Matilde’s overnight rampage

Matilde caused total mayhem overnight and damaged herself too. I should have realised there was something wrong when I had my customary Sunday lie-in but noticed there were no braying protests at 8 am when the donkeys tell me they have waited long enough for breakfast. By 8.30 there was still no braying.  I got up, prepared their usual treat of chopped carrots to give them before their breakfast, and went down to the field.

Morris, Rubí and Aitana were all lined up at the perimeter fence, gazing intently across the road. On the other side of the road, feeding on the long esparto grass and weeds, was Matilde.  I was shocked to see the whole length of her nose was bloody. On nearing her I could see a whole triagular lenth of furry skin hanging loose, with an open wound showing white bone for about fifteen centimetres.

The whole morning was spent on Matilde: immediate donkey first aid was the priority, but getting an emergency veterinary call-out on a Sunday involved complications.  My equine vet was unavailable on the usual emergency number and the alternative number did not respond. The Marina Baixa Veterinary Hospital emergency team said they only dealt with cats and dogs!  Finestrat vet service emergency number said they had no transport so could not do a home visit!  I pleaded with them that surely they could find transport: I would pay for a taxi! For this was a real emergency and there was a serious wound that needed urgent professional attention with stitching.  “Lo siento,” I am sorry, was the best they could offer.

Some friends kindly brought over some long crepe bandages from a mountaineering centre first aid kit, as I had no bandages big enough to do a first aid job on such a large animal. Bandaging Matilde was not a contingency I had planned for.  The temporary fix took me half an hour. Matilde was very cooperative – keeping very still, unlike her usual lively self – and I think she was still in shock from the injury.  But within five minutes she had started working the bandage off, exposing the upper part of the wound.

Matilde after first aid bandaging - already trying to pull the bandage off!

Matilde after first aid bandaging – already trying to pull the bandage off!

Finally, I got hold of my usual equine vet through the alternative emergency number, and she said she could be with me in an hour or two.  Meanwhile Matilde managed to push off the bandage altogether, rubbing against a fence and the flies were all over the open wound again.  Washing and re-bandaging was complicated this time, as Matilde decided she did not want to play donkey patient any more, and I was slightly injured in the wrestling match.

Once the first aid had been completed for the second time, and settling in to wait for the vet, I went in search of clues to the sequence of events in the night.  A whole section of fence had been destroyed, and it was clear that Matilde had got out over the fence and the wall in order to eat fallen carob beans under a tree outside the fence: they had all been eaten.

Damaged fence shows the events of the night

Damaged fence shows the events of the night

No carob beans left under the tree outside the fence
No carob beans left under the tree outside the fence

I found traces of blood on the gate posts outside the entrance to the field where Matilde had obviously been trying to get back into the field again. The sequence of events was probably something like this: Matilde forced the fence to get to the carob beans and then found it difficult to return to the field, down the wall and broken fence. She probably fell, got entangled in the fence, panicked and ripped her nose on the stone wall or fence wire. Then she went around to the end of the field and tried to force the gate open to get back in. It all probably happened in the dark, as the wound was covered in dried blood by the time I arrived at 8.30 and found Matilde eating outside the paddock.

The vet finally arrived at about midday and the surgery required was quite considerable. Something like twenty stitches. Matilde is sedated and her nose is now covered in aluminium spray. I have to give her three injections and other oral medication later, and through the week. Now I have to start the fence repairs. Goodbye relaxing Sunday afternoon… 😦

Matilde after veterinary treatment, fully stitched up and sedated

Matilde after veterinary treatment, fully stitched up and sedated

Now Matilde will need to be kept separate from the others for a week while her wound heals

Now Matilde will need to be kept separate from the others for a week while her wound heals

Such a relaxing life with donkeys, I used to think… Hey ho. Or is that bray ho?

Postscript 5.30 pm, last stages of a long day:

(1) Friends Flores and Carl come round to help with repairs to fence destroyed by Matilde. For their trouble, they get bitten by Morris. Thanks, Morris.

Morris helps with the fencing repairs by biting everyone

Morris helps with the fencing repairs by biting everyone

(2) Finally the fence is reinforced with wooden pallets for extra vertical rigidity, so it cannot be pushed down so easily. It is the end of a very long day, with my relaxing Sunday fried breakfast long-ago forgotten, no school preparation done for the coming week, and totally exhausted at the end of the weekend. Thanks, donkeys.

Reinforced for now...  A new type of fencing system has to be constructed in the near future.

Reinforced for now… A new type of fencing system has to be constructed in the near future.

Update 9.30 pm

Just been to see the patient again in the light of the half moon. Matilde is still incredibly docile, nine hours after being sedated. But still eating, so that’s good. I gave her a good ear rub: stroking the inside of donkeys’ ears produces an effect similar to that seen on the faces of ageing hippies: a faraway spaced-out look. Maybe those hippies used to get their ears rubbed in the 1960s? Who knows?

In the Bar Cantonet I paid for the drinks for those who helped earlier with the fencing, and then I paid for the drinks of two disgraceful Welsh women who walked out of the Paradiso without paying. We Brits have to take responibility and remind locals that we have a sense of honour, despite the low-lifes who roam the area bringing shame on our nation. Some people come here and treat this country like rubbish. For the sake of a few Euros, I reminded one bartender that we are not all morons. (He refused at first and said it wasn’t my debt. I corrected him and said it very much was my debt!) These disgusting people who roam Benidorm on benefits from the UK – just existing on the next social cheque – are a boil on the arse of Britain.


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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8 Responses to Matilde’s overnight rampage

  1. oooh I am so sorry…Poor donkey ,and poor you.Her nose looks very sore.

  2. Pingback: Donkey Riding | Meadowsweet

  3. Jim of Olym says:

    Sorry to hear about Matilda and her misadventure. Must have been hard on her, and a shock for you!
    Have you considered electric fencing? And is it available in Spain? We have had great success with it. the transformer sends out pulses which are rather strong, but won’t injure the beasts (or us!). And the donks really respect the wires (actually nylon rope with wires embedded). And we’ve not had much injury, thank God. Just an occasional hoof abcess, which we have found a home remedy for.

  4. Frere Rabit says:

    Yes, Jim, the tape you can see in the photos above is electric tape, charged by a solar unit (which stores overnight charge in a battery). I have used the electric fence for protecting trees from the donks and for separating donks from time to time. The problem is they are very lively and will quite happily pull the fence down to suffer a short shock, knowing it will be dead once it is earthed! Too intelligent. The alternative to the vulnerable section of chain link fence will have to be a more robust metal bar fence: it is only a thirty foot section, where they can see an wasy way out on the other side with tasty carob beans falling from a tree. Otherwise, all round they have walls and stable between them and freedom. Unlike horses, donks have a bit of wild animal in them, and they long for independence, don’t they? Once Matilde was out, she was obviously trying hard to get back in again, and that is probably how she was injured.

  5. Anonymous says:

    So sorry to see how your Sunday went down the tubes! Glad that the “real” vet finally made it out and in the end all is well in your corner of the world.

  6. Frere Rabit says:

    Thank you, “anonymous”, and I am always grateful for comments from the followers of this blog, who are scattered around the world and put up with my erratic pattern of posts. It is so kind to take the trouble to add a few words of comment. Many read the blog – I know by the stats – but I never know what people make of some blog posts, because there is no feedback. This one is obviously different, because of the concern about Matilde, but all comments are welcome, any time.

  7. Poor Matilde and I am sorry for your rough day. Maybe there will be a silver lining and she will wean Aitana during the separation.

  8. Frere Rabit says:

    Thanks, DD… As for Aitana, she was kicking up a real fuss being separated from mummy Matilde and she was even pushing the electric fence, determined to get through. So I relented and put her in with Matilde. Morris is the main threat, so he must be separate or he will start exploring Matilde’s stitches 😦

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