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Fundraising site set up to help pay mounting vet bills

By Miriam Raftery

Photo, left: "Sweet", the youngest foal at Fantasy Donkeys, died of a mysterious ailment shortly after the Border Fire

July 9, 2016 (Campo) – In one of the most dramatic rescues during the Border Fire, the Humane Society helped evacuate 55 miniature donkeys from Fantasy Donkeys’ ranch in Campo to three different temporary shelters.  But after the fire passed and the herd returned home, Nearly two dozen donkeys fell ill and one young foal, Sweet Child of Mine, or “Sweet” for short, died. 

Thus began a desperate effort to save the remaining donkey.  Seven have required round-the-clock care on site and four had to be rushed to the San Luis Rey Equine Hospital in Bonsall, where after intensive treatment for two weeks, they are now recovering. The ordeal has been a drain emotionally and financially, since owner Kim Fuson has had to take time off her job as a nurse to care for the ailing donkeys, while veterinary bills have climbed to nearly $20,000.

“We love our donkeys,” Fuson told East County Magazine earlier this week. Fantasy Donkeys provides costumed,trained donkeys for parties,weddings, festivals and other special events. Dave and Kim Fuson also breed miniature donkeys through a companion business.

Before the fire, one donkey had been treated for a cough that a local vet thought might be an allergy or an issue with feed. But the Fusons had no inkling of what lay in store. 

On Sunday, June 19th, the Border Fire began, soon filling the air with smoke.  After Herculean efforts got all of the animals out of the fire’s destructive path, Fuson and her husband, Dave, spent two days driving to all the shelters, checking on the donkey and thanking staff at each facility.  They arrive home late at night, exhausted. “We hadn’t eaten in two days,” Fuson said. 

The phone rang.  A shelter in Lakeside informed them some donkeys were sick. “My husband literally packed up the truck with the horse trailer, drove over there at 11 at night, gave medication and slept in their stall.” The next morning he took them to a local veterinary clinic where they received antibiotics and other treatments. 

Finally the evacuation orders were lifted.”The Humane Society, who was absolutely wonderful, picked them all up and I had van loads coming in and unloading,” says Fuson, who wanted to host a barbecue to thank all of the rescue workers who helped during the fire including the Humane Society, Border Patrol, County Animal Services, and shelter volunteers.

But by Saturday, six days after the fire started, disaster struck again. “Oh my God, all hell broke loose, “ she recalled. “We had donkeys all over the property and the foals were the worst hit. They started coughing, literally they choked, almost falling down, then they ran bad temperatures up to 106. Then they stopped eating, then they stopped drinking.”

The couple brought home bags full of medication from a local large animal veterinary center.  “Our kitchen looked like a pharmacy,” said Fuson, who along with her husband nursed her ailing herd round the clock, taking temperatures and administering multiple medications.

“On Sunday, we lost Sweet,”she said, her voice breaking, recalling taking Sweet dressed as a cowboy to a Del Mar Kids Expo just one month earlier. “The donkeys are such great little ambassadors. Kids love them and who loves them even more are seniors.”On Facebook, she called the loss of Sweet “tragic and crushing.”

After burying Sweet, Fuson called the vet.  “I said I don’t know what’s happening, but you have to get out here because I can’t lose anymore.” A local vet provided intravanous fluids to help the other young donkeys amid 105 degree heat at the ranch.

A friend set up a GoFundMe site to help save the Fantasy Donkeys.   She set a goal of $5,000, not realizing how high the actual bills would ultimately be.  To date about $2,200 has been raised.  Fuson estimates the total bill will be nearly ten times that--$20,000.  She  is working to see if the cap can be raised or a new site set up. For now, you can donate at You can also reach Fuson through the Fantasy Donkeys Facebook page.

Even after a vet visited the ranch, some donkeys kept declining, though others improved.  So Fuson called Dr. Korin Potenza at the San Luis Rey Clinic in Bonsall, who had previously saved the life of a mother donkey with a prolapsed uterus, also saving the baby, Treats. (photo, right).

The couple took four donkeys to the clinic and continued to nurse 17 at home. At the clinic the four patients received nebulizer treatments in a special hyperbaric oxygen therapy center.

Fuson  praised Dr. Potenza for caring for the donkeys even though the couple couldn’t afford to pay for the full bill up front.  “Her concern is the wellbeing of the animals,” Fuson said earlier this week. “I pray they can save these miniature donkeys—our kids.”

Kim and Dave Fuson drove to Bonsall this week to visit their four furry patients and were pleased with their progress,voicing effusive praise for Dr. Potenza's compassion and expert care.

East County Magazine spoke with Dr. Potenza late yesterday.  She said a diagnosis is pending the outcome of test results that won’t be back for several more days. But she said, “I think that the donkeys probably had a respiratory virus exacerbated by the smoke inhalation.”

Fortunately, Dr. Potenza was able to deliver some good news, two weeks after taking in the ailing donkeys for intensive treatments. “They’re doing very well,” she informed us.  They’re going to go home this weekend.”

For more information about Fantasy Donkeys you can visit their website at and their Facebook page at

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My sister's first horse was a donkey we bought from Ms Bess at her goat farm in Jamul. Our dad removed the back seat from his '49 Plymouth and the donkey rode in the car! She's 60 years old and still rides, has a place on a dude ranch near Portola.