WEST NEWBURY – Maybe Vinnie the donkey couldn’t take the social isolation anymore and decided to make a run for it.
Whatever the reason, local police and a firefighter were charged with corralling Vinnie on Monday night after he escaped from his pen off Coffin Street about 8 p.m. and headed toward Main Street, according to police Chief Jeffrey Durand.
Durand said police officers Robert Joyce and Paul DeCoste slowly followed Vinnie in their cruisers on Main Street and then Bachelor Street near the police station before he was finally caught near Town Hall just before 9. West Newbury Fire Deputy Chief Ben Jennell helped in the effort.
“It looks like he (Vinnie) was on the loose for almost an hour,” Durand said.
Durand said the low-speed pursuit resulted in many curious looks but few traffic disruptions.
“More of a curiosity factor,” Durand said, adding this was the first time he could remember a donkey hoofing it all the way downtown.
“It’s usually horses,” the chief said.
News of Vinnie’s escape quickly spread to Facebook where more than 60 comments were posted on the West Newbury News as of Tuesday morning.
“Oh my gosh! We live on Main Street and we were all plastered to the window wondering why the police were running behind houses then my neighbor saw the donkey!!” Colleen Hammond wrote.
Vinnie’s capture came as Joyce and DeCoste were in the midst of their 24-hour shifts. As a way of reducing contact between his officers, Durand stopped midday shift changes on Sunday. Instead, officers work 24 hours straight and then have four days off.
The new system, Durand said, does not reduce the number of officers keeping West Newbury residents safe but it keeps his officers safer and healthier.
Durand said the new shifts will continue indefinitely during the pandemic.
“Hopefully, not too long,” he added.
Dave Rogers is a staff writer for the Daily News of Newburyport. Email him at: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.