Ben – ROLDAs First Rescue Donkey

For 12 long years, Ben the Donkey was passed from abusive owner to abusive owner. Not one of them cared for Ben. They couldn’t even bother to stroke his ears or pet his nose.

To these ignorant owners, Ben was just a working animal to be exploited for profit.

It’s been four years since ROLDA rescued Ben, and he sometimes he still flinches with fear when one of us goes to pet him. When Ben arrived at our shelter, his entire body was full of wounds, including his head. It took months for all his injuries to heal, but to this day, Ben suffers from severe psychological trauma from all the abuse he endured for so many years.

As a young foal, Ben carried heavy loads across dozens of kilometers each day. He was fed just enough to keep him alive for another day of torturous labor. Ben was forced to work when he was exhausted, dehydrated, hungry, and sick. And when Ben refused to work, he was savagely beaten as punishment. Ben wasn’t disobedient. He was tired and afraid!

Somehow Ben managed to survive ten years as an overworked donkey for various villagers and farmers until he was sold to a local shepherd to guard his sheep. But even though Ben no longer had to work as hard, he was constantly abused by his new owner. One day, the shepherd had no more use for Ben and abandoned him outside the village by the side of the road.

A veterinarian notified the police, who took away Ben.

In fact, he did not have a name. We called him Ben.

Ben was full of wounds and parasites, severely dehydrated and very skinny. The first time I gave him a hug, I felt his ribs almost bursting out of his skin. I was devastated!

My heart broke when I saw how terrified Ben was.

When my colleagues commented that Ben was probably never fed a carrot, I started to cry because I could believe it. How expensive can one carrot be? Today, Ben eats carrots with passion. He also likes apples. And one day, I gave him pears – and he enjoyed them too.

I always try to make people feel my emotions through my writing. My goal is not only to raise awareness about ROLDA, not only to make people donate but also to make them feel what these helpless animals like Ben are experiencing. All animals need our empathy.

I never had a donkey to look after before. I had never petted a donkey before (except when I was little, and my mom took me to see donkeys and ponies at a zoo in Bucharest). But you don’t need a lifetime of experience with these animals to feel for them, or to show care, or to love them.

Ben and I discovered a way of communicating. He would make a funny noise greeting me at a distance. As I got closer, I say kind words to him in a soft voice so I would not scare him off. It took us months to get Ben to learn to trust people again, working at his pace, and never forcing him to do anything he didn’t want to do. With time and lots of support, Ben has overcome his traumatic upbringing.

Once in a while, he still reacts timidly, but it’s mostly if a stranger approaches him.

Maybe Ben will never truly conquer his fears, and perhaps it’s a good thing. Fear is only bad when it disrupts your life, but Ben has been enjoying life with us these past four years. Maybe that deep, underlying fear he has is what helps him stay alert.

We are glad that Ben is spending his twilight years in a safe place surrounded by people and dogs who love him. We believe that Ben is 20 years old. We can’t change his past, but we continue to ensure he has a happy future.

Thank you for reading Ben’s story! Thousands of donkeys suffer across Romania, especially in the poorest areas of the country, where ROLDA operates. Together, we can change these donkeys’ final years and give them the peaceful retirement, the dignity and the respect they deserve.

Help ROLDA build a small, inexpensive, but cozy and well-equipped sanctuary where to house a number of donkeys like Ben.

Donkeys don’t need much space or any luxury facility but they will enjoy the hugs and treats that our team and volunteers will offer them every day. We have plenty of land space to build something for Romanian donkeys, something that will last for generations to come.