A Little Ditty About Jack and Diane: Rescue Donkey and Emu Friends Doing the Best They Can

You might call them “Mule-o and Emu-ette,” but this unique pair of fuzzy friends prefer to go by the names Jack (the donkey) and Diane (the emu). The darling animals were recently rescued from a farm in Kershaw, South Carolina, after they were seemingly abandoned there by an absentee owner, and have been transported to Carolina Waterfowl Sanctuary in Indian Trail, North Carolina. The rescue believes the pair have been each other’s only source of comfort for quite some time, possibly years.

PEOPLE reached out to Carolina Waterfowl Rescue to learn more about this unusual couple who have captivated the Internet with their sad, yet sweet and hopeful story. Jennifer Gordon, the rescue’s executive director, said the team is unsure exactly how old the animals are but guesses they are around 2 to 3 years old. (When a vet soon meets them, they can tell more by their teeth.)

Gordon believes the animals have been close friends for a while. “From what I was told, Diane was raised alone in the house and was put out with Jack, so she has known only him as a companion. It’s been at least two years,” she says.

And what, exactly, is the nature of their relationship, we wondered. Are they friends, friends with benefits, domestic partners, romantic partners or something else entirely?

“I don’t think that they can physically mate,” Gordon tells PEOPLE. “I think Diane sees Jack as a mate since she ‘drums’ for him. When we separated them trying to load Jack into the trailer, she was frantic. She was drumming for him, and that’s a way that emus call to their mates. Jack is very protective of her. It’s a donkey’s natural instinct to be a livestock guardian … we are not sure if he just feels the need to protect her or if he has the same feelings towards her. They both seemed to stick really close together and they obviously don’t like to be separated.”

Jack’s behavior towards three other donkeys he was placed with tends to support the notion that he prefers Diane to members of his own species. According to NPR, when he was put in the enclosure with the mules, he tried to attack them. (Was it was something they brayed?)

On the other hoof, Gordon says Jack and Diane do seem to communicate with each other but “as far as vocalizations … it’s more of an unsaid communication.” For instance, “if Jack goes under the shelter, Diane follows him, and when we bring food out for them, even though they’re supposed to eat different food because they have different requirements, they have to share their food.”

Diane eats and then Jack has some of her food, and vice versa with his food. “Somehow or another, they have a communication system … but it’s something that we don’t understand.” Adults never really do understand young love, though.

The duo also have regular sleepovers, albeit in different positions. “They stay very close, but equines sleep standing up so Diane will lay down next to him.”

For animal lovers who are too young to remember John (then Cougar) Mellencamp‘s hit song from 1982, the rescue chose the animals’ names through a Facebook contest, settling on the anthemic “Jack and Diane” for a rather practical reason. “Since Jack is actually a young donkey, he’s technically a ‘Jack donkey,’ and so when someone suggested ‘Jack and Diane’ it just seemed like a fitting name,” says Gordon. (They know Diane is a female emu due to her ‘drumming’ for Jack; only females of the species do that.)

Currently, Carolina Waterfowl Rescue is looking to (permanently) rehome this sweet, if a bit strange, twosome. “We would like a home where they are treated as pets, and provided sanctuary for the rest of their lives,” Gordon tells PEOPLE. And with over 2,000 inquiries, the rescue feels fairly certain they will find at least one acceptable home for their new celebrity couple.

“The response has been overwhelming,” the rescue posted on Facebook. “We have had inquiries from London, Canada, France and several other countries where this story has gone viral in addition to the United States … Our phone system is crashing, our email system is crashing. We simply cannot keep up with the volume … it will take a month just for us to review all of the applications we currently have. If a suitable candidate is not found we can definitely re-open the adoption process … We will keep you updated on what’s going on with Jack and Diane as we progress, and hopefully we’ll follow them to their new home where everyone can see them happy and healthy.”

All that said, the rescue recently reminded its Facebook followers that  “the publicity is fabulous but we just want to clarify we really haven’t gotten many donations for the pair and haven’t covered the basic vet care costs yet.” For Jack and Diane fans who aren’t able to adopt the loving animals themselves but would still like to help support the cause, donations can be made through the Carolina Waterfowl Rescue website or Facebook. As of Thursday, less than $800 had been raised on Jack and Diane’s behalf, despite their international fame.

Please consider donating to help secure your favorite odd couple’s continued medical care, food and shelter until they find their forever home, farm or sanctuary.





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