Nobody in Ireland escaped the wrath of Storm Desmond and his destruction in December 2015, not least Ireland’s animals, including this incredibly lucky donkey rescued from the flood waters.

He has since become a viral sensation as the photo taken of the apparent massive grin on his face when finally safe from the water has grabbed worldwide attention.

The animal rescue group Animal Heaven Animal Rescue (AHAR) sent out an emergency message pleading for help in rescuing a donkey lost in the flood waters in Killorglin, Co. Kerry. The shelter had been contacted by the donkey’s owner when the storm blew down the gate and the donkey escaped.

As the river burst its banks, the poor creature was surrounded by 20 ft of water and stranded in the mud. With emergency and rescue services run off their feet, Suzanne Gibbons from AHAR came to the owner’s aid, posting a video online to explain the situation and look for a boat.

Code red. Todays emergency. Please help me. There is a donkey stranded in deep flooding in Kilorglin. I need a boat and men to help. I have ropes ect Please ring 087 3157085 Please get me help

Posted by Animal Heaven Animal Rescue on Dé Domhnaigh, 6 Nollaig 2015

Admitting that she couldn’t swim, Gibbons was joined by members of the Killorglin Rowing Club, who offered to give the rescue attempt a shot though they were unsure that their boat was big enough to tow the donkey.

When they reached the donkey the rescue crew battled the swirling currents and the ever-rising flood waters but managed to place a buoy around the animal’s neck and stabilize him enough in the water so he could be steered by the boat.

We have him pray we get him to the shore line

Posted by Animal Heaven Animal Rescue on Dé Domhnaigh, 6 Nollaig 2015

They succeeded in bringing the donkey back to (relatively) dry land, and he was obviously extremely happy to have escaped his ordeal. Have you ever seen a more grateful smile?!

The animal shelter has praised the help of local hero Mike Fleming of the Killorglin Rowing Club who risked the dangerous weather conditions to help the poor donkey, now named Mike in his honor.

“He was my last chance and phone call to beg for a boat,” Gibbons said.

“He listened and he drove down to meet me. I knew straight away he had the guts to do it. No negative attitude just come on girl we'll give it a go. He braved such dangerous water to help us save him.”

Mike the donkey is now enjoying some special treatment as the rescue unit ensures that he keeps warm and doesn’t fall ill after his time out in the flood water. So far so good as he is said to be recovering well.

“So we've named him Mike. There could be no other name,” said Gibbons.

“He is now dried with towels, eating a hot mash, all cozy and warm and our vet has seen him and started him on antibiotics to prevent pneumonia. He has a small bit of fluid in one lung but our vet said he will recover. All he needs is loads of TLC.”

He’s even been snapped helping himself to an extra bit of hay!

Self service, cheeky boy.

Posted by Animal Heaven Animal Rescue on Dé Máirt, 8 Nollaig 2015

AHAR currently operates a rescue centre for all animals in County Kerry. They operate mostly thanks to donations and fundraising, with one small Government grant a year. An average of 1,556 animals a year are rescued by AHAR. If you wish to help continue their work, you can make a donation via or visit their Facebook page to find out more. 

You can hear AHAR’s Suzanna Gibbins speak more about the rescue below.

* Originally published in Dec 2015.