Lizzie and Anna

Sibling donkeys find their forever home

By Iain Ferguson

Most people looking for a new pet would opt for a dog, cat or rabbit, but Mandy Bowie chose a different approach and hasn’t regretted her decision to rehome two donkeys.

Lizzie and Anna are now quite at home in their field and shelter at East Pokelly Farm outside Stewarton where Mandy lives with husband Billy, the owner of Kilmarnock FC, and their two sons.

The donkeys look so relaxed and happy as they wander about their domain and Mandy takes up the remarkable story of how the curious twosome ended up in the Ayrshire countryside.

“I saw an advert online for The Donkey Sanctuary,” said Mandy. “I filled out a form and said I would be interested in rehoming two donkeys and that’s how it started.”

That set the wheels in motion and Sally Bamforth, Donkey Welfare Officer from the Sanctuary, who covers part of Scotland from her Cumbria base, contacted Mandy and arranged to see her for a chat.

The field which the donkeys can now call home was more or less waiting for them with just a bit of tidying up needed to make it safe. Mandy recalled: “Billy said to me ‘I know just the stable for them’ and what was a container at one of his properties was quickly adapted as their field shelter. They need a shelter as donkeys aren’t waterproof, so if it rains they need cover.”

The long process began in November 2021 and last August Lizzie and Annie arrived at their new home. They came from a herd originally and then moved to another farm where they spent some time being prepared for rehoming.

“It was quite a long process,” said Mandy. “The Donkey Sanctuary had a number of specific requirements we had to meet to become Donkey Guardians. It was like adopting a child. Sally came and had three visits here and then I had to do an online training course. Then they matched the donkeys to me.”

I can feel the passion Mandy has for her donkeys as she tells me: “They weren’t neglected in any way and they’ve settled in brilliantly. They’re just great characters. Lizzie is 14 and Anna three years younger. Lizzie will push her sister out of the way to get more attention. But they love cuddles.”

On the training she received, she added: “They usually do the training face to face but because of Covid I was trained online how to brush them, to worm them, and pick up their feet to clean their hooves. I also learned which weeds could give them different diseases. It was very informative.”

Mandy had first encountered donkeys when a nursing home she worked in had them and she got to know something about the character and nature. She was determined to adopt two, and although Billy resisted at first he is smitten by them and wouldn’t mind adopting more. While she wouldn’t rule that out, she joked: “That’s more poo to clean up!”

Mandy said: “We have learnt how to care for them and what routine they enjoy. We just put straw in their shelter. They wander about and sometimes go into the riding school here and just roll about. We come down in the morning and muck them out but when it’s a morning like this and it’s been dry during the night, they’ve been out and there’s nothing to lift.

“There are horses here for livery and Lizzie and Anna are more laid back than them. There is a big Clydesdale too who is a companion for a Shetland pony and they are fine with him.”

There’s no doubting that Lizzie and Anna are happy and contented in their new home. And Mandy? Well, she just dotes on them.

The Donkey Sanctuary is one of the largest equine welfare charities in the world and has around 6,000 donkeys and mules in its care across the UK and Europe.

Donkey Guardians play a vital role for the charity’s rehoming scheme, freeing up space at the Sanctuary and providing dedicated care in a home environment.

For more information, visit www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk.