I am delighted to welcome one of my favourite writers, Jessica Anselment, to Donkey Time. Jess’s blog, A Donkumentary, with its magical and sometimes misty-eyed musings on donkeys, love and life, from her little ranch in Texas, instantly had me hooked. Her work has also been featured in Flash Fiction Magazine and ‘America’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction’.
In this special guest post, Jess tells us how she came to rescue Tink, a donkey with a difference, and how he inspired her to write her first children’s book, recently published by Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, the largest donkey charity in America…
To work in animal rescue is to experience both blissful joy and inconsolable heartache. It is to witness the absolute best of people and sadly, some of the absolute worst. It is wonderful and scary, exciting and disappointing, uplifting and painful. But it is necessary. It is necessary because animals don’t have a voice in this growing and fast-moving world. It is up to us to give them a voice: to fight for their welfare and do everything we can to show them that their lives matter too, because they do.
This is the backstory of Tink, the bravest donkey. This is the story for grownups who wonder where I came up with the idea for a sweet children’s book in his honor. I want to note that in the actual book, there is no death, no grieving, no sadness. There is instead togetherness, understanding, love, and friendship. There is a happy ending that exists because Tink saves the day. In a lot of ways, he continues to do so. I think he always will.
Tink was a chocolate brown mini-donkey rescued by the Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue from a horrific neglect case. They’d received a call about a donkey who’d been laying in a field for a few days without moving, although he was alive. When the rescue team arrived, they discovered that this little donkey had lost his front, left hoof. The previous owner had allowed Tink’s hooves to grow out way too long (which happens without proper hoof maintenance) and when he got into a squabble with another donkey, the elongated hoof was caught in the other donkey’s halter. The whole hoof ripped out. Tink then laid in a field alone for days, left for dead.
Tink spent the next several months in rehab at Peaceful Valley’s headquarters in San Angelo, Texas. Being a smaller donkey, PVDR’s team of vets were able to customize a boot for Tink that allowed him to move around and begin to regain his quality of life. His hoof would never grow back, but his spirit sure did. Like all donkeys should, he began to play and run and make friends. Even though he moved a bit slower than the others, Tink thrived.
I remember the first time I met Tink. I’d traveled to San Angelo having recently joined the organization as a nearby Satellite Adoption Center and I saw Tink in the special-needs pen wearing his boot. I’m not sure why, but I was so drawn to him. Perhaps it’s because I myself have suffered injury in my life, some of which left doctors wondering if I’d make it. So far, I’ve made it…and Tink had too. He felt like a kindred spirit. I asked if I could bring him home with me to love and care for him and his special foot and to my joy and gratitude, I did.
Tink adjusted quickly in his new home with us. He became fast friends with my other two donkeys, Bunny and Tee. Their favorite game was playing tug of war with the hose—every day, I’d find it unraveled and a bit more chewed. The vet visited regularly and checked on Tink and for two years, he lived in a place where he was wholly and fully loved.
Being a part of a non-profit, I’d have volunteers out to my facility to meet with the donkeys: to learn about them, brush them, and help me with things like fixing fences, cleaning out water troughs, and much more. When they’d see Tink, some would place their hand over their heart, shocked that a donkey could survive such a thing. Others would snicker. “A donkey in a boot?” they’d ask, dumbfounded at what they saw. Then I’d explain what happened and it never failed that the story of this brave little donkey who overcame so much humbled those who took the time to learn.
“But is he happy? Does he hurt?” I’d tell them that he is happy. He’s so happy, just look at him playing with the others—he practically glows. And from everything we could tell, he was not in pain. He didn’t flinch, he didn’t swell, he didn’t spend his days laying down. He was active and bright and LOUD. Boy, did he have a loud bray. The loudest I’d ever heard. His well-being was a daily evaluation and the center of our world.
In special cases like this, there is always risk of complications and I knew that going into it. But that didn’t ease the pain when Tink’s condition suddenly worsened without warning. On a chilly Saturday two years later, we had to call the vet out in an emergency. Our next-door neighbor came to help, and the vet was out within 30 minutes of our call. We did everything we could, but sadly, Tink passed away. I choose not to get into the details of what happened in his death because I want him remembered as Tink the strong, brave, resilient donkey that showed people it’s okay to be a little different.
…Which is why I wrote a children’s book in his honor.
Last year, my debut book, Tink the Bravest Donkey went on sale. The story is not about his death, but instead about a brave, little donkey who wears a boot that the others don’t really understand. But as the story goes on, we see that it is our differences that can bring us closer together instead of pushing us further apart. It’s about how sometimes, we can make assumptions about others, but if we take the time and open our hearts, we might end up finding a friend.
He was the bravest donkey. So many people couldn’t understand how he’d survived his previous situation of neglect, but he did. So many people had never imagined that a donkey who had to wear a boot could thrive, but he did. Before PVDR rescued him, Tink may have never known love, but for the last few years of his life, he did. Tink represented what it means to overcome.
In a world as big as ours, it’s easy to be misunderstood. It’s easy to feel left out or left behind. More importantly, though, it’s easier than you think to be brave. That’s why I wrote this book: to remind people and especially children that no matter who you are, where you come from, or what makes you stand out in a crowd, you matter. Donkeys are a perfect example of this: they’re some of the strongest, smartest, bravest, and kindest animals around, yet so many people misunderstand them simply because they haven’t taken the time to get to know them. We are all in this crazy world together, y’all, so be strong. Be brave. Be kind. Be a little more like Tink.
100% of the proceeds from this book are going to the non-profit, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, so that more donkeys like Tink can be saved and given another chance. To learn more about the work of PVDR, you can visit their website. To purchase your own copy of Tink the Bravest Donkey, click here.
And if you’re interested in more of my writing (I tell lots of stories about donkeys, life, and how intertwined it all is), feel free to follow my ongoing blog A Donkumentary.
Written by Jessica Anselment February 2019