Walter the Orphan Donkey is kind of a big deal. At not even four-months-old, he already has more than 14,000 followers on Facebook. But really, it’s not surprising considering how cute he is and how popular animals are on social media—especially with a touching origin story like his. Still, the rapid popularity isn’t something Walter’s people had expected.
“If you told me a few months ago that we would have a famous social donkey, I wouldn’t have believed you. We barely do social media for ourselves!”Brad Blake
Before we get into how Brad and Kelly Blake came to be the guardians of this social media darling, let’s first talk about where the three of them live.
Old Route 66 west of Kingman winds up the Black Mountains to a charming mining town with wooden sidewalks and facades straight out of the early twentieth-century—Oatman Arizona.
A couple of prospectors settled there in the 1860s, but it wasn’t until 1915–when a couple of miners struck a 10 million dollar gold strike—that the town really grew. The boom didn’t last long, though. Between a fire in the 1920s and the largest mining company closing operations, the town virtually died off. The miners, however left something behind.
Over the years, the population of donkeys (or burros as I’ve always called them), grew. Now you’ll find them all over the place, sauntering across the road, stopping traffic, entertaining tourists, and being–quite simply–adorable.
Considering my love of critters, Oatman has long been a favorite Route 66 destination. (Photos from a 2011 visit)
Oatman is where Walter was born.
Walter the Orphan Donkey
This past July, one of the resident donkeys, Nadine, gave birth to a young ‘un but the new mother had no interest in her baby.
“Walter’s mom was very young and didn’t recognize that Walter was her baby. BLM was called up to Oatman and spent the whole day trying to establish a bond between Walter and his mamma, Nadine, but she wasn’t interested in him at all and only kicked him away when he tried to feed.”
Enter Brad and Kelly Blake. The BLM asked the couple—who had known Walter since he was 10 hours old—if they would adopt him and the animal-loving couple, of course, said yes.
When asked about Walter’s personality, Kelly answered that he’s like a German Shepard.
The house-broken donkey is so dog-like, they call him their Dogkey—and like a dog, he gets his daily walks through the streets of Oatman and beyond gaining fans along the way.
The more popular he becomes on social media, the more he’s wanted at events. Just this past weekend, they took Walter to a Special Olympics fundraiser in Bullhead City, where he was, of course, the most popular creature in the room.
Wherever Walter goes, he brings joy, part of why Brad and Kelly want to share Walter with the world.
“Everybody loves him. There are people who are going through tough times, and Walter brings them a smile.”Kelly Blake
Walter the Orphan Donkey Comes to Winslow
Just before two o’clock on Wednesday October 30th, I got a text from friend and fellow photographer Jim Buckley saying:
“Miniature horse on the corner now!”
I ran out and indeed found a small creature Standin on the Corner—although not a horse. It was, of course, Walter the Orphan Donkey.
Within minutes, nearly every person in the surrounding area flocked to pet and take their photo with Walter, and just as Kelly said, they all wore huge smiles.
Many thanks to Brad, Kelly, and Walter for brightening a brisk winter day in Winslow.
If you want to see more of Walter, be sure to follow his Facebook page—a sure way to put a smile on your face if you’re feeling down.
Until next time…
Take it Easy
Looking for a place to bring the kids? Check this out!