I first met Paco at the end of the summer of 2011. He lived on a farm across the village from us. My granddaughter and I were out for a hike … and were greeted by this gentle face on the other side of the fence. We ended up picking long grass for him – and over the next week began to bring him carrots and apples. He was a working donkey at that time … although … he was not too good at his job! He looked after a flock of sheep and a whole barnyard of poultry – show birds. He did a fine job of keeping coyotes and wolves away. And there was certainly evidence that he also took on raccoons and foxes. There was one major drawback though … he liked to ‘toss’ sheep. That meant the folks at that farm had to develop a system where the sheep could be out for part of the day and then Paco for the rest.
Over the next year Kyla and I would make many visits to see if we could spot Paco. He seemed to be a gentle soul. When Kyla headed back home for school in the fall I found that I was wandering over to Paco’s field in my nightly walks. We became fast friends.
By January of 2012 I knew I was smitten! I began reading all I could about donkeys, wondering if I was feeding him things that were good for him. I learned about their shelter needs, their needs for companionship, their natural cycles … And before I knew it we were planning on how we could make a home for donkeys here … at the Meadow.
When the stars aligned in a manner that allowed Paco to come to live with us – I was thrilled! You can check out the story of how we walked through the village of Parham one November evening here. So now, in our hearts, November 7th is Paco’s ‘birthday’. We found out in the spring that he is likely more than ten years old.
Over the first six months that he has been here we have adopted two other donkeys. He now spends his days (and nights) looking out for ‘his girls’ – Darby and Rosie. He loves morning cuddles and ear scratches … and will stand very still for neck and shoulder rubs. He is shy around the vet … and very cautious when more than one person is within reach. He and I have some work to do to help him be less spooked by contact with new people. He has learned a number of bad habits to keep himself safe. But he is mellowing – bit by bit – day by day. Seeing as he weighs in somewhere around five hundred pounds … we need to come to an agreement about grooming and vet care!
And here we are … four years later. Paco managed to meet all of his challenges. He made friends with the farrier and tolerated the vet’s visits. He was the ‘mom’ of the herd – looking after Bella Sky when she arrived to join us. Unfortunately for all of us Paco developed a tumor in his cheek. He managed to deal with it without too many complications for about six months. And then we came to the terribly sad day that we knew we had to say goodbye. On May 4, 2016 this beautiful creature who captured my heart was laid to rest. We are, and will always, miss him terribly. He was a magical friend.