“I’m going to miss them,” says Don Carto, scratching Jackie behind the ear as he looks over at the other donkeys, Willie, Angel and Jill. “They’re my buddies.”

Don Carto and one of his donkeys.

For more than 20 years, there have been donkeys on the Wildwood Hill. “They’re kind of a landmark,” says Don.

So much so that Don is known to many in Powell River as Donkey Don.

The donkeys on the hill have been a part of the Carto’s life since 1993 when Don and his wife Edna purchased Willie and Angel from a farm in Kelly Creek. Willie and Angel were just one when they came to live in the Carto’s field on the side of the Wildwood Hill. The donkey couple gave birth to Jill in 1996 and Jackie in 1997.

The donkeys have lived in that field and the small barn ever since eating the grass and keeping the blackberry bushes at bay.  They’ve entertained school kids when they came to visit on class trips, tourists and locals alike. Their special friend Jim comes faithfully at 2:30 every day to visit and feed them treats, says Edna.

But now they’re going to a new home in Gibsons.

The Cartos aren’t getting any younger and with Don’s health problems, caring for the donkeys is becoming challenging. “We’re getting older and we can’t look after them anymore,” says Don sadly.

The donkeys have been adopted by the Valley Donkey Sanctuary and will be cared for by a family in Gibsons. “They are a younger family who already have two donkeys,” said Edna. “The mom and her son already came to visit them and couldn’t get over how friendly they are.”

Donkeys can live until they are 40 years old, so Willie, Angel, Jill and Jackie could still have a long life ahead of them.

“They’re wonderful pets. Their only job was to keep the grass in the field cut,” says Edna.

When Don walks into the field and calls their name they’ll answer back with a hee-haw, hee-haw and come over to see him. They’re usually after a scratch or a pat. “They’re very friendly,” says Don.

The donkeys have been model citizens most of their life but there was one time when the RCMP had to deal with them. “They escaped from the field,” Edna explained. “We left the gate open by mistake.”

The police came knocking on the Cartos door at 2 am and asked if they owned some donkeys. “We said yes we do.” The donkeys were loose on the road and Don didn’t think he’d ever get them home because when donkeys don’t want to move, well, they just don’t.

But Don walked up behind them and told them to go home and get in the field and they did! The police officer couldn’t believe that the donkeys listened to Don and did what he told them to. The officer had to radio the station to tell the others about the well-trained donkeys of Wildwood.

by Isabelle Southcott | isabelle@prliving.ca

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