At home with the donks

It was a very good thing to have four days away from the daily chores involved in the upkeep of four large animals. My thanks to Cait and Carl for their diligent and thoughtful care of Matilde, Rubí, Morris and Aitana. I would not have left the donkeys without having complete trust in people who would do everything necessary to keep these animals in the conditions to which they are accustomed (i.e. a bone idle life of luxury with all mod cons.) When I arrived home yesterday Cait and Carl had come second in the Finestrat paella competition, so there was a welcome dish of paella to sample at the end of my journey.

Today it was back into the routine, trying to get all the things done that need doing before the school term begins. Donkey passports for Aitana and Morris were the main priority. All equines have to be microchipped and passported according to EEC regulations. This involves – as usual – a complicated and expensive bureaucratic process, and the cost: 150 Euros for today’s exercise.

Donkey paperwork

Donkey paperwork

While I spent the morning on all this stuff, the donkeys continued with the life of Riley, and were sunning themselves in the field when I returned.


Little did they know how close they had come to a sudden change in their lifestyle! Before I went off to Ibiza, the vet had told me about an abandoned Jack donkey in nearby Altea. It had been left behind by an English woman who had gone back to England leaving the poor animal in a field with little grazing and – crucially – no water in the August heat! (This is actually a criminal offence.) People had rallied round and brought it food and water. A donkey sanctuary had sent a vehicle up from Alicante but the donkey refused to be loaded into the trailer. At this point, before I went away to Ibiza, I said if the situation was not solved by the time I returned, I would take him and advertise for donors to support his upkeep (particularly as it was an English owner who abandoned him!)

Today the vet phoned her source to update the situation. The donkey had escaped, was found wandering near the marina in Altea and was captured by the Policia Local. He is now in the care of a local animal enthusiast. Somewhat relieved, I do not have to worry about the poor animal any longer. My four would have found themselves with a new companion, but a strain on our resources that we do not need. One day perhaps, there will be another occasion when we must extend our charity to a needy donk. Then we will ask for help. The first rescue is the moment that we become Aitana Donkey Sanctuary.

And back to the painting project. I have signed up for an art class every Tuesday morning in August to try and improve my technique. Here is the work in progress: a portrait of the donks with Puig Campana mountain in the background. Starting with a 50cm x 50cm canvas, then transferring to a 200cm x 200cm canvas.


Finally, when the light goes in the evening, there is another job to finish. My book review of the Augustine Thompson biography of St Francis. To be published here shortly.

St Francis painted from life. Subiaco monastery.

St Francis painted from life. Subiaco monastery.


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I like to listen to BBC Radio 4 and the wind in the pine trees. I am writing a comedy about a school in Benidorm. My favourite film of all time is "Jean de Florette". If I had my time again I would not have spent the early 1970s working for Special Branch.
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3 Responses to At home with the donks

  1. Sandy Morris says:

    I love reading about your donkeys…….and I love the way you care for them….

  2. Jim of Olym says:

    Just found your blog and it is very wonderful! We have two mammoth jack donks, Clementine and Trooper (who is a non-intact male). Both 15 hands and abouty 10 and 7 years old respectively.
    So much fun, but we live near town and they have to be trailered to get to any trails as our road is too dangerous with all the cars zooming by.
    the pacific northwest (Olympia, Washington) is beautiful and sunny right now, but just wait until September through May and it will wetten up nicely. The ‘kids’ as we call them, prefer it to be dry.

  3. Frere Rabit says:

    Thank you very much for your comment. It is the first time I have had any contact with mammoth jack owners. The Spanish Andalusian breed is the nearest European donkey in size to the mammoth jack, but still nowhere as big. If you look at my Matilde in the photos on the blog, she is part Andaluz, and much bigger than the other three.

    Thanks again for your comment and please keep in touch. Have you got a website?

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