A long time ago, somewhere in the Central Tablelands, a couple of donkeys lived out their twilight years on a bush block at the back of a farm. All the kids had grown up and moved away, so the fact that the two donkeys had a love child went unremarked, and their passing over the next few years was barely noticed. No-one really thought about the little brown and white donkey, keeping her own quiet company with the kangaroos, wallabies and wombats. There she would be, contentedly munching on grass, and lifting her head to watch an occasional passing car. Day after day, week after week, month after month. Year after year. For twenty years.

Then something strange happened. Just by coincidence the bush block where the donkey lived was identified as a suitable site for the release of some kangaroos, which often find themselves in conflict with human development. After feeding the relocated kangaroos one night, the ecologist in charge of the kangaroo-rescue project looked at the donkey, which was standing there looking at him, and he decided to give it a bit of a treat – kangaroos love “stud mix”, and he thought it might be something that donkeys might like too…

On approach she was wary, walking at right angles to the approaching human, but the smell of the stud mix was intoxicating, and after a pile had been deposited on a large flat rock shelf, the human sat down and talked quietly to her, and didn’t appear to be too big a threat, so she moved in and ate. And ate. And ate. The ecologist thought she was a bit thin, but much more worrying was the state of her feet. 20 years in the bush had resulted in over-grown hoofs. Badly overgrown hoofs. The ecologist went home and contacted the landowner, who was overseas. He also contacted the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary, to determine the best way forward for the little girl. She clearly needed care, and she probably needed company. She looked lonely.

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The next night she was already waiting at the rock shelf when the ecologist arrived to feed the kangaroos, perhaps wondering if there would be more stud mix. There was! And there was more the next night too, and the next night! She was still wary of the ecologist – moving away if approached, and withdrawing even from the extended hand – not even giving it a sniff. But then one night the ecologists hand was holding something which smelt interesting – irresistibly interesting. A carrot! And an apple! These delicious treats were worth being touched lightly on the cheek, and maybe even allowing a little bit of an ear-rub…

Over the course of the next month, every evening at about 6, the ecologist would arrive to feed the kangaroos, depositing also a pile of stud mix on the rock shelf and hand-feeding the donkey chunks of carrot and apple. Pretty soon the little brown and white donkey was accepting big pats, and even allowing the ecologist to brush her. He started calling her Blinky, as every night he arrived in the dark, and the bright torch-light made her blink. Meanwhile the landowner returned from overseas, and coordinated the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary team to come and collect her.

The team arrived at about lunch time and everyone scoured the bush, looking and calling for Blinky. There was no donkey. 6 hours of searching for hundreds of meters in all directions around the rock shelf – no sign, other than piles of dung. Then, in the quiet of the evening, as a kangaroo was helping itself to the stud mix on the rock shelf, there she was, coming out of the bush for her dinner and a pat. She walked straight up to the ecologist and the wonderful ladies from the Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary, and started munching on her juicy chunks of carrot and apple. The ecologist gave her a big cuddle, and she was loaded onto the float, where Annie gave her some liquorice. My goodness – life just gets stranger and stranger!

The next day she was back at the sanctuary, and for the first time in decades she was hearing donkey-talk again. The look on her face as one of the sanctuary horses licked her nose was priceless!

The ecologist still goes to the site to feed the kangaroos, but he misses Blinky. He is looking forward to visiting her in her new home, and meeting all her new friends.

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