A Follow-Up on ‘Smoke, the Donkey’ – He made it!

A while ago, I wrote a post about Smoke the Donkey (linked here).

He was born in Fallujah and had wandered onto a Marine Corp base in 2008.

The story goes that there was a Marine who decided to catch one of the many donkeys wandering the base – enter Smoke.

Being an adept donkey catcher, the Marine was successful and consequently tied the newly haltered donkey to the tent of his base Colonel.
Upon rising, Colonel Folsom found the donkey and fell into Long-Ear love.

Of course, most of the Marines fell in love with the little burro as well.  They fed him and patched the wounds on his legs.  Col. Folsom walked Smoke around the base daily.

They named the little burro, SMOKE, because of his color and his sneaky donkey way of snatching ciggys, lit or not.

Smoke became their dearly loved mascot.


Smoke in Fallujah with the Marines who loved him.


Smoke was a strong morale booster for the guys.  He even received his own care packages from families at home who had come to think of the donkey as family through letters and phone calls with their loved ones.  In fact, Smoke received fancy halters, blankets, special foods and tons of treats.  Life was good for the little donkey.

But that was coming to an end…

Lo and Behold, it was time for the Marines to pack up and leave Fallujah.  They wanted to bring Smoke with them, but they couldn’t…

Or so they thought…  My previous post tells about Col. Folsom’s fight to bring his little buddy to the US.  (Col Folsom is an amazing man.  He started a non-profit to aid veteran families called, Wounded Warrior Family Support.)

Col Folsom

Below is the conclusion of his plight.  (excerpt)

By Jessica Gresko


WASHINGTON — It took 37 days and a group of determined animal lovers, but a donkey from Iraq is now a U.S. resident.

Smoke the Donkey on parade.


Smoke The Donkey, who became a friend and mascot to a group of U.S. Marines living in Iraq’s Anbar Province nearly three years ago, arrived in New York this week aboard a cargo jet from Turkey. After being quarantined for two days, he was released Saturday and began a road trip to Omaha, Neb., where he is destined to become a therapy animal.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals International announced Smoke’s arrival in New York on Thursday.

By Saturday afternoon the trailer carrying Smoke, named for its color, had driven through Baltimore and was on its way to Warrenton, Va., for a meet-and-greet with some fans.

The donkey will live and help Wounded Warriors Family Support, an organization founded by Ret. Marine Col. John Folsom, commandant of Camp Taqaddam when Smoke showed up, the SPCA said.

“Marines aren’t all tough guys with hard hearts — we’re suckers for kids and animals,” Folsom told reporters in December amid efforts to transport the equine.

Smoke was handed over to another Marine unit when Folsom’s unit left. When the last of the Marines left Iraq last fall, they gave Smoke to the Army unit replacing them. An Army major immediately gave Smoke away, the Indo Asian News Service reported.

“The Army wanted nothing to do with him,” Folsom had said.

Folsom used to walk Smoke daily and had formed a bond with the animal. It didn’t seem right that Smoke was left behind, he said in a telephone interview Saturday.

The donkey, which once snatched and ate a cigarette from a careless Marine, was such a part of the unit that he received his own care packages and cards from children who grew up with the movie “Shrek,” featuring a talking donkey.

A major had given the donkey to a Fallujah sheik who reportedly passed it along to a family but offered to get it back, at first for $30,000. The sheik later dropped the charge, but logistical problems in getting the animal back the states ensued.

There was the bureaucracy of getting Smoke nearly 7,000 miles around the world: blood tests, health certifications and forms from customs, agriculture and airline officials.

To cut through the red tape, Folsom got help from the SPCA, which has a project that transports dogs and cats from Iraq to the United States.

The group, however, had never attempted airlifting a donkey, which is more complicated because equines can’t be transported on traditional commercial aircraft and must go by cargo plane.

The donkey’s journey has provided laughter — and head scratching — along the way.

“People just couldn’t believe we were going to these great lengths to help a donkey because donkeys in that part of the world are so low down on the totem pole,” said the society’s Terri Crisp, who negotiated the donkey’s passage from Iraq to the United States. “Donkeys are not viewed as a companion animal. They’re viewed as a work animal.”

As frustrating as the journey sometimes was for those involved, including a week-long delay getting Smoke in to Turkey and another three weeks to get out, the donkey found friends and supporters along the way, Crisp said. They included the U.S. ambassador in Turkey, who at one point was getting daily updates.

“I think people did finally come to realize that this is one of these out-of-the-ordinary situations. Once you met him and saw what a unique donkey he was, it was hard to say no to him,” Crisp said, describing Smoke as “gentle” and “mischievous” as well as a food-lover — carrots and apples in particular.

The journey, which started April 5, wasn’t cheap.

The society estimates it cost between $30,000 to $40,000 from start to finish, with expenses such as $150 to ship Smoke’s blood from Turkey to a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa, $18,890 for a Lufthansa flight through Frankfurt, Germany and $400 a day for quarantine in New York. Folsom says he recognizes some people may be critical of the expense, which was paid for through donations, but he says he considers it payback for the donkey that was such a friend to Marines.

“Why do we spend billions of dollars of pet food in this country? Why do we do that?” Folsom said. “We love our animals. That’s why.”

Folsom saw the donkey for the first time in years Saturday when he arrived in New York to transport him to his new home in Omaha. The journey to Omaha is expected to take two days, and Folsom said Smoke is already getting used to seeing big, green trees instead of desert.

“He’s an American donkey now,” Folsom said.



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Champ and all of the needy animals at Alaqua Animal Refuge.  We are helping Champ, the trailer accident horses (GQ and Utah) as well as the abandoned and plant poisoned Gypsy and baby JR – who lost his mom to the poisoning just after he was born…  Click here to learn about and donate to the Bucket Fund.

Baby JR and Gypsy seem to be doing better! (too soon to be sure but a very good sign...) Click here to help!




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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

2 comments have been posted...

  1. Mari

    Several decades ago, when I was a kid in the 1940s, I learned farmers wormed their work horses by using tobacco. So, is it any wonder “Smoke” was attracted to “chawing down” cigarettes; equines seem to have an affinity for this natural vegetation. I recall my horse, Tony, stealing a pack of cigs when a farmer left it within his reach during threshing time at our farm.

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