“There is no doubt he is our baby”
DECATUR, TX – This Ricky Bobby is a real jackass.
But the Wilson family just loves him.
The Bethlehem donkey, almost two months old, is nearly housebroken. He sometimes wears Depends for Women and there are pee pads on the floor.
Ricky Bobby sleeps in the bedroom with Johanna and Terry Wilson of Decatur.
A German shepherd-Great Dane mix named Beulah acts as a sort of nanny for the 20-pound donkey.
“He thinks he’s a mix between a dog and a horse,” Johanna Wilson said, breaking into a giggle. “There is no doubt he is our baby.”
Ricky Bobby’s story was nearly a tragedy.
His mother was one of 142 donkeys seized by officials in April and May from a feedlot in Kaufman County and a site in Louisiana, animals that were headed to slaughterhouses in Mexico. Officials estimate that the number of donkeys being held in Texas border towns awaiting slaughter in Mexico increased by 214 percent in the last year.
“They were sick so they had to be quarantined in Crowley,” said Whitney Hanson of the Humane Society of North Texas. The donkeys were Bethlehems, paints and miniatures. “They had respiratory problems and pneumonia.”
Dozens of the jennies were pregnant, including Ricky Bobby’s mother, who gave birth to him June 8 in Crowley at a quarantine facility operated by the Humane Society of North Texas.
Born premature, he weighed about 10 pounds — a normal donkey birth weight is 20 pounds.
“The day before, another donkey had given birth and as soon as Ricky Bobby was born his mother went straight to that other baby,” Johanna Wilson said Thursday. “She just rejected Ricky Bobby. We tried to get that other jenny to take Ricky Bobby, but she wouldn’t.”
Officials called the Wilsons to help. Johanna Wilson is a staff member with the Humane Society of North Texas. The couple owns a ranch near Decatur, which the humane society leases for horses and livestock.
The Wilsons adopted the new donkey, brought him to Decatur, bottle-fed him and gave him medications around the clock for the first few days.
Johanna Wilson named him Ricky Bobby after the character Will Ferrell played on Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.
“In that movie, Will Ferrell had the line, ‘If you ain’t first, you’re last,’” Wilson said. “He was born, and another baby got milk from his mother and then got milk from Ricky Bobby’s mother. Ricky Bobby was last, and that made me think of that line.”
But Ricky Bobby isn’t last in the Wilson household. He’s loved and fed goat’s milk and milk pellets four times a day, enough to help him gain 10 pounds.
Along with Beulah, the Wilsons have four other dogs: Biscuit, Sug, Trish and Coco, all play partners for Ricky Bobby.
His other farm friends include four silkie chickens, three hogs and at least five horses at the Six Ds Ranch.
The Wilsons have six daughters and one son.
Johanna Wilson plans to keep Ricky Bobby somewhat homebound until the end of summer.
“I have to make sure he can exist on his own and can get away from any problems,” Johanna Wilson said, sounding like a mother talking about her child. “I think we’ll get to a point that we will be able to leave him in the barn.”
She also has Ricky Bobby’s career laid out. She sees him as a goodwill ambassador who will go to schools and nursing homes, comforting patients and educating children about donkeys.
Ricky Bobby was a big hit at the First Baptist Church Crowley, where he met with autistic children last month.
The little guy seldom leaves Johanna Wilson’s side.
“I think donkeys make the best pets,” she said. “You have to love and care for them, and once you do that, they are very devoted to you.”