Luke, the donkey, has hit the jackpot in terms of finding a forever home at our trail riding facility in Missouri. He will have the task of being loved by children and adults during birthday parties and being kissed by brides that want to have unique wedding photos. It is a pretty good gig that is filled with love, treats, ear scratches, and brushings; lots and lots of brushings.
Luke had quiet the journey before landing at the ranch. What we know of his journey started in Cleveland, Tennessee at an auction for horses, mules, and donkeys. We do not know where he came from before this auction, but we do know he was young. He was bought by Mill Creek Farms and moved to Louisiana. I’m sure that was a fun drive with a trailer full of mules, seeing how he is a wee guy and tends to be an instigator of mayhem. He was only in Louisiana for six months until he was given to my father as kind of a joke. My father, Ronnie, ask if the donkey had a name. Nope. One of the ranch hands helping was named Luke. Since this was a day filled with surprises, Ronnie said that he would just name him after him, as he pointed to the ranch hand.
Luke entered Arkansas, his third state to call home, we think. This is where my immediate family had the joy of hearing the bray of a donkey. Ah yes, the sound of an ogre and steamboat combined at the highest volume possible filled the air. He chased the chickens, chewed off the tails of several horses, but also found his way into my niece, Kaytlynn’s, heart.
Luke was like many donkeys. Sometimes he was easy to catch, but if he didn’t like you then you did not get to touch him. He always had a sweet spot for any little child and for Kaytlynn. One day, Kaytlynn wanted to ride Luke. Her father put her on Luke. He was on his best behavior and she to this day is the only person that ever rode Luke.
This is where Luke’s journey took a turn for the worst. Kaytlynn, like too many others in this world thought the world would be better without them in it. We lost Kaytlynn to suicides ugly face when she was 15 years old. After a few months, my family was put into a whirlwind of decisions about what to do with her horse and donkey, Luke.
Luke came to our ranch in 2016, but only for a few months. You see, Luke and our mule, JoJo, played way too violently. JoJo had to have his lip repaired with stitches. Luke also came to us needing to be gelded. Our female vet was 8 months pregnant, it was raining, and we had a horsemanship clinic going on in our covered arena. Nothing like having to use the corner of the arena to geld a donkey that was a bit of a handful. A month later, Luke pinned down one of our ponies after a birthday party. That bought him a one-way ticket from Missouri back to Arkansas.
My mother never could part with Kaytlynn’s Arabian horse, Santana. When Luke returned, he was officially a companion animal until 2019. Tragedy struck again. In Arkansas people have been going around shooting horses for no reason. It was not a hunting accident, but a random act of violence. Santana was shot. Luke found himself alone.
We decided to make it work with Luke at the ranch. It took around two weeks for Luke to decide we were ok. In order to get Luke to come around required him to live in the round pen for us to establish humans as a food supplier and to help us get our hands on him. Literally everyday an activity was in store for Luke from checking the mail, to just standing tied while I rode a mule, to keeping him with me while I mucked stalls, to playing with stuffed animals. He went to the University of “what can I do with him today…hummm?” People have watched Luke’s transformation here through social media. He now lives with the cows and eagerly meets us at the gate for his daily ear pettings and butt scratches. I no longer have to catch him, he catches me.
Luke’s journey has taken him from Tennessee to Louisiana, to Arkansas to Missouri, back to Arkansas, and then back to Missouri. If Luke could talk, I am certain that his story would include learning to love and learning to be loved. It is a story many of us can relate to.
*In memory of our beloved niece; the national suicide hotline number is available 24-7, 1-800-273-8255.