It was cold that day in January when I got the word that there were five miniture donkeys in various stages of starvation- and one was a baby.  I remember that the weather announcement that day statedthat we would experience a hard freeze that night. I realized that a malnurished baby would not survive, so I contacted Uncle Johnny, who gave me his blessing and said, "Go save that family, Marj."  Time was ticking, so I immediately hooked up the trailer and asked Pedro to join me.  The trip to Bertram, TX, took three hours and it was late when we left. 


It was dark when I arrived, and the elderly couple who were in very bad health, showed us where the donkeys were located so that we could get them loaded. I felt saddened by their illness and what their inability to care for the donkeys had caused.  One look at tiny, frail Benny and I knew our first stop would be TAMU Large Animal Hospital in Bryan TX.  I arrived late but a staff was ready to assess them all and gave little Benny a 20% chance of survival.  But then we heard the crushing news that during the night baby Benny's bladder had burst, so those odds dropped to a bleak 10%.  A future for this adorable little tyke was fading with each moment that passed.  So, when they asked permission to perform the surgery to repair his bladder, we did not hesitate to give Benny a chance at life.  We said yes to the surgery and the rest was up to him.  What a fighter!


Each day after that was a new gift as Benny faced one ordeal after another.  He lost his eyesight, and his immune system was nill.  A biopsy sample of his bone marrow revealed that only fat was now present. His chances were not good so several people counciled me to let him go.  But, Benny, wasn't giving up and neither were we nor were his angels around the world.  He followed my voice as I sang "You are my Sunshine" to him.  I stayed with him everyday to encourage him and stimulate him.  And when his blood count dropped we brought in my beloved donkey, Magic for a blood transfusion and prayed for success.  We were absolutely ecstatic that the blood transfusion of Magic blood caused Benny to finally turn the corner. Finally, it seemed he was on tract to beat the odds and we could not be happier.


Benny's fighting spirit did not go unnoticed either.  He had a fan club sending him prayers and positive energy from around the world to help him survive.  We had Charlie on our minds as Benny struggled to survive.  At Texas A&M he was in the very next room from where I lost Charlie.  It was eerie but the feeling that Charlie was in the room with us was palpable.  I know he was there.  I know he struggled with the temptation of having a baby exactly his age to play with forever.  But, I am sure it was Charlie that kept Benny from the light.  In my heart, I know our miracle baby Charlie had another miracle to share with us. Against all odds, Benny survived and eventually he even had his eyesight restored which was a complete mircle to us all.


Benny has continued to gain in health while at the same time confronting obstacles to his health.  His survival gave me confidence that this sweet, loving baby was truly going to make it. We celebrated when we realized he could see again.  That was real joy! But, just like Charlie, my confidence was soon put to the test. I started to feel that something wasn't right with Benny.  I had that little voice telling me that Benny was in trouble again. His temperature was fine, his appearance was normal, and his appetite was great. But, Benny was off. He had suddenly started to refuse to go outside. His legs were getting worse and his ears were sensitive. Benny was also acting more tired again. 

Then, I was looking at his ears after feeling a rough edge. My heart sank as I noticed the blood beneath the edge of the hair. I knew the tip of his ear was getting ready to sluff off, so I called Dr. Michelle Coleman, who saved his life at TAMU and asked her advice. When I told her the symptoms, she asked if I could get him in right away. 

Benny is a lucky boy to have survived his malnutrition, but it is clear that he is still suffering the effects. Ischemic dermatopathy is a progressive disease. This new challenge stemmed from his malnutrition. When Benny's PC count reached 6 his body was in the process of shutting down. This signals the body to only supply blood to those organs that are absolutely necessary to live and divert it to the heart, lungs, brain etc. Ears, legs, hooves, ears, tails and skin are not necessary to live in the immediate moment. For Benny, even though his bone marrow is rejuvenating, and his nutritional level is excellent, the survival switch did not get turned off. The ears and skin around Benny's fetlocks were sluffing off and the skin was necrotic. Benny's leisions turned to an abnormal black pigment. By midafternoon he had more lesions. The disease was progressing rapidly.

Once again, just in the nick of time, Benny got help. Ischemic dermatopathy is an auto-immune disease and was treated with many meds including steroids. Unfortunately, to treat this they needed to suppress his immune system, and jumpstart the circulation to his extremities. I feared bringing germs to him, so I did not dare touch anyone on the property until Benny was in the clear.  The medication started to work and Benny, took it all in stride. Benny was seen again a few months later and passed all the tests to be taken off the medication.  Benny had survived another obstacle to his health and is on the road to healing.

Benny has given me respect for what it means to really want to live, to want to experience life. Just when the night seems the darkest, a ray of light will light the way. Benny keep being my ray of sunshine.