Meet Alan the Christmas donkey

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Together, we're fundraising for local animal charities and sanctuaries through our Community Champions scheme. Here's just one of their stories.

With their trusting eyes and hard-working temperament, there’s so much to love about donkeys. Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop them from being neglected.

It was just after one Christmas that Alan found himself alone in a Birmingham car park.

He’d been tied to a lamppost and abandoned. The glow from the light highlighted his ribs and the lice in his matted fur. Fortunately, some members of the public had alerted Tracy.

Tracy Garton hadn't planned to rescue donkeys but couldn't bear not to help animals in need. Eventually, she'd sold her house to turn derelict land in Huttoft into Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary

It’d been a bad winter at the sanctuary, but she couldn’t turn Alan away. After gaining his trust – helped by a ginger biscuit – Tracy and her husband Steve rescued him.

Fast-forward to today and Alan is a happy resident at the couple's sanctuary along with his zedonk pal, a zebra and donkey cross named Tigger.

“Some of the rescues are hard to handle at first. We turn them round, but it takes months of patience,” says Tracy.

Alan helped the sanctuary in return. The following winter he donned antlers for a nativity fundraiser, becoming a local celebrity and even star of book Alan the Christmas Donkey.

He’s one of 50 donkeys at the sanctuary along with a menagerie of other rescues, including two more zebra crosses, mules, horses and ponies, hens and ducks.

“It all started in 1992 when we rescued a mule called Muffin,” says Tracy.

“We got him a Skegness beach donkey as a companion, and then people kept telling us about others which needed rescuing.

“We rented more land and kept taking them in. Until Lincolnshire Co-op raised money for us to buy our first horsebox, we had to hire one for each rescue.”

Eventually the couple sold their house in Nottingham and moved to Huttoft in 1999, building today’s sanctuary from scratch.

It’s just the place to help animals mend. There are green fields and warm stables, and swallows flit through the sky in summer. Visitors give a small donation to meet the residents.

It all takes long days, lots of mucking out and many volunteers. Paying for the animals’ complex health needs is expensive, and the sanctuary also desperately needs a barn. 

It’s all worth it, Tracy says, to see the donkeys happy: “I’ll be doing this for the rest of my life.”

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