The Muslim holy month of Ramadan is a time to consider those less fortunate than ourselves. Although I am not a Muslim, this Ramadan I was confronted with the poverty in which some Moroccans have to live.
A few days ago, we spotted a forlorn-looking skinny little donkey hanging around our neighbourhood in Essaouira. I bought him a kilo of carrots, which he devoured. Animals in Morocco are generally seen as working animals or food. People seldom have pets in their homes. When times get tough and families are no longer able to care for their animals, especially if those animals are no longer useful, they are often simply let go and left to fend for themselves. I told Stella, a friend who rescues and re-homes abandoned and unwanted animals, about our local donkey (who we named ‘Wonky’) and she resolved to help him.
Fast forward two days and another kilo of carrots and I received a call at 6:30am from Stella to tell me Operation International Donkey rescue was on! Ayoub, a young man who works with her, taking the younger generation’s approach to Ramadan, had surfed the internet all night and decided to come into town and walk the donkey to its new home, 8km away, before the day got too hot. We searched high and low for Wonky to no avail. We found where he’d slept, we tried to follow his tracks, but no donkey. After two hours, we gave up and Ayoub went home to bed.
A couple of hours later, I left the house and there he was! Wonky had re-appeared! As I neared him, he seemed to recognise me and approached me. I left my boyfriend to tie him up and informed Stella, who put into action Plan B for getting Wonky to his new owner, an older guy who is her neighbour and just fancied having (another) donkey. I was to call ‘Mohammed’, who would help me out.
Just a few minutes after I called him, Mohammed arrived on his triporteur. A triporteur is a three-wheeled motorcycle pick-up truck. Mohammed seemed bemused but game. Wonky was neither. We managed to get his forelegs up into the bed of the transporter, but there was no way he was going to jump in. And frankly, I was worried he’d jump (or fall) out at the next roundabout… We needed some help.
Luckily, it was at hand in the form of a young man raking through the nearby bins for anything of nutritional or saleable value. Despite his own unfortunate situation, he was happy to help and we soon got Wonky in the truck and tied into a half-lying, half-kneeling position. And then the adventure really began as we drove to Wonky’s new home in a rural suburb of Essaouira! Mohammed was in the driving seat, I was upfront on the passenger seat and our helper was in the back with Wonky. We got some startled looks and a few waves en route, but Wonky was so placid, almost as if he knew he was going to a better life.
And if pets are like their owners, then Wonky and his new master are the perfect fit. They have both already worked hard, experienced life’s excitements and now seem to look forward to their quiet later years together.
A kind local sponsor has already donated a bag of grain and Wonky’s first vet bill. It’s just as well, as on first inspection he appeared to have an eye infection, numerous skin complaints, a fungal foot and quite a few parasites. So, Wonky’s not yet out of the woods but he’s in a better place where he will get the care and attention he needs in his retirement.
If you would like to support Wonky and other stray, abandoned or unwanted animals in Essaouira, you can donate to Stella’s charity, Humane Concepts via PayPal (firstname.lastname@example.org)