andy drewitt – donkey shelter

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Andy Drewitt

Donkey shelter

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I began shooting this essay out of regret.

I was sick a lot as a kid and my parents bought me a donkey, named Suki, to cheer me up and get me out of the house.

And it helped. We’d play chasey, or tag, taking it in turns to run each other down through her bush paddock.

She was better at it than me. I’d be running like the world was going to end and within seconds I’d feel her pounding the ground behind me and feel her breath hot on my shirt and I’d glance over my shoulder and she’d be right there, shaking her head like she was laughing. That meant it was my turn to chase her and I’d raise my arms above my head, a donkey-eating monster, and she’d bolt off across the paddock.

But as I grew older I didn’t spend much time with her. I was 16 and there were friends and movies and girls to worry about.

She got lonely. Sometimes she’d glimpse me up near the house and she’d honk at me, long and sad. Sometimes I went down to see her, but most times I didn’t.

She also brayed at a couple of donkeys at a neighbours place and eventually it got under my skin. I gave her to the neighbours so that she’d have some company. They owned a swampy block and a year or two later she was bitten by a snake and died.

A decade passed and I was working as a journalist at a community newspaper when a lady running a donkey shelter, Dr May Dodd, rang to say she was bankrupt and would be forced to shoot her donkeys because she couldn’t afford to feed them. She had made it her mission to rescue abused, neglected and tortured donkeys from around Australia and nurse them back to health at her sanctuary, Diamond Creek Donkey Shelter, and now they were starving.

It was heartbreaking. I wrote a story and Australian TV, radio and daily newspapers picked it up and ran large features, which generated tens of thousands of dollars and saved Dr Dodd’s motley herd.

I felt good for helping. It made me feel better about Suki.

I began hanging around the shelter taking pictures, making this essay.

Emotionally donkeys aren’t very different from people. They form loyal friendships, singling out other donkeys and volunteers as favourites. They have a sense of justice and know when they’re being mistreated – abused donkeys often arrive at the shelter with mental health problems. They experience anger, jealousy, happiness, sadness.

If more people knew that I think they’d treat them better.



During daylight hours Andy Drewitt is a photographer, reporter and videographer at Diamond Valley Leader, a community newspaper in Victoria, Australia.  He is also working on independent photography projects on subjects including mental illness, rabies and the Republic of Armenia.


Related links:

Andy Drewitt

Diamond Creek Donkey Shelter

26 Responses to “andy drewitt – donkey shelter”

  • This is truly wonderful — whimsical and serious at the same time.

  • Andy,

    Very nice work. Enjoyed the whole essay, but #11 and #14 stood out.

  • Andy…
    Lovely, original and heartbreaking. Why oh why do people ill-treat animals, it makes me sick just to think of it. Favourite image is n12. Go on, keep on at it and I´m sure Suki is smiling.

  • I’m in love with a couple pics on your website.. curious and curiouser.. donkey chase.. sorry for Suki, and you..

  • Living in an urban environment I do not have many contacts with donkeys, but I like them and from my limited experience I think they can be very sweet animal. Picture 8 and 10 impresses me. I like the simplicity of this essay and the effective use of B&W, with some interesting framing, like 5 and 10.

  • some brilliant pictures are there

  • Those picture let me feel the warmth and emotion of those animals.
    Great. Thanks!

  • “Hitherto, all the Poetry in the Forest has been written by Pooh, a Bear with a Pleasing Manner but a Positively Startling Lack of Brain. The Poem which I am now about to read to you was written by Eeyore, or Myself, in a Quiet Moment. If somebody will take Roo’s bull’s eye away from him, and wake up Owl, we shall all be able to enjoy it. I call it – POEM.

    written by Eeyore in a Quiet Moment

    Christopher Robin is going.
    At least I think he is.
    Nobody knows.
    But he is going-
    I mean he goes
    (To rhyme with “knows”)
    Do we care?
    ( To rhyme with “where”)
    We do
    very much.
    (I haven’t got a rhyme for that “is” in the second line yet. Bother.)
    (Now I haven’t got a rhyme for bother. Bother.)
    Those two bothers will have
    to rhyme with each other
    The fact is this is more difficult than I thought
    I ought-
    (Very good indeed)
    I ought
    To begin again,
    But it is easier
    To stop.
    Christopher Robin, good-bye
    And all your friends
    I mean all your friend
    (Very awkward this, it keeps going wrong)
    Well, anyhow, we send
    Our love.

    –A.A. Milne, House at Pooh Corner


    and what a relief……been a tough tough 2 weeks…last 2 days ache-filled….even watching the world events in Egypt….and then: MAGIC…

    As Preston said, i love that this essay is both whimsical (that opening shot should grace the cover of a book!) and heart-tender…..not simply for it’s affection for the donkeys and the animal world, but more importantly, the visual detailing of the real and important and essential connection between animals and humans….loved the geometry of the last picture…the endless ‘road’ along the donkey’s back arrowing to the other in #13, the donkey that became a rabbit shadow in #10, Balthazar (both Bresson’s film and the biblical hero) resting in 9….the vibrant and rich personalities of these creatures….

    my only lament (typical for me) is i wanted even MORE pictures :)))….

    but what a wonderful breath of fresh air…like that great essay on Cows published early in BURN’S 1ST YEAR, i love this…and would love to see even more sustained stories/essays with animals (ERICA?? :)) )

    thanks and congrats for being published!


  • Great fun – and with a message that few people would have even thought about, specific to donkeys, anyway. My wife and daughter-in-law both grew up on their respective reservations with donkeys. They will love this, I am certain.

  • I’ve only seen the title photo and read your words and already you have brought me a tale of wonder and renewal.

  • This is simply delightful.

    Well done and congratulations. Love the stuff on your site. The fire story is superb.

  • Love it.

    THANKS for sharing.

  • A wonderful way to honor Suki.

    In some of these images it’s hard to tell apart the rescuer and the rescuee.
    I think they do more for us than we do for them.

  • I LOVE this!!!
    YOUR story……
    erica wrote ‘you have brought me a tale of wonder’ YES!!!! :)

  • It takes something really special for me to make a comment here and well this is it.

    This essay is gorgeous and loving, uplifting and beautifully shot.

    A big, big thanks to all the Eeyore’s in the world and to Andy Drewitt for showing the world their wonderful generosity….

  • you got heart, kid.
    you got talent too
    but more importantly
    you got heart.

    thank you.

  • I totally love these, with # 10 as my favorite. I’ve never had any dealings with donkeys, but as a dog-lover, feel that I can relate.

    Also, I must point out that this artist’s statement is the most honest and sincere that I can remember reading on Burn. Andy, good on you for bringing attention to the work of these volunteers :-)

  • Yes, nice to read an essay statement without having to scratch our heads…

    Heart-warming “tell it as it is” story, original, unexpected, treated both in a personal and documentary matter. No beef with the photography, yet I find the B&W choice of medium a bit underwhelming, pictorally.

    This too takes me back to my childhood, reading the tales of Cadichon, the mischievous donkey known to many french kids (of my generation and before at least).

    BTW, Why are donkeys much-maligned in Australia, Andy?

  • I’ve only seen the title photo and read your words and already you have brought me a tale of wonder and renewal
    laughing……i mean really laughing….in times/comments likes this makes u wonder why jim stays silent!
    damn it:(

  • tale of wonder and renewal
    i mean really , can your life be so boring/mundane to wish/hope/beg for “renewal”?

  • Thanks to burn for publishing my work – you’ve made me taller.

    And thanks to everyone for your comments – taller again.

    To Bob – I loved the poem.

    To Herve – In answer to your question, Are donkeys much maligned in Australia? Maybe not so much as in countries where they’ve been traditionally regarded as beasts of burden, but still, yes. Some arrive beaten, tortured. See image #4. Others are victims of attempts by owners to save $$$. Instead of calling a farrier to cut their feet some people let them grow until they turn up like jesters shoes. One owner tried to trim hooves with a hacksaw.

    To Panos Skoulidas: ???

    To Cathy Scholl – your comment: “In some of these images it’s hard to tell apart the rescuer and the rescuee. I think they do more for us than we do for them.” Very insightful, and so true. The shelter is looking at starting donkey therapy – taking donkeys to visit sufferers of mental illness, terminally ill, and the like. Blows my mind that many of these animals were abused or neglected by people, and now they’re helping.

  • This essay represents everything I long for in an essay on Burn. It is beautifully shot, wonderfully composed, tells a story I haven’t seen/heard before, and makes me feel emotionally attached to the subjects. I’ve said this before, but this is one of my favorites all time on Burn.

    Andy, so many great shots with so much love and care. Truly a wondrous piece of work! Thank you for sharing!


    we long for essays like this as well…and i am counting on you to do one for us…thanks in advance..

    cheers, david

  • Simple and Sweet. This reaches to to core of visual storytelling.

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