begin with this was not a problem because she knew all her field companions and they all gave Alice her place. We did try to integrate Alice with the other very old donkeys we had at that time, but Alice refused. She wanted nothing to do with them and we felt it was less stressful to Alice to keep her with her younger companions. So we began to feed her separately to ensure that she was getting her share and was able to eat all of her feed in her own time. We kept her environment from changing because she knew where everything was and so even with limited vision she was able to get around. But one time during a summer ‘mini monsoon’ the other donkeys walked off to shelter and Alice couldn’t keep up with them and that was a turning point, for several reasons. We realised the field had become too big for Alice to effectively join in with the others. If she was busy grazing, she was not always aware of where the others had moved onto and being a highly-strung lady Alice was beginning to panic when she found out she was alone. We also realised that Patrick was comfortable leaving Alice and going with the rest of the small herd.
For Patrick this was actually very positive. Patrick would need to have close friends for the day when Alice had to pass. The last year of Alice’s life was very happy for her. Physically she was in overall good health, apart from the loss of sight. She did bump into things especially when she got impatient for her food. We put Alice’s age at 51 when she was put to sleep after a lovely, stress free summer. Patrick was with her and all the donkeys got time to sniff her peaceful body and say goodbye.
Patrick was affected by the loss of his companion but because we had worked hard during Alice’s last year to give Patrick time away from Alice, he did not ‘go down’ or get depressed. Alice made a massive impression on all of us and even now years after her death we still say “Alice’s stable” and everyone knows which stable we mean.
Patrick is happy with his older companions and I think his best friends are Sarah (whose best friend is Nightie) and Oak. He still enjoys trips out and has a few planned for summer 2015. He is always willing to give children rides, he loves being groomed and he gives wonder cuddles.
I hope you have enjoyed reading Patrick’s back story. It has brought back so many happy memories for me as I have been writing.