Farewell to Dusty the donkey

The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary has sadly lost an old friend. Their Jack donkey Dusty has passed away, having finally given up his struggle with severe arthritis, which had plagued him for a number of years.

Dusty had been on a maximum dose of painkiller for a long time; he had reached the point where he could barely move his legs, and on Sunday he was initially lying down in his stable. His heart rate was extremely fast, and although they managed to get him to his feet, he was clearly in severe pain.

There was nothing else the Sanctuary could do, with a spokesperson saying: “Although we have had too many of these decisions to make in recent months, there was full agreement between the vets and ourselves that we had no alternative but to put Dusty out of pain and put him to sleep. His struggle was finally over after a number of years in which he had coped manfully with restricted movement and the constant fight against his illness.

“Dusty was very much ‘his own’ donkey. He did things his way, took no notice of what the herd were doing and was brave enough to lead his own life. If the herd went out into the sunshine, Dusty went into the field shelter. If they went north – he went south. If they said it was lunchtime, he said it was breakfast! That cussedness to be his own boss made us love him all the more! He was affectionate, loved his morning cuddles and everybody knew he was special.”

Dusty was unusual in that he was born at the Sanctuary, in the early days of the Sanctuary’s existence. His mother Amanda came to the Sanctuary in foal, but after Dusty was born she rejected him. He had to be bottle fed, and with a lot of human care and special attention from Colin Powell, the recently retired maintenance man, Dusty made his way in the world.

The spokesperson continued: “We think his independence of spirit came from his need to be self-sufficient from a very early age. As a young donkey, Dusty liked chasing things; many times Dusty would chase after a stick, long before the days we gave our donkeys stimulus activities with balls and wellies!

“Donkeys are known to be very stoical, and to put up with a lot of things without drawing attention to it. Never was this truer than in Dusty. He had been a long-term sufferer with arthritis over many years and it gradually began to affect the quality of his life. He slowed down quickly and considerably, and his later years were characterised by pain management of his condition. Gradually, that became untenable, and Sandra and the staff were visibly upset by the development of his pain in the last few days. It was clear that there was only one thing we could do for his welfare, and that was to put him gently to sleep.

“We have had too many tears at the Sanctuary in the first five months of this year, and we have lost some of our old friends. It feels like this bad run will never end, but it is easy to forget there are 95 donkeys out in the paddocks, running around in the sun, many with particular needs, and some who develop unseen and unexpected problems. Only this week Scooby developed a large abscess which was successfully drained, but revealed a weak pedal bone, Polar Bear and Jimbob have both needed a course of antibiotics, whilst Naomi is to have an eye operation today. In and amongst these four, the long list of regular medicines and special feeds continues unabated.

“So long Dusty, you had a wonderful life, lived totally at the Sanctuary. You will go over the rainbow bridge when you are ready (and not before!), you will remind the residents that you don’t care what the procedures are up there or who is in charge. That’s because you are Dusty. You do things your way, in your time, at your pace, when you want to – and only if you feel like it!”