Donkeys Rico and Jack and Their Love Story

It wasn’t love at first sight, not even close.

FFAS rescued Rico from an Oklahoma kill pen in May 2020. For the next 18 months his best friends were humans, lots and lots of them! But donkeys are social animals so in November 2021 FFAS decided to rescue another one to be a companion for Rico. 

It wasn’t long before JD (Jack) was on a transport truck, rescued from a kill pen in Texas.  5 days later he arrived in NY.  He was quarantined for 30 days, separated from Rico by a mesh gate.  He was treated a few times by both the vet and farrier, all under Rico’s watchful eye.  They were curious about each other, but Rico’s ears were pinned back more than we had ever seen.

Donkeys Getting to Know Each other

After quarantine we slowly let Jack in the paddock with Rico.  It was scary!  Rico chased Jack around the paddock, biting his back and generally terrifying him.  It was hard to watch.  We were told that they needed to establish which would be the dominant donkey.  The whole scene was both frightening and sad. We just didn’t know where the line was between normal and dangerous.

Each encounter would last about 10 minutes, which was all we could stand.  This daily ritual lasted 4 weeks. 

Donkey Friendship
Donkeys Meetings

Then one day, the donkeys just started to graze together.

And they grazed and grazed!  They’ve been inseparable ever since.  They eat together, sleep together, lay in the sun together, investigate together and do a lot of nothing together!  That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

This Valentine’s Day we celebrate Rico and Jack, from a place of hopelessness to a place of love and a bond for life!

Donkey Friendship

Rico the Donkey Learns to Trust

It’s been six months since Lisa Miskella from Freedom Farm Animal Sanctuary paid the bail and rescued Rico the donkey from a kill pen* in Oklahoma. 

His fate would have landed in the hands of the highest bidder per pound (kill buyers), maybe bound for Mexico or Canada where they have Equine slaughter houses.  I try not to think about that too much but it’s important that people know what his and many equines’ fate may have been. 

Rico traveled over a thousand miles to get here and when he did, he was terrified of people and extremely cautious. He was the picture of neglect; his hooves were overgrown to the point that his bones are slightly deformed, he was extremely dehydrated, covered in lice and he is blind in one eye. 

Rico before
Rico after

Over the next six months we nursed him back to health with many visits from the Vet and Farrier. We also spent many hours earning his trust. There were many breakthroughs during that time, like when he let me brush him for the first time (I didn’t want to stop), or when he first took a treat (we quickly ran out and bought bags of them), or when he put his head on the barn door looking for a snack.

His first bray was both confusing and exciting as we didn’t know if he was hungry, happy, hurt, hot etc. Turns out it mostly means that he is happy to see us or that he wants attention.

Each first fills us with joy and a feeling of hope for farm animals overall. Unfortunately, farmed animals are unprotected in most places and many are mistreated. Taking care of Rico makes us feel like we’re doing our part to raise awareness and move the needle toward compassion.

There are many firsts yet to happen and when they do, we’ll be ready.

* Kill pens are holding areas where unwanted, discarded and abandoned horses and donkeys are held until they are shipped to Mexico or Canada to be slaughtered. Many people who send their horses to auction are unaware that they are destined for the kill pen.