Dr Louise Eccles Interview: The GP donkey rescuer

Lanarkshire GP Dr Louise Eccles rescues donkeys and now looks after three.

How did you first become involved in donkey rescuing?

We heard of four donkeys needing a home when their former owner, a farmer from Ayrshire, had an MI and could no longer look after them.

Given our good fortune of having three acres of land in Lanarkshire, we decided to give two of them a home. The other two went to friends of ours in Dunoon.

It was goodbye to pristine lawns, but hello to free fertiliser for plants. I also soon realised the truth behind the expression 'stubborn as a mule'.

Are they easy to look after?

Initially, their coats were in poor condition and their hooves badly neglected. Head collars and walkies were out of the question, never mind grooming and having the farrier to visit. However, with much time, patience and love, they slowly began to trust in humans again.

One of them, Tina, was already named, so the obvious name for her handsome friend was Ike.

Over their first summer with us, they flourished on the rich grass and nuggets with carrots and gingernut biscuits.

We also built them a field shelter to the standard of Egypt's Red Sea Sensatori Resort in Sharm el Sheikh, with its own hanging salt lick.

They came to recognise our cars coming home from work and the eeyores would begin every evening at five on the dot.

Call me a doctor, but I did think Tina was putting on the pounds.

But, hey, what's a 25p packet of gingernuts between friends?

By September, our daily routine was set. So much so, that we did find it strange one day to see Ike out for his tea on his own. Unheard of for the inseparable pair.

We went over to the field shelter to investigate and there was Tina, proudly feeding her newborn foal.

I'll never forget the excitement at having our very own nativity scene at the bottom of the garden. The kids were less impressed when after a quick examination of our newborn, I declared: 'It's a boy!', only to find that I was feeling the poor thing's umbilical cord. As it transpired, he was a boy, and naturally, was christened Turner.

Feeding went well, but the nights were getting colder and the only coat that would fit belonged to our Boxer dog, Jazz. Despite it being pink, Turner appreciated the warmth.

What would you say to GPs thinking about giving it a go?

It was totally worth all the money and hard work: haylage (forage), straw, shavings, designer coats and head collars, farriers' and vets' bills: it all adds up.

But the warmth and softness of those noses after a stressful day at work is right up there with a G&T when it comes to relaxation.

What's next for you and your hobby?

Donkeys are magnificent, intuitive, intelligent, with just a hint of attitude, Turner in particular. Would I do it again? Oh, yes, but this time, I'd know to put a warm cowpat on an abscessed hoof, rather than call the vet.

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