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."
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.