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A donkey ditched by its mum thinks it’s a dog after it was raised among pooches - and even goes for walkies and plays ball.
John Nuttall, 64, whose family runs a donkey ride business on England’s east coast, said three-month-old Kye responds to dog whistles.
The miniature mule began exhibiting hound-like behaviour after his mother rejected him, leaving John and his partner Gražina Pervenis, 40, to hand-rear him.
The pair fitted the foal with a “dog nappy” and shared caring duties for him over the next six weeks in their separate homes, where he often played with their dogs.
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John said the time Kye spent with the pups led him to display similar characteristics to them, even though he’s now moved into a paddock with other donkeys.
He said: “I kept him in the house, and then he used to go in the garden with the dogs, so he grew up with me and the dogs, really.
“As I would whistle to the dogs, he now comes to a whistle.
“He even started playing with a ball and everything, and now, I can go for a walk down the road, and he’ll follow me like a dog.”
John Nuttall / SWNS
John, who has 70 donkeys at his stud near the village of Ingoldmells, Lincs., said little Kye had a tough start to his life after his mother turned on him and became violent.
He said: “The previous year, the mother gave birth to a foal that she wouldn’t take to, and it ended up dying.
“We thought there was something medically wrong with the foal, so we tried again this year, but then she rejected this one, too.
“I was lucky enough to be there when she was attacking him, and I managed to get him inside.”
Initially, John fed Kye with milk from his estranged mother to ensure that the small foal got the right nutrients he required as a youngster.
But after his health began to deteriorate, his dog trainer and breeder partner, Gražina, decided Kye needed a more hands-on approach and took him under her wing.
John said: “I still didn’t dare leave the foal in the stable with the mare because she was hell-bent on hurting him.
“Then he went downhill, so I got in touch with my partner, and she came down at midnight that evening and said: “Right, I’ve got to take the foal straight away.”
“She put a tube up his nose and into his stomach and fed him with formula milk for orphan foals.
“She kept him on that for two-to-three weeks. She was feeding him every hour at that time – she was like a zombie.”
Kye spent six weeks living between Gražina’s and John’s homes.
John said: “I went to the pet shop and bought the big dog nappies because you don’t want donkey baby poo all over the house.
“We would also let him go outside, but I would fetch him back inside in the evening because he also needed human contact.”
During that time, John let Kye run around with his dogs as they were the right size for him, and it was there where he picked up some of their traits.
He said: “There was nothing I could really put him with that was his size, and I didn’t want him to get hit by other donkeys.
“So he used to go out in the daytime in the garden with the dogs. I would whistle to the dogs, and so he comes to a whistle.
“Now, if I get in my van to go out, he’ll see it going and chase after the van. He’s certainly a character.
John hopes one day that Kye will join his other donkeys, which take visitors for rides on Skegness, Cleethorpes and Mablethorpe beaches each summer.
His family have run the tourist business for a century, with John’s three sons and one daughter becoming the fourth generation to have a hand in managing it.
But for now, he’s just happy that little Kye, who moved into a paddock with other donkeys three weeks ago, is getting stronger each day.
He said: “He’s grown up. He’s got all his teeth, and he’s eating well. He’s a decent foal.
“He’s going to live, but he’s not as strong as my other foals who are feeding off their natural mothers.
“But he’s alive – that’s the main thing. My main concern was to keep him alive. I didn’t want to lose another one!”
SWNS reporting by Douglas Whitbread