Want a donkey? Or, maybe, 21?
A whole herd of donkeys recently hit the jackpot when they were adopted by Sharon Maloney, owner of Dogpatch Farm in Warrenton, Virginia.
Maloney, 68, recently retired from a 35-year long career as a horse trainer, was looking for something to fill her newly-acquired free time. So she decided to adopt 19 donkeys - 15 standard and four miniature - from Double D Animal Rescue and Community Services, a Texas nonprofit organization that rescues horses and donkeys from "kill pens" and slaughterhouses.
The 19 new additions aren't Maloney's only donkeys, however. Dogpatch Farm is already home to Elton and McQueen, two rescued victims of a cruelty case, that Maloney adopted last November.
"It was going to be very lonely here. The fields would have been empty. I needed a reason to get up in the morning," Maloney says of her decision to adopt the "Donkeys of Dogpatch Farm," as she affectionately refers to them.
Each morning, the donkeys eat a meal of low-protein feed in their stalls before they're turned out to pasture for the day. They're treated to post-breakfast snacks of carrots and leftover tortilla chips donated by a nearby Mexican restaurant. They spend the rest of their day basking in the sunshine and rolling around in the dirt and grass with their pals...in other words, they're simply in donkey heaven.
The donkeys have made great progress since arriving at Dogpatch Farm, thanks to all the TLC they're receiving.
"When we first got them they were really skittish, but we've come a long way," says Maloney.
With daily handling and lots of treats, their social skills are blossoming and they're developing more trust in their human caretakers.
Rescue is heroic, but it isn't cheap. Maloney paid an adoption fee of $305 per donkey, which included neutering and transportation from Texas to Virginia. The Donkeys of Dogpatch Farm range in age from 11 months to 18 years old.
"Each one has their own personality," says Maloney.
Maloney hopes to find forever homes for at least 14 of the donkeys, although she is fully prepared to keep them if she doesn't find the right fit. She hopes to adopt them out in pairs of two so that they'll always have a companion.
Maloney's heart of gold is well known in her community.
"There's no kinder person in the world than Sharon Maloney," says Virginia's Fauquier SPCA Executive Director Mary Tarr.
And the love for animals runs in the Maloney family. Maloney's mother, Betty, also a horsewoman, was one of the original founders of the Fauquier SPCA in 1957.
Whether or not Maloney manages to find homes for her new adoptees remains to be seen. What is certain, though, is that they're now in the best possible hands. Rescue changes lives, and the 21 Donkeys of Dogpatch Farm are living proof.
All images via Fauquier Now