Sunshine Coast Blind Donkey Inspires Children’s Book, Raises Funds For Happily Heifer After Sanctuary


As Mavis Armstrong sat on the front porch of her Tin Can Bay home, listening to the chatter of children on vacation, the girls started ‘twittering’ about electric fences.

She was instantly curious.

“They didn’t look like farm kids, and I was like, ‘How do you know electric fences?’ So I asked,” said Ms. Armstrong, a former cattle rancher.

“And [one girl] starts the story, ‘Oh, we’re going to see Sam the blind donkey’, and [says] how much they love Sam, and I haven’t gotten much more of the story than that.”

The children left their vacation home the next day and returned to the Sunshine Coast.

But Mrs. Armstrong couldn’t get those four words – Blind Donkey Sam – out of her mind.

So the 75-year-old did what she had done a handful of other times over the past year when the animals resonated with her – she jumped out of bed and started writing.

Halfway through the process, she felt a bit overwhelmed, so the book sat on the shelf for a while.

Ms. Armstrong includes a dedication in the book to the Sunshine Coast family who first mentioned Sam.(Provided: Mavis Armstrong)

Eventually, she picked up the pages and, after finishing the story, she shared the story of Sam the Blind Donkey with a neighbor’s child – a move that led to meeting Sam in real life.

The neighbor recognized Sam from an ABC story during the February floods and showed the story online to ‘not very tech-savvy’ Mrs Armstrong, who managed to find the donkey in a Sunshine Coast sanctuary.

“He really existed…and I could see that yes, Sam was totally and completely blind,” she said.

Who is the real Sam?


Sam has been at Happily Heifer After Sanctuary for about 18 months.

“He was used in TV and film production and then he also worked at a theme park for a while, so the stressful aspects of what he did was actually what led to him being blind. “said the sanctuary’s co-founder, Michelle Dranfield.

“He’s been put in escalators and elevators, he’s been put in a convertible…a lot of different and really weird things he did when he was acting as a stuntman.”

She said animal welfare regulations have become stricter since then.

After Sam was “rejected” from the entertainment industry, an older couple cared for him for nearly 15 years until he was moved to Palmview Sanctuary.

He arrived there with his “seeing companion” donkey and his best friend, Jack.

“Once he’s been in an enclosure for about two days, he kind of knows that enclosure,” Ms Dranfield said.

“He might come across something a few times so… he’ll just steer his way based on his memory of the area.

Two donkeys side by side
Sam and his “seeing companion” Jack have been at the sanctuary for about 18 months.(Provided: Happily Heifer After Sanctuary)

Sam, a “loving, placid, docile and confident” donkey, is part of the sanctuary’s animal-assisted therapy program.

“In particular, people with physical disabilities can probably relate more to him than to a fully capable animal, because they see the difficulties he has to face and it kind of relates to their day-to-day struggles,” said Miss Dranfield. mentioned.

Donkey standing with a protector over his eyes
The sanctuary estimates Sam to be around 30 years old.(Provided: Happily Heifer After Sanctuary)

Ms Dranfield was not surprised that Sam resonated so much with local children that they later shared his story with Ms Armstrong.

“I think he really, really connects with people because of his personality and his nature, so it was amazing to hear the story and hear how it happened,” he said. she declared.

Sam in a storybook

While Mrs. Armstrong wrote her story before knowing Sam’s actual story, the two are extremely similar.

“Sam’s story is to demonstrate that even with adversity, there are many positives every day,” she said.

“In the book, I tell the story of his daily life, how anyone or any creature would live with blindness, because we are always blessed with care.

a page from a storybook about a blind donkey who uses his hearing to know when food is coming
Although Sam does not have sight, he uses other senses.(Provided: Mavis Armstrong)

The book also incorporates the friendship of the “true and caring” Jack, a young boy who visits Sam.

Mrs. Armstrong agreed to have the book printed as a fundraiser for the sanctuary.

“I sort of saw it as a way to help them…raise much-needed funds to buy all the hay, all the forage and all the care the animals need,” she said.

“I thought if they agreed, they were welcome in my story.”

Women feeding a donkey watermelon.
Sam enjoys his favorite watermelon snack with Mrs. Armstrong.(Provided: Mavis Armstrong)

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