It’s a treat for motorists navigating along Lakeview Drive, casting glances toward the elegant expanse of land that’s called Eagle Wing, the home of the Goode family, and seeing bunches of critters cavorting about.
Especially the donkeys who are eye catchers. Two big guys, brothers, are the stars of the show among several lesser lights, sheep and other breeds, even a llama overseeing the flock.
This assortment of critters is linked to Leslie Cobb. She is the daughter of retired pharmacist Dwayne Goode and his wife, Elaine, a long time member of the board of trustees at the University of Central Arkansas. Leslie Cobb’s affection for the animals, especially the donkeys, knows few bounds. She watches over them like a mother hen, even though she has people on hand to tend to the beasts.
Her love for the flock is beyond estimation. She is completely enamored with the animals, a love affair that began at a tender age.
"When I was a child, I had a fascination for animals, and I’d keep any that came around the house," she recalls. "Especially those that were mistreated and neglected. We had big barns and such on Eagle Wing, and my dad was good about letting me keep the animals - if I was committed to caring for them."
It followed that she would create an enterprise called "Wishing Well for Paws" that concerned itself with small animals in need of assistance. She found great need for help for mistreated animals. The market for animals of that ilk was great, she found, and it wasn’t too long before she found herself shipping animals to places in New England where, unaccountably, people were seeking such animals. This organization still continues today with other groups around the state diverting small animals - dogs and cats — to places that tell of a need for them. Ultimately her interest with small breeds waned. But she continues her appreciation for assisting dogs, cats and others that are mistreated and neglected.
At this juncture, she has turned her attention to large animals that are in need of help. And donkeys have found an affectionate owner in Cobb. Her brood of donkeys runs from 2 years to the oldest at 9 years.
The oldest of the bunch came from a bootlegger who once plied his trade in the city. "One day he asked if I would take a couple of donkeys off his hands. And after some consideration, I agreed."
Her flock receives top-notch care from Ron and Robin Parker of Conway, Cobb’s close friends who are completely tied to the animals at home at Eagle Wing.
Today a couple of enormous donkeys — American Standard, they’re called — are the stars of the show on Lakeview Drive. The big fellows are named Willis and Parker. All of the donkeys have names.
Donkeys, over the centuries, have been used as guard animals, especially for sheep who because of their timidity are often in need of protection against predators. In addition, donkeys are the original beasts of burden and in many places around the globe today, they are important transportation elements. In fact they are the preferred mode of transportation. Despite popular thought, donkeys are highly intelligent and loving animals. They also are much more of an all terrain animal than horses.
Because of the intriguing history of the creatures, Leslie Cobb has developed a strong and loving affinity toward them. Seldom a day passes that she is not roaming the Eagle Wing pastures caring for her charges.
"They are fascinating beings, " she said the other day while strolling though the pasture land where cattle once held sway. The cows have given way to the esoteric beasts who have captured her heart.
The young woman has ties to the 13 donkeys - a pair of massive brothers - seven more who make up a family unit and 20 sheep and a llama, who by its curious size and configuration stands out prominently.
The Parkers — he is a former employee of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service — and his wife are devoted to the flock at Eagle Wing, and they tend to the animals with loving hands. Through all kinds of weather, the Parkers find time to feed and care for the gang. Mrs. Parker likes especially the fun nature of the donkeys who are prone to toy with Parker by doing mischievous things like picking up his pieces of equipment and hiding them. .
They provide their services without pay, and they joke about being retired eight years ago after a career of working with animals. I never thought I would develop a fondness for donkeys, which, by the way, are said to be the most abused animals in the world. But here I am," he smiles.
"This is a sanctuary," Cobb says as the big Willis and Parker bray in her ears. "These donkeys will be here as long as they live."
Since donkeys sometimes live up to forty years, Parker had to add that he’d be gone from the scene long before the donkeys depart.