The old disused cottage at the end of the lane before the sharp turn was one such. The kids used to laugh at the cup left on the window sill. They used to wonder who had left it and how long it would last. Surprisingly it lasted years. It lasted long after the sign seeking planning permission had yellowed and gone brittle. The sign is still there weathered and faded.
The kids grew up and grew out of horses and I was busy at work. Our last dog had been knocked down on the road and I swore I would get no more. The lane was forgotten. Then a dog reappeared in my life and I realised how much I had missed having one and getting that welcome when you return home only a dog owner can understand. Another dog followed and I had to think of routes to walk them where I could let them off the lead to get some serious sniffing and exercise in. I remembered the lane. By now it had been partially surfaced and had a huge house built on it. But the old disused cottage was still there with the mug on the sill.
On one of my walks I discovered a donkey in it's garden. He was alone and was only contained by a rope strung loosely across the front of the property. I called him, not expecting him to react but he ambled over and I spent a few minutes rubbing his ears and talking to him. I got to enjoy stopping to have a chat with him and tried to remember some carrots or apples as a treat. I felt he was very lonely. One day last summer it was hot and when I arrived I saw he had pushed in the front door of the cottage and was lying in the hallway. It was obviously cool there. The dogs startled him and he jumped up, skidded and ran out around the back.
Then one day I passed and I couldn't see him. I ducked under the rope and walked around the back - no sign. I went into the house and there was a newspaper on the table faded and dated 1974. There was a cheque book and a few bills on the window sill. But there was no sign of the donkey. I came out and walked back down the lane in the direction of home. Surprisingly, I discovered the donkey standing forlornly at the gate of the big, new house. There were horses in the paddock at the front and he was looking in at them. His feet were like platform wedges and I realised he had trouble walking and appeared to rock from side to side. I continued on and met the farmer at the other end and asked him did he know anything about the donkey. He said the descendants of the owners of the cottage had emigrated to England and were very annoyed at the donkey in their garden as no one had asked to leave him there. I asked him for the number of the people in the big house. I returned home and got my car and drove back down. The donkey was still standing there. I rang the house and the woman told me she could not let him in as he was a stallion and she had mares. I said I would take him home but I no longer had a horse box. I told her he needed to have his hoofs trimmed as he was having difficulty walking.
She then offered to put him in one of her stables overnight as her blacksmith was coming the next day. I told her I would pay for his feet to be dressed. Next day she rang and said he was done, so I walked down with a head collar and rope to collect him. She offered her French au pair to walk behind him and shoo him along. I put him in the field at the back of my house and he seemed really happy to have company and action. But then at night, when he was lonely the bellows started and the long foghorn "hee-haw" struck up. The sound was so loud and echoing I was sure he could be heard in the village over a mile away. What the neighbours thought is another matter and I was worried they would start to complain.
I asked a friend to lend me a pony to put in with him until I found a home for him. The pony arrived and the bellows subsided. I contacted the Donkey Sanctuary and they sent out a lady who explained to me they were full up and I would just have to keep him until they had a vacancy. Then one day, he and the pony got out on the road and I was terrified they would cause an accident or get injured. I thought of Twitter and tweeted I needed to find a home for the donkey, who by this stage I had named Sarkozy. The reason being, he was small, was well-endowed and when I first got him he appeared to have high heels (his feet were so bad).
|Sarko meeting Halfpint|
A week or so later he arrived to collect Sarko with the food writer and her husband. They loaded him up and very kindly returned the pony to his own home en route. They then called in for a cup of tea and we had a great chat. They promised me they would keep in touch and let me know how he was getting on. As promised, they have kept me updated with photos of Sarko - at Christmas in a crib in the garden centre, up to his knees in straw with lambs beside him. He looked so happy and it was a far cry from a cold, lonely cottage garden.
I went down to visit him last February and he recognised me. He was standing in a field and when I went over he nuzzled me the way he always did looking for treats in my pockets. Then when I went to leave he followed me. I was sad to leave him but so happy that he had at last found a good home. He looked so well in contrast to when I had found him (he had lice and his coat was very patchy from scratching and his skin was inflamed.) I had treated him before he left me but I hadn't seen the results. He now had a full, fluffy winter coat.
Lots of animals have been abandoned and forgotten now the Celtic tiger has slunk off to better pastures and there are abandoned cottages all over the country. Sarkozy was a lucky donkey to have been abandoned in a cottage with a cup left on the sill, an action that had struck a chord with us all those years before.
|Part of the lane remains as it was all those years ago|
|The cottage boarded up now and the cup is gone|
|Planning permission sign still up|