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Farewell to ‘wilful’ donkey who changed people’ lives

A “wilful” therapy donkey who met The Queen in 2002 has died aged 41.

Melanie Rush, owner of West Hill Donkeys in Weymouth, paid tribute to 10.2hh Jasmine, whom she had owned since taking over the business, which provides beach rides and therapy donkeys to care homes, in 2011. Jasmine was put down on 7 November owing to age-related issues.

Melanie told H&H Jasmine had a big impact on many residents and staff at the care homes she visited.

“People who had Alzheimer’s and not spoken a word for years would suddenly have a conversation with Jasmine,” she said.

“She had a lot of empathy for peope, you could do anything with her – but she could also be very obstinate and a wilful little monkey. She could open anything to search for food.”

Melanie said a “poignant moment” happened before her mother, Anne Lesch, died in 2017.

“My mum had developed Alzheimer’s quite young, she had been on a plateau for a very long time and began to go downhill after Christmas. She hadn’t spoken for a while, I took Jasmine to see her and she put her forehead against Jasmine’s head and said ‘I love you’ and that was her last words before she died.  It was very profound,” she said.

“Jasmine just managed to channel things out of people. On another occasion an elderly lady who loved Jasmine had gone downhill and we took Jasmine to see her, she managed to roll over and place her hand on Jasmine’s side. Everyone was crying, I still get goosebumps thinking about it.

“We see people at their most vulnerable and Jasmine managed to engage with them, it was a magical gift to have.”

Melanie said Jasmine was a very versatile donkey, who met The Queen at Weymouth beach as part of her Golden Jubilee tour in 2002 with previous owner Maggie Aldridge.

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“Jasmine was also very good at being a companion to others and would do ‘bereavement duty’ if someone had lost a donkey.

“She was staying with a friend, Sue Franks, for four weeks keeping her donkey company and had been very settled, but I got a call to say Jasmine had gone off her food and was lying down more. I went to see her and I sat with her head in my lap and stroked her face while I waited for the vet to come and put her to sleep.

“She was a very frail old lady but she had waited until I got there. She has left a massive hole.”

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