Corner Stories

Walter the Orphan Donkey

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.

Walter the Orphan Donkey

“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
Brad and Walter the Orphan Donkey in Oatman
Brad and a young Walter from Walter’s Facebook Page

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.

Oatman, Arizona

Road into Oatman

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.

Donkeys.

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.

Burros sticking heads in cars in Oatman Arizona
Baby Burro with do not feed me in Oatman AZ

Considering my love of critters, Oatman has long been a favorite Route 66 destination. (Photos from a 2011 visit)

WT Editor Lori with Burro in Oatman in 2011

Oatman is where Walter was born.

Walter the Orphan Donkey With Brad

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.

Nadine,  Walter the Orphan Donkey‘s mother
Mom Nadine, From Walter’s Facebook Page

“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.

Kelly and baby Walter the Orphan Donkey

When asked about Walter’s personality, Kelly answered that he’s like a German Shepard.

Brad kissing Walter the Orphan Donkey
From Walter’s Facebook Page

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.

Walter the Orphan Donkey In an old car
From Walter’s Facebook Page

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
Brad, Kelly, and Walter the Orphan Donkey in Kingman AZ
From Walter’s Facebook Page

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!”

Kelly, Brad, and Walter the Orphan Donkey standing on a corner in Winslow arizona

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.

Crowd gathers around 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.

Walter the Orphan Donkey

Many thanks to Brad, Kelly, and Walter for brightening a brisk winter day in Winslow.

Walter the Orphan Donkey With fans

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.

Walter the Orphan Donkey

Until next time…

Take it Easy

Walter the Orphan Donkey

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2 Comments

  • Cheryl A Mangin

    Wonderful and well written article about the Blakes and Walter the Orphan Donkey of Oatman, AZ. He is our little local celebrity and loved by all in the Tri-State area as well as his many fans across the US. He even has fans in Europe and Asia.

  • Joe Goard

    What a wonderful story, and such wonderful subject matter! The pictures were quite warm and really conveyed the purity of the story! Happy Halloween!

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