‘Little Women’ take center stage at Windham animal rescue

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A miniature donkey named Buttercup, one of the "Little Women" at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals in Windham. 

WINDHAM — Seven “Little Women” are making a big name for themselves at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals.

The organization is home – at least for now – to a herd of female miniature donkeys. Staff at the MSSPA said the animals all came from the same owner and should be available for adoption in the coming months.

“They have their own little herd going, for sure,” MSSPA barn manager Jeff Greenleaf said. “They have a little clique or whatever you want to call it.”

“They’re very lovable, though,” Greenleaf added. “They love human contact for sure. They’ve been very easy to work with.”

The donkeys’ names are Lilly, Abby, Cindy, Star, Buttercup, Kit and Martina. Five of the donkeys kept the names they were given by their previous owner; Cindy and Star were renamed to avoid confusion because their names were the same as animals already housed at MSSPA.

The group is known collectively as the “Little Women,” a name coined by Meris Bickford, chief executive of MSSPA, and a reference to the Louisa May Alcott novel.

Joey Buzzell, a college student and MSSPA intern, said Lilly is the lead jenny, which is what a female donkey is called.

Although there is some uncertainty about their exact ages, Buzzell said they range between 7 and 22 years old.

“A couple of them stick together pretty close. There’s a few of them wander off by themselves, but for the most part, if four of them go in, the other three go in right behind them,” Greenleaf said.

The group was surrendered by their previous owner in western Maine. Greenleaf said the mini donkeys were underweight and with their feet in poor condition.

At a healthy weight, Greenleaf said the animals should weigh about 300 pounds. Several still need to gain weight, he explained, and the group is going through about two bales of hay a day as part of their rehabilitation.

“These animals are an example of how we try to help Maine at-risk animals,” Kathy Woodbrey, MSSPA assistant chief executive officer, said. “We received information about them, and then law enforcement needed to do their piece, which they did. And after that was done they were brought here. And that’s where the staff, the volunteers, we all step in to provide the care … and then move forward on adoptions.”

“We look for a great match for the animal,” Woodbrey continued. “And that’s the ultimate goal, for them to be adopted.”

The MSSPA has already received several applications to adopt the donkeys, but is still accepting more.

Greenleaf said it appears the donkeys are all related, and the rescue organization hopes to keep some – if not all – of them together in the adoption process.

“Probably pairs, or all together would be fantastic,” Greenleaf said. “But individually, they wouldn’t do as well unless they had another companion (animal) to go with.”

“They are, as horses are, a herd-type animal, so they would be better with companions for sure,” he said.

Woodbrey said the attention generated by the donkeys has helped the overall effort to find new homes for the organization’s other animals. For example, the group has more than 30 horses available for adoption.

“It’s kind of expanding our base a little bit,” Woodbrey said.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

A miniature donkey named Buttercup, one of the “Little Women” at the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals in Windham.

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