Time was running out: floodwaters had already claimed this poor donkey’s home, and it was trapped. All the owner could do was call for help as he watched his beloved animal struggle to stay afloat. Was there no one who could save it?
And the donkey was stranded in part because the United Kingdom and Ireland had been battered by a massive storm: an extratropical cyclone that had broken rainfall records across Europe when it hit in 2015. As a result, Storm Desmond became the fourth storm of the year to earn the distinction of receiving a name. And heavy flooding soon followed across the countries.
In England, Cumbria and Lancashire received the brunt of the deluge. However, floodwaters also struck the Scottish border as well as Ireland’s west side and midlands. And Desmond’s winds and heavy rainfalls resulted in mayhem; rivers broke their banks, cliffs fell to landslides and roads were thrown into chaos.
In southwest Ireland’s town of Killorglin, moreover, Storm Desmond buffeted everything. And as the wind whipped up the overflowing waters of the River Laune, it created a potentially disastrous scenario for those living nearby. Such was nearly the case for one local resident.
That was because Storm Desmond’s winds played their part in putting a much-loved donkey at extreme risk. The gales first blew down the fence surrounding the donkey’s field, then destroyed its shed. In no time at all, then, the animal was surrounded by rising waters.
Luckily for the donkey, its owner was able to call the local Animal Heaven Animal Rescue (AHAR) organization for assistance. But when the charity’s rescuers arrived on the scene, they realized that the problem was greater than they anticipated. Indeed, they would need a boat to save this stranded donkey.
Furthermore, Suzanne Gibbons, AHAR’s founder, was desperate to find a solution. “No answer from civil defense, tried all three numbers, anyone got any contacts?” Gibbons wrote on Facebook. “Can someone please find a boat? He won’t last much longer.”
With no success, she kept calling out for assistance. “Code red. Today’s emergency. Please help me. There is a donkey stranded in deep flooding in Killorglin. I need a boat and men to help.” After her flurry of social media posts, though, Gibbons called the Killorglin Rowing Club.
Thankfully, Michael Fleming answered the line. “He was my last chance and phone call to beg for a boat,” Gibbons wrote on social media. “He listened and he drove down to meet me. I knew straight away he had the guts to do it.”
Along with an AHAR rescuer named Declan, then, Fleming quickly jumped into action. Thankfully, the donkey had found some high ground and seemed to be waiting stoically for help; it seemed that the rescue would happen just in the nick of time.
And, despite the danger, the rowers didn’t hesitate to throw themselves into the rescue. They were there to help however they could. “No negative attitude, just ‘come on, girl, we’ll give it a go,’” Gibbons described.
And give it a go they did. What’s more, despite the treacherous conditions, the rowers reached the donkey before the floodwaters could claim it. But although there was still the problem of getting it to safety, the team had a plan: they had come prepared with a life ring and a length of rope.
The rowing partners got the life ring around the donkey’s head easily enough, but the hard part was yet to come. They had to pull the struggling jackass through the water with the boat, using the ring and rope as a tow. It was the only chance they had.
Of course, Gibbons and the donkey’s anxious owner cheered on the rowers as they hauled the waterlogged animal through the flood. In addition, Gibbons was blogging the entire rescue to AHAR’s nervous Facebook followers. “We have him. Pray we get him to the shore line,” she wrote.
And while it was a struggle, eventually the donkey made it back to land, safe and sound. Gibbons and the donkey’s owner, moreover, couldn’t have been happier with the rescue and were both grateful to Fleming in particular for his assistance. “He braved such dangerous water to help us save him,” Gibbons said. “You’re some hero.”
They also had a surprise for Fleming; as a gesture of appreciation, the donkey was given a new name. “We’ve named him Mike,” Gibbons told social media. “There could be no other name.” But perhaps Fleming’s biggest reward for a job well done was seeing his namesake’s enormous smile.
And once Mike the donkey was taken to a safe place, a vet was able to give him a medical assessment. “He has a small bit of fluid in one lung, but our vet said he will recover,” Gibbons reported. “He is now dried with towels, eating a hot mash, all cozy and warm.”
“And our vet has seen him and started him on antibiotics to prevent pneumonia,” she added. “All he needs is loads of TLC.” And considering how much love and attention went into Mike’s rescue, it’s safe to say that he’ll be getting all the loving care he needs.
Of course, once Mike was safe, the AHAR followers all collectively breathed a sigh of online relief. “Awk dear God tears are tripping me here even though I know he’s safe,” one person wrote. “You’re saints and deserve a medal… for going above and beyond to save this donkey,” said another.
So thanks to the efforts of AHAR and the Killorglin Rowing Club, Mike got to return to his loving owner happy and healthy. “We loved every moment saving Mike,” Gibbons concluded. “I think I speak for all of us: he was so worth the danger just to see his little face on dry land.”