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Morning Sun
  • PATRICK'S PEOPLE: Jack the Bible Donkey has many talents

  • It’s not every day that you get to kiss a donkey and hear him play piano.

    Residents of Medicalodges Frontenac had an opportunity to do both on Friday when Jack the Bible donkey came for a visit with his human friends, Dennis and Yvonne Kay.

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  • It’s not every day that you get to kiss a donkey and hear him play piano.
    Residents of Medicalodges Frontenac had an opportunity to do both on Friday when Jack the Bible donkey came for a visit with his human friends, Dennis and Yvonne Kay.
    “This is Jack’s second visit here,” said Amie Feagan, facility activities director. “The residents always enjoy it when any animal comes to visit, especially if they’re able to pet it, and Jack has a very nice demeanor.”
    In fact, Sicilian donkeys like Jack are known for their friendly and affectionate nature, though the Kays work long hours to train him.
    “We try to teach him one new trick a year,” Mrs. Kay said. “We try to have donkey school for about 20 minutes every day, and yes, our neighbors think we’re crazy. We’ve had to miss some days of school because of all the rain.”
    Her husband added that donkeys aren’t really stubborn, the way mules are reported to be.
    “They just have to look at the situation,” Kay said.
    Mrs. Kay explained to residents that Sicilian donkeys are also known as Bible donkeys because they have a dark stripe down their backs, with another stripe across their shoulders.
    A legend has grown up about this marking. The story is that the donkey Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday loved him so much that the beast followed him to Calvary. Upset by the sight of Jesus on the cross, the donkey turned away but couldn’t leave. The shadow of the cross fell across his back and shoulders, and every descendant of that donkey bears this mark.
    “It is a legend, it is not from the Bible,” Mrs. Kay said.
    However, the story ties in nicely with Jack’s service as a ministry offered by Crossroads Baptist Church, Girard, with a Gospel presentation at the end of every program. Jack visits numerous area nursing homes, visits the homebound and is available for children’s events and birthday parties.
    “Jack does have one requirement,” Mrs. Kay said. “There is to be no Pin the Tail on the donkey while he’s around.”
    This unique ministry wasn’t actually planned by the couple, at least not in the beginning.
    “My husband had no intention of having a Bible donkey, or any donkey at all,” Mrs. Kay said. “Our granddaughter was coming for a visit, and we thought it would be nice to have some little animal for her. She didn’t take to Jack at all, but I did.”
    Then she began to train Jack, who was 18 months old, starting with getting him to walk on lead.
    “He was wild when we got him, but my uncle had a squeeze chute and we put him in that,” Mrs. Kay said. “We started off by walking him in small circles, because he wouldn’t do well if we just tried to pull him in a straight line.”
    Page 2 of 2 - Following that, Jack was trained to get into a trailer.
    “I had to sit long hours in the trailer with a carrot in my hand,” Mrs. Kay said.
    He now bows, plays a miniature keyboard with his hoof, offers donkey smooches to women who make kissing noises. His newest trick is to knock down toy bowling pins with a ball held in his mouth. If the ball doesn’t knock all the pins over, he pushes the rest over with his nose.
    He’s rewarded for each trick with a carrot.
    “No carrots, no tricks,” Mrs. Kay said. “He likes peppermints, too, but they have such a high sugar content and he’s already got a sugar belly.”
    She’s especially proud that Jack learned to ring a bell for the Pittsburg Salvation Army.
    “Two Christmases ago, we got a call from Capt. Gary Gugala who asked if Jack could ring a bell for them,” Mrs. Kay said. “Everywhere he was, his bucket got full. Jack was called again this last Christmas. We enjoyed freezing out there because it was for a very good cause.”
    Anyone wanting to arrange for a visit from Jack may call 620-724-6465 or 620-724-7406 or visit www.crossroadsgirard.org.
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