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Smyrna organization provides lifeline for wounded donkey

SMYRNA, Maine — It has been six years since Luetta Marley-Goodall and her daughter, Brandie Clark, started A Life Line, a non-profit organization designed to help large farm animals who have been neglected.

The nature of their job necessitates that they witness terrible abuses against animals on a regular basis, but Clark admitted that she was “beyond shocked” when she was at a fair and first saw a young donkey on display in a stall.

Joy, a donkey taken in by A Life Line, a Smyrna-based non-profit organization designed to help large farm animals who have been neglected, recovers after surgery performed at the New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center in Dover, New Hampshire. The donkey had never been treated for a broken neck that she suffered under a previous owner, and there was a chance that her spinal cord could have been severed by the malformations of the bone pressing on her neck. Multiple doctors at the center performed surgery on the animal, including Dr. Barrie Grant, a surgical veterinary specialist, who flew in from California to treat the animal at his own expense. (Courtesy/Luetta Goodall)

The 17-day-old animal, who was eventually named Joy, had a broken neck along with abscesses on the side of her neck. The infection spread deep into the vertebrae in her neck.

“Veterinarians were not required to be on scene at fairs, so she had never had any care,” said Clark. “When we saw her, that infection had spread to her spine, and she was in real trouble. She was on display at the fair, so I had to wait four days until the fair was over before I could buy her and bring her to our facility.”

After the animals are stabilized at A Life Line, they are kept at the rehabilitation farm in Smyrna until an adoptive home can be found. Clark, her mother Luetta Goodall and her husband Gary, are the primary farm hands at the facility.

Clark declined to name the location from which the donkey was rescued due to privacy reasons.

She said that the animal had never had veterinarian care and weighed only 23 pounds. The donkey’s neck apparently had been broken by another donkey, but Joy was never treated for it, nor was she treated for a wound that grew so infected it spread deep into the vertebrates in her neck, according to Clark.. There was a chance that animal’s spinal cord could have been severed by the malformations of the bone pressing on her neck.

“We brought her to our organization and immediately brought her to Hotham’s Veterinary Services [in Presque Isle],” Clark said. “We were told there was about a 10 percent chance of her living.”

At A Life Line, however, with care and antibiotics, the animal thrived.

Joy, a donkey taken in by A Life Line, a Smyrna-based non-profit organization designed to help large farm animals who have been neglected, is prepared for surgery at the New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center in Dover, New Hampshire. The donkey had never been treated for a broken neck that she suffered under a previous owner, and there was a chance that her spinal cord could have been severed by the malformations of the bone pressing on her neck. Multiple doctors at the center performed surgery on the animal, including Dr. Barrie Grant, a surgical veterinary specialist, who flew in from California to treat the animal at his own expense. (Courtesy/Luetta Goodall)

“She gained weight and got stronger,” said Clark.

The fractured vertebrae were fusing and not an issue until Joy had “a massive growth spurt” a few months later. That’s when Clark and her parents realized that the donkey needed more specialized medical attention than could be provided in the area.

Their search led them to the New England Equine Medical and Surgical Center, in Dover, New Hampshire, where Drs. Michael Davis and Barrie Grant performed surgery on the donkey last month that entailed cutting open her neck to fix the vertebrae and remove shards of bones.

Dr. Grant, a board certified surgical veterinarian specializing in cervical stabilization, flew in from California to treat the animal. Both he and Davis donated their surgical time to perform the operation.

“Everyone bent over backward for us,” said Clark. “It was just amazing.”

Clark said that the donations of time and care were so substantial that they have to raise about $8,000 to pay for some of expenses involved with the surgery, but far less than the estimated original cost of about $50,000.

Joy remains in New Hampshire while she heals. Afterward, the donkey will be returned to the Smyrna facility.

Donations can be sent to A Life Line, 73 Smyrna Center Road, Smyrna Maine 04780 or can be made via paypal.me/alifeline

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