Leslie was one of my first patients during my Large Animal Internal Medicine rotation. Donkeys are in the same family as horses, but they are not the same species. Sounds simple, but people commonly make the mistake in thinking otherwise. I was at fault for assuming the medical parameters between the two would be the same. Once I did my research, I learned the differences in temperature, pulse, respiratory rate commonly referred as TPR. I also learned how to determine the body condition score in donkeys (they distribute fat VERY differently than horses). If you refer back to the episode, you can see in the shaved areas of Leslie’s back lumpy areas. These lumps and humps are actually fat stores.
Next, I learned the proper technique of looking into the mouth of a small equid (pony, horse, or donkey). Someone who does this often in horses might say, “Oh that’s easy, just go in and grab the tongue.” Yes, that is what you do in full size horses, however there isn’t nearly as much room in a mini to reach in and grab the tongue without getting bit (on the show, Leslie happily shows the hazards of doing the technique wrong). Side note: thanks to Rose for showing me how to keep all of my fingers.
Finally, I learned about their temperament. There is a reason donkeys are referred to as stubborn creatures in literature for centuries. When they put their mind to it, they cannot be budged. This is emphasized at the end of the episode when I attempt to load Leslie into her trailer for her trip home. Everything is going well until she locks her knees and begins to lean backward, making it very hard for me to lead her into the trailer. With an extra set of hands, I was able to successfully load Leslie, but I almost fell in the process (once again, captured on camera for your viewing pleasure).
Overall, working with Leslie was an absolute treat. I can still remember her loud signature honks reverberating down the halls of the large animal hospital. I didn’t know what to expect from Leslie when I signed up for this case, but she proved to be a great introduction into the world of donkeys. I don’t know if I’ll ever work with donkeys again in the future, but I’ll definitely be prepared.
-- Dr. G