The Arrival of Donkeys at Our French Gites

Donkeys at French Gites

This blog is about cheese.

Just kidding, it’s not, of course, it’s about donkeys because EVERYTHING is now about donkeys. Because we now have three donkeys. Hadn’t you heard? Well, where have you been? Certainly not on Facebook, clearly.

It all happened rather quickly. We had always talked about getting donkeys (and hens and goats and possibly even horses) but always in the comfortable “one day” way that you chew over plans together, secure in the knowledge that you won’t have to put them into action anytime soon. This, by the way, is how most people talk about moving to France, so I should have been more careful, I suppose.

However, we hadn’t reckoned with the force of nature that is our friend Rachel. Rachel has a cottage in Pensol and divides her time between that and her home in Yorkshire. She has had donkeys before and was missing them. We made the mistake of confessing to a fondness for the beasts in front of her one day, and that was that. It was decided that we would get donkeys together. Links to donkeys for sale were sent to us daily, all the local rescue centres were contacted, and before we knew what was happening, we were going to view a pair of greys. Again I should have known better, as last year I once murmured that I thought it would be nice to invite the village down the mill to say thank you for making us so welcome, and the next thing I knew, we were organising a massive party right in the middle of our busiest time. That was Rachel’s fault too.

Donkeys at our French Gites
Vladimir & Bella. Very much in love.

Bella and Vladimir were at the Heliominos rescue centre in Les Cars. They didn’t have a tragic back story, just that their owner had become too sick to look after them. They were a bonded pair and could not be separated. Donkeys form very strong attachments, and Vladimir and Bella are very devoted to each other.

There was another donkey there when we took them for a walk. Much larger and furry brown all over – Nik fell in love with him at once (honestly, I can’t trust him around rescue animals). Again our experience with fostering dogs should have prepared me – three donkeys would be no more work than two, right?

Gites in France with donkeys
This big doofus was called TroTro at the time. We thought at first they were saying “trop trop” or “too much, too much”, which didn’t sound good. Or possibly “trop tôt” – “too early”, which didn’t sound promising for early morning braying and guests trying to have a holiday lie in. After some research, Rachel discovered that TroTro was, in fact, a donkey character in a French children’s book and cartoon.
Either way, the double “R” in that name was too much for our English mouths, so we needed to change it. We asked the friends and supporters of Le Moulin on our Facebook page, and after lots of suggestions (many funny and some highly inappropriate), we decided to call him Napoleon.

The rescue centre offered to deliver them but could only do Saturdays. This meant that if we wanted them delivered while my son was visiting (and we very much did), then that gave us three days to construct a rudimentary enclosure, buy some brushes and finish our “how to look after a donkey” book. But we did it, and the video below is the exciting moment they arrived.

They quickly settled in, though they all refused point blank to cross any of the bridges over the River Bandiat at Le Moulin. This was a pity as the bridges led the way to more interesting pasture, the only shelter on the site and tracks to our donkey-enthusiast friends and neighbours at Mazieras gite complex.

After a few days of grazing happily in their new pasture near the house, it began to rain, and we witnessed the tragic sight of donkeys in the rain for the first time. They don’t have waterproof coats as horses do, hence their need for decent shelter, and become forlorn and pathetic when wet with their big ears drooping down. We conceded defeat over the bridges and walked them around the long way to access their woodland shelter via the top track. They were comically delighted to have a proper building to live in, “finally”, they seemed to say to each other.

French holiday accommodation with donkeys
Vlad and Bella in their woodland enclosure.

The reasoning behind getting them (other than that they are donkeys – come on, who doesn’t love a donkey?) is that they will do a little grazing for us, provide entertainment for our guests and be trained to do useful tasks like carrying firewood, pull a small cart or be lead out on walks carrying a picnic. Napoleon is bigger than the other two and could possibly be ridden one day. He is a total clown who loves cuddles and has his sizeable nose in everything.

Donkey holidays in France
The curly gang – Napoleon, Rachel and Arun.

We are just at the start of our adventures with these loveable creatures and I’m sure they will crop up many times in future blogs. And if you are wondering – we have not yet had a single eee-aww from any of them. I hope that means they are happy here.

[PS – since writing that last paragraph – they have now brayed! They had kicked over their water bucket and needed us to jump to it and help them out. It was a wheezy high-pitched, short-lived affair, so I am no longer worried about them waking up guests early in the mornings. ]

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