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British couple make home for donkeys

india Updated: May 22, 2011 00:21 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi
Vimal Chander Joshi
Hindustan Times
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The breezy weekend brought no change to Bob Harrison’s routine, who turned 68 on Saturday. He along with his wife, Jean, plans to take care of his pets in an even better way.

Like other days, the British couple were seen heading towards their donkey shelter at Kherki Majri, in the city, where they have domesticated 38 donkeys and two ponies for the past one year. They stopped their car enroute Bhim Nagar to buy fodder for their “loved ones”. While the shopkeeper was loading stuff in the vehicle’s boot, Bob loaded two gunny bags in the vehicle, not caring of his age.

When they reached the stable, they were shocked to see the animals tied inside, that too, in a pleasant weather. This irked Jean so much that she lost her cool and lambasted caretakers — Ashwin and Sonu — for depriving the animals from grazing in the field. Ashwin does not mind being scolded because he understands her love for the donkeys. He has seen her cry for them when the animals fall ill or are injured.

Meanwhile, Jean turns to us to justify her anger, “They should be kept inside only during heavy rain.” Soon, all the animals were left in the field. As they were moving out, Bob and Jean checked the condition of the injuries the animals had suffered. Caressing them, they narrated how their owners had left the donkeys unattended as they could not work anymore. “Some are left to die on roads. We rescue such animals and bring them to our shelter,” says Bob.

In 2008, the couple set up The Asswin Project to rescue donkeys abandoned by their owners.

The number of animals in the Harrison shelter is rising. A year ago, there were only six donkeys. Now, their number has grown to 40. Of these, the oldest, whom the couple have named 'Chestnut', joined them in 1998, soon after they moved to India from the UK. Bob shifted base to India after taking retirement from his job.

“It’s all because of the former Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG) commissioner, RK Khullar, who provided us with some space to run the shelter. The body is building another shelter in a nearby area. We will keep male donkeys there, while females will continue to stay at this shelter,” adds Bob.

Jean ensures male and female donkeys are kept separately. To distinguish between males and females, she has even tied a ribbon of different colour around their necks. “Red is for female, while blue is for male,” she says.

On his birthday, Bob is missing his children and grandchildren who are in England, but his love for animals is too much to let him return to his homeland.