I hear you’re a donkey guy

In case you haven’t been obsessively reading every Facebook post and blog posting here, I am departing on Friday, as in three days from now, on another epic adventure (I like to think optimistically) back to Tanzania. First, I’m climbing a 14,000 foot mountain, which wasn’t even on my bucket list until it became a possibility, and then I said, “Oh yes, I have to do this.” Because life is about testing your limits, and I find the older I get, paradoxically the further I seem to be pushing them. It’s the right thing to do.

But the main reason I’m going, because there’s no way I could have justified another jaunt across the globe this soon just to climb a mountain, is to document a project with World Vets helping the donkeys in Arusha. I’ve admired Cathy King’s work and dedication to this amazing organization for years now, and I can’t tell you just how tickled I am that of all the projects I get to do as my inaugural World Vets trip, it’s this one.

A photo from the pilot project last year

Now I will grant you that I am not a donkey expert. I was honest about this going in. My purpose will be mostly photojournalistic, though I’m sure the chance will probably pop up for me to get my hands dirty and do a little doctorly stuff too.

In Tanzania, the donkeys are used as beasts of burden, and much of their medical needs are centered around the abrasions or injuries that result from their labor. I may not be a good floater of teeth or other things particularly equine, but wound care- well, I can rock that just fine. Bonus: the trip is sponsored by Vetericyn, which I’ve heard lots of great things about, so I get to check out that new product as well and get to try it out.

Now here’s the interesting thing. I have done plenty of volunteer veterinary work at this point, and the usual reaction from people when I say I’m doing volunteer work is this:

Person: Great! Dogs and cats?

Me: Yes.

Person: Very cool!

Now, the reaction I’ve been getting from this trip is altogether different. Maybe because I’m emphasizing “The donkeys OF THE MAASAI” as if the donkeys are somehow magically imbued with the general imposing awesomeness of this nomadic group of people, as if the very nature of belonging to a Maasai gives them super powers or something. I don’t know. All I know is this: I have been telling people I am going to Africa to do volunteer veterinary work and this is the conversation I have been having:

Person: Great! Dogs and cats?

Me: NO! I’m working on DONKEYS! And they belong to the MAASAI!

Person: (eyes light up) NO WAY!!! I LOVE DONKEYS! WOW THAT IS SO COOL!!!!

I’m not sure why this is, but it has been a repeatable phenomenon, particularly among males who are usually at most polite about my canine adventures. They go nuts over donkeys. They think this is, perhaps, the most amazing volunteer adventure they have heard of and they want to go too. Note to the single ladies: you may want to add this to your resume. I’m just saying.

I’d love to know what it is about donkeys that has so tickled the collective imagination of my acquaintances. My first experience with a donkey was that delightful Christmas special Nestor the Long Eared Donkey, you know, that light hearted holiday animated special where his mother freezes to death then he gets beaten? So my first experience of them was, they are kind and you need to keep them warm at night.

The actual living ones I have met have been pretty great too. Like horses without that pesky ability to peg you in the orbit and fracture your skull, or trample you. They seem to be pretty low key, no reports of marauding rampaging donkeys roaming the streets or anything. All the cuteness of your favorite canine with no expectation that you need to get them a fancy bowl or a bed or dress them up. They are utilitarian, but still have a personality and an affability.

When I get back I will be happy to give you my impressions on why donkeys rock, though whether or not that gives me any insight into why everyone else thinks so too, I have no idea. I guess we will have to wait and see.

But really, guys sure do love the donkeys. After listening to my realtor yesterday wax poetic on how cool donkeys were, I leaned over to my husband and said, “I had no idea there were so many ass men out there.” And aren’t you glad I didn’t make that the title of this post.


Filed: Adventures, Be The Change, Blog Tagged: , , ,
  • Tamara

    Maybe it’s because donkeys just don’t get enough love ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m sure those that World Vets will see will get some lovin’ along with any doctoring they need. Go World Vets! It’s so wonderful when people like you, Dr. V, and other professionals donate their time and good work to others.

  • Jenifer

    I love donkeys, so much so that I have one! Named Simon, he is @30 years old and is the best watch-donkey out there. My goats appreciate that ๐Ÿ™‚

  • My grandparents in Portugal had donkeys. I remember that he let us take it out to the fields and ride him. We almost lost one and I fondly remember causing my brother to fall off of one. Oops. ๐Ÿ˜‰ My grandparents lived in a rural sections where everyone had at least one donkey. This was still the primary way to get produce to the market for many of my relatives. I love living vicariously through all your adventures!!

  • KM

    You really just need to learn more about donkeys. I have been a horsewoman all of my life and never gave donkeys a second thought until I bought one last year to keep an injured horse company. That little donkey has changed my life. She is at least as intelligent as my my Border Collie and incredibly affectionate. They are more like pack animals then herd animals, again, more like a dog than a horse only smarter. If treated well, they form very strong, lasting bonds with their people. They are probably the most misunderstood and abused domestic animal in the world. Donkeys are in desperate need of more public awareness. I think that once you work with some of them you will come to see just why donkeys are so special.

    • I can’t wait to learn about them! Fortunately the rest of the team is well versed.

  • Cathey

    Oh, that SO SHOULD have been the title. Good luck on the trip Doc & travel safe! I can’t wait to ready/see all about it!

  • Ingrid

    What KM (first comment) said, one hundred percent. Further, donkeys are not flight animals like horses: they are cautious in new situations, they assess a potential danger, then decide what action to take. Unfortunately, this behavior is all too often misinterpreted as stubborn and/or stupid. You will see mountains of ignorance, I’m afraid, on the part of donkey owners. Treating the donkeys’ wounds should be the easier task; educating their handlers will be the true challenge (deplorably, this is also true for parts of the U.S. where donkey roping is legal and considered a sport). Wishing you good luck for a great and successful trip, just another donkey fan.

    • “Treating the donkeys’ wounds should be the easier task; educating their handlers will be the true challenge “- so true, and a huge part of the World Vets initiative there. I think you all will be pleased with what we will be doing.

      • Ingrid

        Thank you. I looked into World Vets Int’l – surely an organization worth supporting!

  • Lisa W

    Can’t wait to hear about the trip – so excited for you!

  • Sue W.

    “I had no idea there were so many ass men out there.”

    I’ve a new appreciation for donkeys. Thank you!

  • sandy weinstein

    i always wanted to do something like this….i love the min. donkeys, they are so cute. i tried to rescue one several yrs ago, but someone else got him….