When the flames from the latest Colorado wildfire burned into the town of Paradise Park on Saturday afternoon, the residents were told to immediately evacuate. This included Mike and Sharon Guli who run an equine boarding facility.
Before leaving, the couple put 5-year-old Ellie, four draft horses and another donkey into an open pasture.
They called Ellie’s owners, Greg and Michele Van Hare, to see if they get to the boarding facility with a trailer for the animals; but by the time they made it to the town access to the area had been closed.
Greg Van Hare told his wife and children “we’re going to trust in God” and tried to prepare them for the loss of the animals.
On Tuesday, the family got a surprise call from Mike and Sharon. Sheriff’s deputies and volunteers found five of the six animals grouped together in the same pasture where they had been left. They told the family that when help arrived, “Ellie walked right up to one of the rescuers and put her head against his chest.”
The rescuers were convinced that Ellie, a “very smart donkey” who often leads the other animals and takes charge of situations with them, had kept her buddies calm and close during the three day ordeal.
“Ellie doesn’t put up with crud,” said Van Hare while he was describing an incident Ellie had with a couple of stallions. “She put her ears back and started walking toward them. She got about 10 feet away, and the stallions turned and left.”
The last horse was also found alive, but it had wandered into a nearby pasture.
All of the animals were transported to the Larimer County Fairgrounds where they were examined by veterinarians from Colorado State University. More than 150 horses, 150 alpacas and llamas, donkeys, sheep, goats and calves have been brought to the fairgrounds this week, after being displaced by the High Park fire.
Overall the horses and donkeys in Ellie’s care, weathered the fire without any serious injuries. Ellie’s nose and coat were singed by the flames, but didn’t need any treatment. The tails of the four horses had curled from the extreme heat.
Veterinarian Brian Miller explained Ellie’s heroic actions to keep her friends safe as pure instinct. Mike Guli said it was more than that.
“Over the years, I’ve seen her do such amazing things. She pretty much takes care of the other donkey and horses. She’s in charge,” said Guli.
Ellie and her companions are now safe on the Van Hare ranch.