An unexpected Christmas gift

What a night – and the last thing I expected after a very long day. It was 8pm and I had already showered and collapsed on my bed, ready for an early night. Just goes to prove, you should be careful what you wish for. Within seconds, the phone rang and it was our farm manager’s wife saying, “Tim, come now please. Rita baby!’ I was completely confused but the urgency in her voice meant I threw on some clothes and dashed out as quickly as possible.

As I ran into the stables, there was Rita, one of our rescue donkeys, with an amniotic sac with two tiny feet protruding from under her tail. To say I was staggered was an understatement. We run a total no-breeding rescue centre and babies (unless abandoned!) are not on our agenda! I would have to investigate – but for the time being, it was time to put my midwife’s hat on. But Rita was ahead of us all – without any intervention on our part, she just quietly and calming presented us with the most darling filly foal.

They say there are times in your life when you feel an angel fly by – and this was definitely one of those times. Here I was, 3000 miles from home, missing family, friends and Christmas – and Rita gives us all a special gift we will all remember the rest of our lives.

Within an hour, our new foal was up. Within two, she was taking her first milk from mum. We will never know if Rita has ever had a foal before but I suspect that, bearing in mind how calm and patient she was with the little one (and us!) she wasn’t a first time mum. Goodness knows if she had ever been allowed to keep any previous foals. I suspect not.

When we found 11 year old Rita in March this year she was very close to the end. She was sick, starved and abandoned by a main road just outside the Israel city of Tel Aviv. Even worse, we now know she was also just in foal, so would have been using even more of her depleted resources to maintain the pregnancy.

While mum and baby rested, there was no peace for the wicked…We have to set about creating a foal-proof crèche for them both for the night. Having fought so hard to arrive into the world, the last thing I wanted was this tiny baby to hurt itself during the night. Out came the power tools and, a few hours later, it was ready.

Abed, the farm manager (and primary midwife, if the truth be told) asked me how we were going to transfer the pair. ‘Simple,’ says I. ‘You lead mum and baby will follow.’ Which just goes to show how much this animal welfare expert knows…the foal decided to put me down a peg or two and as mum turned right, the foal turned left.

I quietly walked forward, picked up the tiny tot and gently put her in the straw next to mum –giving me my best Christmas present yet – a ‘cuddle’ with a newborn foal with whom I am now totally in love!

Obviously sleep was now out of the question. I was back with them just past midnight when I recorded this video for you all (please click here to watch). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did this Christmas miracle.

May I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous and happy New Year.