On a warm Saturday morning I went to the barn for my morning snuggles and donkey kisses, my son Brian was visiting and he and my husband Ted were working outside. I walked down to the barn and when I went in my eyes had to adjust for a moment. Our barn is an open pole barn one side with stalls around the outside, its quite large 110 x 60 so a nice area for the animals. All the animals run together with exception of the goats and pigs, so 5 donkeys and 2 mini horses and 5 cows all run together. Amongst them, there were a half dozen ducks and a big Muscovy drake called Donald.
In the middle of the large common area, all the animals were milling around as usual but Donald was in the middle hissing and flapping his wings making a lot of noise. I thought the worst, that a cow had stepped on him! I went in through the gate to get a closer look and saw what I thought was a rabbit sitting beside Donald.
This small, grey "rabbit" with large ears was sitting on its behind just looking around. Donald was putting up quite the fuss keeping animals away from this small rabbit. As I walked closer I realized it wasn't a rabbit, but the smallest, tiniest donkey I could ever imagine! He looked like a little stuffed animal - about the size of a cat with the largest eyes I had ever seen.
Donald wouldn't let me get too close so I had to lure him away with feed while worrying that the other animals would trample him. I managed to get Donald away far enough I could pick up this little bundle off the straw. The only possibility was that his mom had to have been Molly a little baby of ours that was born on our farm, but she hadn't looked like she was bred at all. I yelled for my son and husband to come see what I found in the barn and bring the camera. I thought for sure he wouldn't make it.
We put Molly and the tiny baby in a pen together and watched them. Molly was really agitated and paced and tried to trample the baby, then would pick him up in her teeth and toss him against the wall, we knew we had to intervene. We went into the pen and tied her loosely with a lead rope so we could lift the baby up to nurse.
The poor little guy was under a foot tall and was no where near being able to reach to nurse, so we tried to lift him up but mom got angry and started kicking at us. Since the baby was dried off I knew he was more than a couple hours old and was probably on borrowed time without getting colostrum so we had to make some decisions quickly. I went to the house and grabbed a goat nipple and a plastic pop bottle ran back to barn. We held mom and milked her (no easy chore as mom was so upset and probably confused as to what was happening.)
We managed a couple ounces and I fed him and put him in a small recycling box with a towel and headed to our vet who lived over an hour away. Unfortunately our Vet didn’t have time to see him, and I was pleading at the counter, but there wasn't time for us that day. I knew that all I needed was some colostrum to get him started so the receptionist said she knew of a couple places to call and she frantically called around but none was available. She then suggested a vet about 20 minutes away that could possibly help us. She called and we were told to come down even though it was her day off and they were closed. I walked through her door and she asked if the little donkey I called about was in the backseat of my little Kia Rio, as she walked past me to take a look, I said "No, he's right here in the box I'm holding". Kelli the Vet (my hero) took him from me and called another girl to help. She checked him over and did some bloodwork and kept saying "I can't believe what I'm seeing, never have I ever seen one so tiny" and this is how he came to be Tiny Tim!
Kelli worked on him for a couple hours and sent me off with my precious bundle and bags of meds, needles, formula and sheets of instructions as well as her cell number to call her night or day, which I used quite frequently.
Tiny needed to be fed with a syringe every 20 minutes for a week then if he lived would be fed every hour. I returned the next day after test results were back and he needed a plasma IV since he didn’t get enough colostrum. Kelli spent day #2 of her weekend off with us again for a couple hours and couldn't believe that he had made it 24 plus hours without mom. He definitely had a will to live.
Tiny took over the house much like a new baby, bottles formula, towels blankets and even brought out our grandkids playpen to put him in to sleep quietly during the day. At night my husband took the playpen down and hauled it upstairs to our bedroom, set it up and carried baby Tiny upstairs. Then repeated it again in the day taking it down and setting up in the living room. Ted definitely gets an award for how he pitched in during that first while.
I honestly don't remember much of those first few weeks much like a new mom days run into nights and nights blend into days we were exhausted but Tiny was thriving and getting stronger.
He became a local celebrity quickly when word spread in our little town of Apsley which is roughly under 2500 people in the winter and over 12,000 in the summer. He attended his first Lion's meeting at 4 days old and won everyone over. He travelled well in the car in a blue recycling box with some towels and his stuffed cow. The first couple weeks I used the dog training mats in his play pen for his accidents with a towel over top to keep him from eating them, this worked really well.
On day number 2 I let him out on the front lawn with the dogs to walk around and stretch out his crooked little legs and saw him "pee" so I thought what the heck, see if it was possible to train or catch him before he peed. When he did pee I praised him and told him he was good using the same words over and over. I had no idea what a donkey was capable of learning at this point. So from then on, every time we let the dogs outside we put him out and said the same things " go pee, quick quick" this is what we had always used for the dogs. About day 4 accidents were fewer and he caught on and actually started to do his business outside about 90% of the time. When there was an accident, I would pick up the little donkey poop with a napkin take him outside and put it on the lawn and him beside it and say " go pee outside - good boy outside" and he would smell it then pee on top of it. So this is how he started to be house trained I went about it the same as training a puppy.