A pair of donkeys from Devon assisted their new owner in the ultimate romantic gesture by helping him propose to his girlfriend.
Bertie and Derek, both aged four, played the lead role as Nick Cavill popped the question to his girlfriend of two-and-a-half years Becca Thomas.
The pair, who were adopted by Nick from The Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, greeted Becca with a note which read 'Will you marry me?'
Nick, a 25-year-old farmer from Lottisham, Somerset, explained: “We’ve always been into buying each other strange presents. She bought me a cow in the past.
“She’s a vet and she’s always loved donkeys. Every time we see an advert about them on TV she goes weak at the knees.
“She had been badgering me to get married for ages, and I wanted her to have an engagement present she could look at every day.”
Nick adopted the donkeys from the sanctuary in November and kept them hidden from Becca on his farm for a month before enlisting them to play a key part in the proposal.
“We got to the bottom of the drive of the farm and I said ‘I have a surprise for you’," Nick explained. "I told her to cover her eyes and led her into the yard.
“I got Derek and put his face looking at her, so she opened her eyes and got a surprise and started crying. I had one note on Derek’s collar explaining the donkeys’ history, and there was another on Bertie’s collar with the four magic words.”
Nick got down on one knee in the stable with the donkeys beside him and proposed.
The couple, who met while carrying out a caesarean on a cow, travelled to Bath that afternoon to choose a ring.
“She cried and said it was perfect,” Nick explained. “She always wanted to choose her own ring so I said we’d buy the ring tomorrow, but she wanted to go straight away.
"So we went to Bath - we arrived at 3.30pm on a Saturday so we had just two hours to find one.
“The first two shops we went into she said ‘no, none of these’ but then in the third shop she found it. We found the ring within an hour – she knows what she wants.”
Nick managed to keep the donkeys a secret from Becca, 34, for a month before proposing on December 1. “On several occasions there were some close calls," he said.
"I had to do a bit of ducking and diving. Derek is quite loud and sometimes I’d be on the phone to Becca and he’d blare something out”.
Emma Gill, The Donkey Sanctuary’s PR Officer, said: “I am thrilled for Becca and Nick – they are such a lovely couple and are obviously so besotted both with each other and their new donkey companions.
"Having met Nick and Becca it is clear that Derek and Bertie are very much a treasured part of the family and are revelling in the one-to-one attention they can enjoy in their new foster home. They are very lucky donkeys.
“I also have to admit to being slightly sceptical about whether Nick would be able to keep the fact that he had two long-eared and slightly noisy residents on his farm a secret from Becca, but to his credit, despite a couple of close calls he did.
"I am so pleased that Nick’s special romantic gesture worked out as he planned, and I understand the couple are now making plans for a wedding next year that Bertie and Derek will play a key part of.
"I know I speak for everyone at The Donkey Sanctuary when I wish Becca and Nick every future happiness for their married life together.”
Asked what makes Becca a fan of donkeys, Nick said: “She’s just a lover of animals. She likes obscure breeds and donkeys have just got this extra character – they are cheeky little things.
“We have never had enough time, land or resources before, but now we have a house with a bit of land. They’ll live with us in the summer and go back to the farm in the winter months.”
Bertie and Derek will share the Godney farm with four horses, three dogs, one cat and 200 cows. “They’ll have no end of attention there”, Nick said.
And as Bertie and Derek were the best present Becca could have asked for, the pair will receive some gifts of their own this Christmas - Santa is due to bring them ginger biscuits and footballs.
To find out more about The Donkey Sanctuary, visit www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk.