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    Name: Ernest

    Type: Mammoth Donkey

    Color: Grey

      Markings: None

    Sex: Gelding

    Birthday: 1/1/2009


Ark Watch logo 2022

Ernest was saved because a group of rescues worked together to save him – and 43 others. Here is their story:

Celine Myers of the Ark Watch Foundation heard about a group of 44 donkeys in danger of going to slaughter in Beebe, AK. She reached out to Tia Bonkowski of Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue to see if she would be willing to help. Tia knew of the kill buyer and was willing to act as liaison with him on Ark Watch’s behalf. Celine also asked Tia to reach out to the Humane Society of North Texas and see if HSNT would be willing to take the donkeys in, care for them and adopt them out, if a grant could be secured to help cover the costs. Fortunately, HSNT agreed to take the group of 44 donkeys.

Ark Watch Foundation covered the funds needed to purchase the donkeys and pay for their transport to HSNT. Red Bell Run contributed to the grant sent to HSNT to be used towards vetting and caring for the donkeys until they could be adopted out. We knew the donkeys would arrive thin and ill with respiratory issues. When the haulers arrived to pick up the first group of donkeys, they reported back that all 44 of the donkeys were in very poor condition. The hauler called to say that there were several donkeys in the group that needed immediate medical attention. One of these was a large Mammoth jack who was terribly emaciated and covered in bite marks from fighting. That Mammoth donkey would be named “Ernest”. All of the donkeys had pneumonia, and the vets started them on medications to resolve it. They were put on a refeeding program to safely reintroduce hay and feed and avoid the possibility of developing Refeeding Syndrome which often kills emaciated animals once they begin eating again if food is not reintroduced properly.

Ernest turned out to be quite the character. Quite handleable, he was very curious about all that was going on at the clinic. He’d pop his big head over the stall dividers and the staff said Ernest really enjoyed watching his neighbors receive their medical treatments. Although Ernest was an intact jack, he did not exhibit any “studdy” behavior. This was quite surprising since the 10 yr. old Ernest had obviously been used for breeding. When Ernest had gained enough weight that it was safe to anesthetize him, he was castrated. The vet reported that Ernest had the largest “family jewels” she had ever seen! Despite this, the surgery went well and Ernest recovered quickly without incident. Thirty days post-surgery, Ernest boarded the Equine Express trailer and headed off to the Red Bell Run Sanctuary in NC. Once at Red Bell Run Ernest quickly settled into his new home. Charlotte, a young molly mule who, sadly, had been orphaned, traveled with Ernest to North Carolina and the two became fast friends on the trip and remain so today. We discovered that Ernest has a decided dislike for dogs (Mr. Waylon, the Red Bell Run Coonhound found that out when he decided to enter Ernest’s pen uninvited and barely escaped)! Other than that, Ernest is a lover, not a fighter, is very well-behaved and spends his days happily grazing with Charlotte who will occasionally convince him to trot a short distance. Ernest’s feet were long-neglected in his previous life, so he requires specialty farrier care, but has become quite the gentleman about it, and is a favorite here at the Sanctuary with his ultra-long ears! 

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Ernest and Charlotte grooming each other

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    Name: Charlotte

    Type: Mule

    Color: Bay

      Markings: Dorsal Stripe

    Sex: Mare

    Birthday: 1/1/2017


Charlotte is one of our younger residents here at Red Bell Run. Her circumstances and the way she came to the Sanctuary is truly a sad story. While she wasn’t technically “abused” she certainly suffered from an uncaring and irresponsible owner who gave her poor mother no training or care. That led to Charlotte and her mother Grace being dumped at an auction and nearly purchased by one of the most notorious kill buyers in the United States.

We were contacted by members of another rescue who were attending the auction and had managed to win the bid for the pair, a stunning grey Quarter Horse mare and a little molly mule who was about four months old, but they didn’t have the facilities to accommodate them since they were unhandleable. The previous owner had let a jack donkey breed the beautiful mare, and while he fed her, never handled the mare or her foal. This meant they received no farrier or vet care and were unvaccinated (so important for foals) and riddled with parasites. The rescue asked that Red Bell Run take them. Because both were unhandled, we sent them to a trainer who specialized in handling wild horses, so they could be halter broke and start receiving the care they needed. 

While Charlotte was able to be handled fairly soon, Grace proved more difficult. They were able to be dewormed (their parasite counts were over 8,000), but to do any other veterinary or farrier care required that Grace be trapped behind a panel and heavily sedated first. The pair were strongly bonded and while Charlotte became accustomed to people, poor Grace never did. Unfortunately, Grace damaged her hoof and before long the infection set up in her coffin bone. Once the trainer realized there was an issue and notified us, Red Bell Run arranged for a vet who was willing to try to go to her to help. Sadly, it was too late and poor Grace had to be humanely euthanized. At this point we arranged for Charlotte to be brought to Red Bell Run. She has settled in and is best friends with Ernest, a huge mammoth donkey who adores her, in our Sunset Ridge barn. Charlotte is turning a beautiful grey like her mother and is quite a character. She loves playing with the water hose and is definitely a mule with all of the quirks of their kind. We love her sassy attitude!  

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