Chachi is a street word in Spanish used to mean cute, great, adorable, fantastic etc. and that is exactly what I named my first donkey. I found her on a trip to Morocco and couldn’t resist. Moroccan donkeys are miniature in stature but can carry a full load. She belonged to an English vet and lived out on his compound in an area known as California, because the terrain is so similar to that of California, USA. The vet also had a clinic in the medina to care for sick and hungry animals that belonged to the poor. He was completely sponsored by an English charity. Animals in too bad a state would be taken to his compound to live a long healthy life. I begged him to let me take a donkey back to my farm in Spain, ensuring of its good care. He had a policy: once an animal landed in his compound it never left. He did have one exception and that was a baby animal born on the compound. He would be willing to give me this particular donkey if I could get the necessary papers. Not an easy job I found out. I needed a vet certificate, not hard, and then permission from the ship company to bring her aboard, a stamp and passport from the department of agriculture and finally an OK from the douane, the customs. It took me three days to acquire the paperwork needed. Even that wasn’t the hard part; after checking and double checking with all the authorities. I then had to walk her about five miles from the compound to the port. She had never left the compound and was not pleased to do so now. I had Moroccans laughing at me and sometimes giving a gentle shove to help us along but it was a great adventure and gave us time to get to know one another. Lots of scruffy young children who speak all kinds of different languages and wanted to help (for a few dirhams). When I arrived at the douane, I stood in line with the cars and all my papers and of course the donkey. We definitely cheered up everyone’s day; it was the funniest thing they had ever seen. Crew members on the ship were waving baby-bottles, even a few of the douane brought along baby-bottles.
Being American I was not used to the system; I didn’t know about bribery. I should have had a fifty dollar note in my passport and we would have had no trouble. I was afraid to bribe a policeman. And knowing that I had RIGHT on my side I stood my ground and told them they had promised me the day before that all the papers were in order. But they had lied and I was not able to pass with my donkey. I had to finally give up and take Chachi back to the compound. This was difficult because my ship left in two hours and the only way I could achieve this was by convincing a taxi-driver to take me. Finally one nice man, laughing at my whole ordeal, decided he would be kind and take me and my donkey, then return me to the ship. It must have been a sight, a donkey sat in the back seat of a taxi whizzing through Tangiers.
I did try three other times over the years, to bring Chachi to Spain but every time it was always that missing paper, probably that fifty dollar note. I know she has a wonderful life on the compound and I sent contributions for many years to this man’s great work.