Don­keys at Christ­mas

Take a look around The Flicka Foun­da­tion, the sanc­tu­ary giv­ing love and com­fort this Christ­mas and be­yond to don­keys who’ve had a rough start in life

YOURS (UK) - - Contents - By Katharine Woot­ton

ake a peek at those adorable lit­tle faces! A mot­ley crew look­ing for­ward to one of the best Christ­mases they’ve ever had, sur­rounded by friends, with two legs and four, lots of love and plenty of treats! From naughty don­keys to knowit-all don­keys, cheeky ones to kind-hearted ones, ev­ery sin­gle don­key at The Flicka Foun­da­tion has its own beau­ti­ful per­son­al­ity but each, sadly, also has a sorry tale to tell of their past.

For friends Judy Giles and Lau­rie Stephenson, who run The Flicka

TFoun­da­tion in Corn­wall, car­ing for don­keys came about some­what ac­ci­den­tally.

It all started when Judy’s mum, Mary Ber­ry­man, be­gan a foun­da­tion car­ing for horses and ponies in 1995 which life-long an­i­mal lovers Judy and her friend Lau­rie soon started help­ing out with. But it was in 2008 af­ter the sad pass­ing of Mary that Judy re­ceived a phone call that changed ev­ery­thing.

“My mum had al­ways loved don­keys and, as a child, I used to buy her lit­tle don­key trin­kets to put around the house. But, sadly, we never got any don­keys into the sanc­tu­ary. “When mum died, the heart of the char­ity had left us and we were ready to call it a day and put the site of the sanc­tu­ary up for sale when we got a phone call from an an­i­mal wel­fare or­gan­i­sa­tion ask­ing if we could take in five don­keys. It gave us goose­bumps and with­out even think­ing we said yes and we can­celled the sale of the sanc­tu­ary. I felt like this was my mum’s way of say­ing don’t stop what you’re do­ing. When we took in th­ese don­keys, I re­named the sanc­tu­ary Mary Ber­ry­man’s Flicka Foun­da­tion in Mum’s honour.”

To­day, the Foun­da­tion cares for around 75 don­keys with a fur­ther 30-odd placed in lov­ing fos­ter homes nearby. The don­keys come from Ro­ma­nia, Croatia, Bul­garia, Cyprus, Spain, Amer­ica, France, the UK and Ire­land and sadly all ar­rive as the re­sult of aban­don­ment, ne­glect or cru­elty.

Often they are saved on their way to the meat mar­ket, or brought in from the likes of rub­bish tips.

Once at the Flicka Foun­da­tion don­keys have a home for life, or if they’re fit and well enough, they will go to an ap­proved fos­ter home with a bonded friend. Don­keys no­to­ri­ously bond for life. If a sin­gle don­key ar­rives the Flicka team will help this process along if nec­es­sary. “We had one don­key called Florence who’d been aban­doned with­out com­pany. We also had an­other don­key called Maisy who was res­cued from go­ing to the mar­ket and was ter­ri­fied of other don­keys, so we in­tro­duced them and now they’re best friends.”

De­spite their back­grounds, Judy says all the don­keys have hi­lar­i­ous per­son­al­i­ties, which makes their job a con­stant de­light.

“Don­keys have an in­cred­i­ble sense of hu­mour and are like lit­tle four-year-olds. They often make me laugh, for ex­am­ple pinch­ing the far­ri­ers’ tools or pulling out rub­ber mats from the field shel­ters and run­ning off with them.

“They’re also very af­fec­tion­ate and rub around you like cats. I think that’s what my mum loved about them – that and the fact they’re so stoic and brave.”

Thanks to this lov­ing na­ture, th­ese don­keys have brought a lot of com­fort to many vis­i­tors to the sanc­tu­ary, in­clud­ing those with spe­cial needs and ill­ness. A few of the don­keys have even been out to schools and nurs­ing homes. “We’ve got one don­key, Harry, who’s happy go­ing in a lift to the up­stairs bed­rooms in a res­i­den­tial home to reach peo­ple who can’t get out. It lifts my heart to see him help peo­ple and be­cause don­keys love peo­ple, he gets a lot out of it, too.”

As for Judy and Lau­rie, they get so much from car­ing for th­ese don­keys, they do it, along­side their staff and vol­un­teers, ev­ery day of the year.

‘Don­keys have an in­cred­i­ble sense of hu­mour and are like lit­tle four-year-olds. They often make us laugh’

“Christ­mas Day morn­ing some of our diehard vol­un­teers come in to help and then in the af­ter­noon it’s just my­self and Lau­rie. Be­cause it’s Christ­mas the don­keys get spe­cial treats, in­clud­ing car­rots, ap­ples and gin­ger nuts. We put cards and tin­sel around their barns to make it spe­cial, too. Ear­lier in the fes­tive sea­son we also host a carol con­cert in the barn, where we have a tree and lights.”

And if it ends up a white Christ­mas? “Well, don­keys don’t re­ally like snow,” laughs Judy. “Sadly, they’re not wa­ter­proof as they’re from Africa orig­i­nally so when it does snow they’ll some­times go out to see what’s go­ing on but then they very quickly ask to come back in.”

As for the fu­ture, Judy and Lau­rie want to con­tinue Mary’s dream and legacy of help­ing as many an­i­mals as pos­si­ble. “In an ideal world we shouldn’t need sanc­tu­ar­ies like ours but while we are needed, we just hope we can save more don­keys as there are so many that need our help.”

■ If you’d like to sup­port The Flicka Foun­da­tion, please send a cheque payable to The Flicka Foun­da­tion to: Penty Noweth Farm, Trenoweth Lane, Mabe Burn­t­house, Pen­ryn, Corn­wall TR10 9JB or visit www.flick­afoun­da­

Judy cud­dles up to one of her more dis­tinc­tive charges

Judy’s mum Mary helped to start the ball rolling by tak­ing in horses and ponies

Harry en­joys the at­ten­tion when he vis­its a care home. Be­low, ded­i­cated helpers with two of their ‘guests’

It’s feed­ing time and, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, Lau­rie is prov­ing pop­u­lar!

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