When Sarah Doyle arrived home at her house on Quansoo Road in Chilmark on Wednesday, she noticed her pony Peanut was a bit frantic, running back and forth inside the paddock.
Doyle quickly realized that the family’s two donkeys — Tony and Anne (more about the names later) — were missing.
“The pony was looking very concerned when I came up the driveway,” Doyle told The Times. “They had pushed open a gate, and it closed behind them. They pushed themselves out, and [Peanut] was stuck in there.”
Turns out some work to remove stumps had been done inside the paddock, and the latch wasn’t properly secured. Doyle believes a delivery truck came down the road, and the curious pair looked to see who it was and were able to push open the gate. “They’re very friendly,” she said.
Doyle called her husband Bret Stearns, who began searching for the family pets. Doyle sent out emails and posted on social media about the missing donkeys, and the community responded. Even the Chilmark Police joined the pursuit.
“We got phone calls, text messages — it’s a great example of the community on the Vineyard,” Doyle said about the response. “It was amazing. Everybody just stopped what they were doing and looked for them. I don’t think that would happen anywhere else.”
Stearns told The Times the search took a couple of hours. He looked for tracks on the dirt road, but didn’t find any. The pair have escaped before, but it’s not typical of them to leave the comfort of their paddock. He was getting worried, he said, because there’s a lot of land where Tony and Anne could get lost in Chilmark. “They’re not just going to end up back at your doorstep,” Stearns said.
Ultimately, Stearns found them inside a paddock where they were once at home, on Blue Heron Farm. Tony and Anne — both male donkeys — are named after their former owners Tony and Anne Fisher, who are the former owners of Blue Heron Farm.
Doyle, who has known the donkeys since they were born 30 years ago at a West Tisbury farm, gave them to the Fishers as a wedding gift. When the Fishers passed away, Stearns said, Tony and Anne came to live with them and became their pets.
Even though Doyle and Stearns live next door to Blue Heron Farm (a place where they once lived when Doyle worked for the Fishers), it’s not easy to get there through the woods.
“I’m not sure if the Fosters are aware they were over at their farm, but they were. I found them in a beautiful grass paddock over there that they used to go in 15 to 18 years ago,” Stearns said. “They went back to the place that they came from, which is great for me because I could find them.”
On Thursday, both Stearns and Doyle were breathing a sigh of relief. “I’m just glad they got home,” Doyle said.