Eric is experienced in treating horses, donkeys and mules, but has a soft spot in his heart for the donkeys that continue to be beasts of burden in the remote regions of the developing world. They are exquisitely adapted to the desert environment and its sparse vegetation. In general, they are in better health than most pet donkeys in the United States, he said.
“In the U.S., we are recognizing that there are a lot of donkeys in the world — over 40 million by some estimates — and they are important to the quality of life,” he said. “If you’re going to care about the world, those are things you should know.”
In the Dakotas, however, where the prairie and sky seem to race out to meet at the horizon, the expansive grasslands are too rich for a donkey diet and far better suited for horses.
Natural resources are abundant there but names like Little Big Horn, Wounded Knee, Pine Ridge, and Standing Rock speak of the region’s history of conflict and heartbreak for Native Americans. Today, many of the surrounding counties are among the poorest in the U.S.
The rural horse owners are committed to their animals but lack resources to pay for veterinary care, which is scarce, at best, in these sparsely populated regions. When the Davises and their team of students arrive, clients cover the costs of medication and supplies, but the veterinary team donates their time and labor.