At 64, retired nurse Jean Riser had begun to find grocery shopping an ordeal. “I’m wobbly on my feet, and because of arthritis I was having trouble carrying cat food,” says Riser, who lives in bucolic Ivybridge in southwestern England.
Now, thanks to a multitasking mule named Henry, Riser doesn’t have to worry. Twice a month she gets her groceries hauled to her door and—when Henry feels the need—her rose beds get fertilized too. “Henry,” she declares, “is the answer.”
It’s a common sentiment in the town of 18,000, where the 14-year-old mule is a fixture at store openings and fairs and has a lock on donkey parts in church pageants. And Henry works cheap—an apple or a carrot per delivery, coupled with a small donation to the Operation Henry Trust, through which owner David Snelling has raised more than $15,000 for research into cancer, which killed his father.
A retired financial adviser, Snelling, 59, bought Henry in 1998 for $1,400 and began his delivery runs in April 2000. “Henry enjoys working,” says Snelling. “When I see him at 8 a.m., he looks at me saying, ‘Where are we going today, Dad?’ He has tremendous stamina.” Snelling’s wife, Jill, 57, however, wishes he would make just one more delivery a week: to bring home the Snellings’ own groceries. Alas, “no such luck,” she says. “It’s me. In the car.”