Happily Home

When Brad & Kelly Blake return home from work, their pack of German Shepherds greet them at the gate, ready for treats, affection and their nightly walk. But one furry head that pops out for a pat doesn’t look quite like the others. Walter gets a “good boy” and follows the family into the house just like his canine siblings, but he is of a different breed.
A little more than a year ago, the Blake’s adopted Walter, but not from any animal shelter. On July 5, 2019, they received a call from the Bureau of Land Management, asking if they would take in a burro baby that had been rejected by its mother.
“If you’d have asked me two years ago if I would have a donkey I would’ve said ‘absolutely not,’” Brad Blake laughed. “But I love to have him, he’s awesome.
“We’ve lived in Oatman for about 30 years and in that time being in Oatman you kind of get connected to the donkeys a little bit,” Blake continued. “And we’ve always had a pen in our back yard where we have been able to help out BLM on very rare occasions where we would pen up an animal for a day or two because of an injury to give it medication and then let it go — never anything more than that. But with Walter, it basically came down to letting nature take its course or we could take him, so they gave us a call and we jumped on it.”
The Blake’s brought him back to his new home in the yellow house on the hill and Walter has been one of the family ever since.
“We got him when he was 8 hours old so he has never known anything different,” Blake said. “I was concerned with his instincts with dogs because donkeys are real aggressive toward dogs and coyotes and mountain lions, but it just took about two days for him to become comfortable around the dogs. And the dogs were already used to us bringing home weird critters — we’ve had goats, chickens and an alpaca.”
Walter is housebroken and meanders through the living room as he pleases. He loves to follow Brad around and enjoys running around and playing with the dogs. A day in the life of Walter doesn’t sound half bad for a burro.
“Since he’s gotten bigger he likes to sleep in the back yard now — he has a soft spot for his bed,” Blake said. “I wake up about 4:30 in the morning and normally around that time he comes in the house and we have our coffee. He comes around the pantry and sticks his head in his bag of treats while I’m drinking my coffee. Then he goes out in the front yard where he spends most of the day hanging out and people visit him all day, every day — it’s insane how many people come up and give him treats!
“We work local, so I stop by throughout the day and check on him. We come home from work and go on our walks for the evening and then he spends the evening inside the house or we sit outside with him and play with the dogs.”
Visitors are welcome to come by the house and take pictures with Walter if he is in the front yard. It is a bright yellow house on the right side of the road when heading north of the shops on Main Street. If guests want to give him treats, they ask that you stick to the low-calorie alfalfa treats sold in town so that he does not get sick.
“A donkey’s digestive system is developed to eat the stuff that nobody else will eat, that’s how they exist here,” Blake explained. “They eat the scrub brush really low to the ground and because of that their teeth never stop growing because they’re always grinding them away. Carrots, apples or anything sugary is really bad for them.
“And they drink huge amounts of water. On a normal day when we’re not doing much Walter will drink 5-6 gallons of water and he’s still little.”
Walter has become a fascination on Facebook after the Blake’s started his own page, “Walter the orphan from Oatman’s happy new life.” People around the world tune in to go on Walter’s nightly walks with him and he has made guest appearances at several local charitable events.
“We did the exact same walks we’re doing now with Walter with our dogs every day — nothing has changed for us except now Kelly holds a camera and there’s a couple thousand people watching with us,” Blake said. “It’s put Oatman on the map a little bit more, in such a good way.”
People just can’t get enough of the cute, fuzzy little guy, and Facebook followers began requesting a children’s book about Walter’s journey. Local journalist Cat Smith got involved and the project became a reality.
“Walter’s fans asked us to do it actually, and Cat contacted us about writing the book and we just went with the flow with it,” Blake said. “It’s not our intention to use Walter to make any money but if we’re able to sell some books out of our store in these trying times, that is a blessing for us.”
Smith authored the book “Walter Finds a Home,” as told by the Blake’s. It is the first in a proposed series of books about Walter. Copies now are available for purchase on the website walterthewonderdonkey.com. There is additional Walter merchandise available on the website and at Jackass Junction and the Gift Shack in Oatman.
A special book signing with Walter, the Blake’s and Smith, will take place this Saturday, Nov. 21 (1:30 p.m. AZ time) at Burro Flats on Main Street in Oatman.