Tag Archives: Smoke the donkey

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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An uplifting story for a Monday – SMOKE THE DONKEY!

Have you heard this story?  I found it on FB and I wanted to play it forward today.


It started in Fallujah on a Marine Corp base in 2008.  There was a marine who decided to catch one of the many donkeys wandering the base.  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.  Of course, the Marines fell in love with the little burro… they fed him and patched the wounds on his legs.  He was their mascot.  They named him SMOKE because of his color and his sneaky donkey way of snatching ciggys, lit or not.

The troops loved him!


Sadly, pets are not allowed in a war zone…  My Hubby has many sad stories about pets/animals in Iraq when he was there.  So sad…

Anyway, of course the men were very attached to Smoke and he definitely boosted morale.  So, Folsom helped arrange for a Navy lieutenant to clear the little donkey as a therapy animal – and he was allowed to stay.


Smoke was so popular, people from home started sending him care packages.  He would receive treats and burro blankets.  The men continued to write home about Smoke… this little guy was stealing hearts and keeping spirits up.


Eventually, the troops left.  Smoke couldn’t come with the troop so he was left in the care of an Army major who gave the donkey to a sheik, for whatever reason.


In October of 2010, Folsom decided he wanted Smoke back in the USA.  Folsom had left the Marines and was now the head of Wounded Warriors Family Support, a non-profit that helps the families of service members who do not come back from war.

Folsom went to great lengths to track down the sheik who had Smoke.  Greedily, the sheik wanted $30,000 to release the burro.

Ummm.  Folsom told the sheik that as long as the donkey was happy there, all was good (called his bluff).

I guess the sheik thought about it and decided to give back Smoke for free.  Hmmmmm. Imagine that…

Smoke grazing as he awaits his flight to his new home


The challenge, of course, is clearing Smoke for travel to the US  – and arranging (paying for) the travel.  So, Folsom contacted Operation Baghdad Pups program which is run by the SPCA International.  They agreed to provide transport.

Since Smoke is a large animal, he has to be transported by Cargo plane.  And, from what we hear, Smoke should be on terra firma by the end of January.  At this moment, he is awaiting a flight out of Arbil, Iraq!

When he lands here, he will live at TAKE FLIGHT FARMS in Omaha.  This is a group who help children and adults cope with disabilities and psychological ailments.  Since Smoke was such a wonderful cure for all the Marines in Iraq, it is thought that Smoke will do wonders at Take Flight Farms.


Smoke barely has a page on Facebook, but you can follow his “discussion” on the SPCA page.  Here is the link.


I wanted to share a bit about the man who initiated bringing Smoke home, Colonel John Folsom.  Wow.  He seems like a great guy… Part of his program for the families of not returning soldiers is to bring them to Florida for some heart lifting fun.  You can read about his program via this link.

Here is a small part of his bio.

“Colonel Folsom’s military decorations include the Navy-Marine Corps Medal for heroism, the Bronze Star and Meritorious Service medals awarded for his meritorious service in support of Operation “Iraqi Freedom”.”

You can read more about him here.

Colonel Folsom


My sentiments are that donkeys are really easy, they are hearty, sweet, protective, smart and wonderful.  If you have the room, the time and the resources, PLEASE add a donkey to your herd.  You cannot help but fall in love with them.

After all, would a horse have as much success with an entire troop of men?  Maybe… But a donkey was surely successful because he KNEW.  Very wise, very kind and very gentle.

Rescue a Donkey today!

–look on your local Craigslist

–contact the BLM and find an adoption date, location or online adoption

–inquire at a Donkey rescue, here are a few (or google for your area…):

Amberwood Sanctuary, Leary, GA
(912) 792-6246

Crossroads Donkey Rescue. Grayling, MI

Longhopes Donkey Shelter, Bennett, CO

Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue

Redwings, CA

Terra Patre Rescue and Wildlife Preserve, Belen, NM

Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue, Dansville, MI
(517) 623-0000

Wild Burro Rescue, Olancha, CA

Forever Homes, Arizona:  www.foreverhomesdonkey.com

Donkeys are WONDERFUL!

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To learn all about the Bucket Fund and to donate the the ‘Saved from Slaughter Orphan Foals’, please click on the photo (photo credit, Trish Lowe)

The end of the month is drawing near! Please help!

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