Thursday, July 31, 2008

TJ Update

Well, they finally did it. They got in their conveyance and went to see how dear little TJ is faring at the PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary. I'm not sure what posessed them or why they would want to re-enter the dangerous world of the mini-mule but then again they often do things that are a complete mystery to me. At least they didn't ask me to accompany them.

I will reconstruct the visit as best I can from the woman's babblings. When they arrived TJ was in a small paddock with four other donkeys, including Wilson. "OoooooTJ, it's me", said the woman. TJ squinted at her and barged his way through the group. He snatched a carrot and retreated to the far corner, cheeks bulging in chipmunk fashion. The others all received carrots and though TJ tried to purloin those carrots too, the others stood their ground. It would seem he has acquired at least the rudiments of basic herd manners and has the scars and scrapes to show for it. Wilson the two year old donkey got very excited and began putting TJ in headlocks and grabbing his hocks and yanking on his tail. At last, someone who can stoop to TJ's low level of social interaction and who operates at his high level of energy.

The humans had a lovely tour of the sanctuary and met all twenty or so donkey residents. The woman was particularly taken by an ancient, dignified and exteremely hirsute donkey called Amos so I have included a photo of him with his equally ancient white friend Brennan and a blind younger female donkey called Patsy whom they watch over like elderly guardians. A young upstart called Charlie began chasing Patsy and the two older gentlemen rushed (slowly) to her rescue and cut off the hoodlum, placing Patsy between them. Charlie was banished to another paddock - maybe TJ should be in there with him - kind of a donkey Alcatraz.

Jack and I were both concerned that the woman would return home with TJ strapped into the back seat but even she seems to realize that he is where he needs to be, in a group setting with lots of activity and Jack is where he needs to be, in a small group where things move along at a tranquil and orderly pace. "Upon my word", Jack said "if she hada returned home with that youngun in tow, I woulda needed a whole keg ev nerve tonic." Amen to that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My Trophy Has Arrived

At long last my trophy has arrived at our barn. It's not antique Victorian sterling silver, actually it's a shiny plastic and it's not three feet tall, it's closer to seven inches, but I'm nevertheless inordinately pleased. The motif is the winged goddess of Victory, holding aloft a laurel wreath, a classical theme which I find most suitable. The tall woman is at something called a cottage so she was not here for the photography session but the woman has taken some images that will give my readers a general idea of what the trophy looks like. The humans will install a shelf in my room to hold it and any future trophies.

The largest flying/biting insects in the known world have arrived and are making us feel like innocent villagers under sniper fire. These creatures are the size of a mini-carrot and have the ability to remove large chunks of our flesh. They are very clever and land on our backs where we can't dislodge them. The only options are to drop to our knees and begin rolling frantically or to gallop at high speed for the run-in and hope they don't follow us inside. The humans said they are the approximate size of a Hercules aircraft used for troop movement. I believe this to be true - it's the only logical explanation. Jack says they are one of the plagues mentioned in the bible and he must know because he was around when it was being written.

There is a disgraceful class division in our family of mixed species - the cat and dog live in the house with the humans and we are left to fend for ourselves in the much inferior barn. If we lived in the house the terrible plague flies couldn't bite us and we could help the humans with whatever it is they do in there. I simply don't understand their obvious prejudice, especially now that I am an award winner.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm Building An Ark

The human in the radio announced this morning that all records for rainfall in the month of July have been broken. I could have told him that. And there are five times the usual number of flies for this time of year. A scientist measured them but Jack and I have bites on our legs that give the true scientific measure of the horror. We are waterlogged and bug bitten.

We have decided to hole up in the run-in until the sun shows it's face again. Doc has thoughtfully pulled down so many bales of hay that we have a never-ending buffet. The horses spend their time rushing in and out between showers and as a result Molly developped an affliction called mud fever on her heels. She is taking pills and has a special pink cream that the woman smears on her sturdy ankles. Molly is thrilled with the extra attention and looks very smug in the crossties while she is being fussed over. The woman does not help the situation by referring to the cream "Barbie's Fetlock Ointment". Who is this Barbie creature anyway? And why is everything in her orbit pink?

I am quite worried about the potatoes. What if they all drown? I know from overhearing the humans that potatoes are prone to something called THE BLIGHT if waterlogged for more than a couple of days. When the humans speak in capital letters it means something is very serious indeed. Jack says he will only begin to worry if and when he hears the carrot crop is in danger. He just isn't as committed to the potato inventory as I am. I've been told I must be a reincarnation of an actuary/scientist/detective. I can't help it. My mind just works that way.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Another Day On The Hobs Of Hell

That's what everyone is calling the weather these days but we donkeys think it's quite comfortable. Doc and Molly go around looking like over-steamed clams, the dog lies in the shade panting and even the cat sprawls under a shrub. A collection of humans formed on the lawn today and sat there eating and saying things like "Could it GET any hotter", and, "It's not the heat it's the HUMIDITY". They grazed on all kinds of delicacies while we looked on longingly from the other side of the fence. They did not share.

When they had annihilated all the foodstuffs, they came to see Jack and self and announced we were all going for a walk. Their goal was to help the visitors dig up some potatoes to take home, thus making a complete mess of my careful inventory. I watched closely and think they took about twenty but of course I can't be sure. Now my totals will be skewed. We did get to see the irrigation pipes they have put in the fields and we climbed over them bravely, until I knocked one with a hoof and nearly scared myself to death with the metalic clang that issued forth. I don't appreciate being called a "drama queen" in front of company.

Brenda, one of the humans I have known all my life, held my shank and plucked delicacies from the sides of the path for me to sample. I especially like black raspberries and new grass shoots. The woman walked behind, making rude remarks about my back being broad enough to serve as a dining surface for a family of ten. They plied Jack with treats as well though he has to eat in small quantities or the food gets stuck in his throat.

This is a good time to mention a deplorable habit the dog indulges in and which infuriates all four equines. We have a big water trough in front of the barn and the dog has decided it's her own personal plunge pool. She tears down the trail ahead of the others, belts through the run-in and leaps into our freshly filled water trough. Then she runs in circles, biting the water, finishing up by lying down with just her nose showing. Then she explodes out, leaving all sorts of hair and debris floating in there. It's uncivilized, revloting and highly unsanitary. The woman is not impressed but the male human thinks it's absolutely hilarious and always asks the dog if she feels refreshed. I plan on calling the health department.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mysterious Masked Donkey

Sometime back in the spring the woman ordered a fly mask with ears for me. It finally arrived this week. She says it took them that long to find enough material for the ear portion but I rather think that is just her unrefined sense of humour at work. The ears are somewhat long and tend to flop over at the ends but they most definitely keep the pestilent hordes from setting up a cafeteria in my finely tuned hearing apparatus. In fly season all I hear is a constant buzzing. Jack now has one on order in a slightly larger size. When the woman first put it on me she stood back and barely stifled a hearty laugh, unsuccessfully turning it into a phony cough at the last minute. "Sheaffer", she said, "you look like a donkey super-hero". That's more like it, I thought. Then she ruined it by adding "or a badly disguised donkey bank robber". Pahhh.

Now that the extreme heat is here we are allowed into the lush part of the paddock more often but that means we have to gallop back to the run-in when the fly hordes descend. Actually the others gallop but I proceed at a stately trot, looking, the woman rudely says, like the Queen Elizabeth 2 steaming into port. There is far too much haste in these modern times, in my opinion. Jack can put on an impressive turn of speed for someone of his age and he always beats me to the run-in by a wide margin. "Young man", he said, "you are in no danger of depletin that store of calories yev got put by." I should think not - I've been storing these calories for years.

We have one defense against the bugs and that is repeated, vigorous dust bathing. We donkeys are experts in this field and can spend ages in our dust baths, cleverly working the material through our coats in a series of complicated rolling procedures. When done, we lie there for awhile to let the dust settle and then get to our feet slowly to ensure thorough covereage and minimum dust loss. The key, however, which the horses just can't comprehend, is to never, ever shake. That ruins the whole therapeutic effect. It also means that when the woman grooms us in the evening, she herself emerges looking like a grumbling grey ghost, which we very much enjoy.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Always Happy To Help

We animals have had a busy week, supervising the woman and trying to help out any way we can. She says we're a pack of interfering busy bodies but of course that's just the heat and humidity talking. We know that in her heart of hearts, she is really most appreciative and all the expletives are in fact her roundabout way of thanking us.

Doc helped out by grabbing one piece of baler twine which resulted in an avalanche of newly stacked hay bales. They piled up against the gate, which he says makes it far easier for her to reach. By sheer coincidence, we are also able to browse on it freely, but of course that was merely a secondary effect. The woman has turned it around and says it wasn't a good deed but an act of vandalism. She really very paranoid sometimes.

Then she scrubbed out our water trough and left the hose in it to refill. Doc says he was merely moving the hose aside with his teeth so he could have a drink and that's how he came to inadvertantly aim it into the tack room. It took the woman awhile to realize what had happened and when she rushed to grab the hose, it was snaking around in a lively fashion and she got soaked. You'd think she'd appreciate a cool shower in this weather, but noooo. She looked quite demented, hair standing on end, streaks of barn filth running off her person and shouting and gesticulating wildly. This can't be good for her - I think she needs to try meditation.

Jack and I got in trouble when we were helping to clean up the loose hay in the barn aisle. We tried to slide a water bucket aside and it tipped into a bag of powder she spreads on the wet spots in our stalls. The powder is called Stable Boy and it got quite damp and clumpy and the bottom of the bag dissolved. We were prompty expelled, though it was obviously an accident.

Molly felt she should contribute by leaning into the tack room and tidying up the window sill. Her head emerged draped with some cobwebs and with a sticky strip for catching flies stuck to her nose. She tried to wipe it off on her leg and the resulting gluey mess of goo and dead flies somehow got all over her and the woman who tried to remove the thing. Now the woman was soaking wet, filthy and covered in dead flies and goo. She was beginning to look apoplectic, so we left and she staggered off to the house.

Despite her hostile nature, we will remain steadfast in our efforts to help. I wish she'd stop saying the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Pseudonyms, Nicknames and Alter Egos

We've been having the sort of heat and humidity that causes the woman to muse about planting cotton every year at this time. She's a permanent beet red colour and as damp as the Okefenokee swamp. The biting flies take this temperature as an invitation to breed in vast quantities and we equines are beset day and night.

Jack and I were relaxing under the trees and got to discussing all the things we are called, some quite acceptable, some slanderous. Gale and Mr. Gale have christened Jack Mr. Jack because of his extreme age and dignified acceptance of all life has thrown at him. The woman sometimes calls him Jack Black because that's the colour of his coat that is coming in. He was shockingly referred to as Jack the Stripper when he rubbed his halter off and he's been known to launch a Jack Attack on his food bowl.

I like being called His Sheafferness, but don't appreciate His Rotundity. My oldest friends call me Sheaff or The Sheaff, but The Picnic Table With Legs is frowned upon. The male human sometimes calls me Herr Doktor Sheaffer because he says I approach the study of things in a highly scientific manner. I detest being called The Hindenberg.

Doc has many nicknames but his favourite is The Doc-inator. He's been known as The Red Terror, Doc The Blockhead, The Enforcer and Docyou&^$#%**#^%. His very old friends call him Dockers but he's a bit embarrassed by that name because it harkens back to his colthood. His barn name is often Fartacus, because he emits a series of powerful blasts on his way into his room and the woman frantically waves her hands in the air in a feeble attempt to disperse the miasma.

Molly is affectionately know as Droolia because anything treat-like causes her salivary glands to spring into action and a flood of green drool begins dripping from her rubbery lips. Because of her trollopy ways, she is also know as Moll Flanders, The Pony Tart, and sometimes The Golden Garberator. To quote Alexander McCall Smith, she is "a lady of traditional build", which means she is as a square as a log cabin and as strong as Babe the blue ox. As a result she is sometimes referred as Molly The Architectural Marvel.

The woman is simply the woman, though we sometimes refer to her as "herself" when she is being particularly annoying. "She Who Must Be Obeyed" suits her perfectly but has already been claimed by Rumpole of The Bailey to refer to Mrs. Rumpole. Too bad.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A State of Seige

We are beset by criminal, fur-bearing animals who wear masks, have rings round their tails and whose clever hands make short work of even tamper-proof catches. They operate in teams, usually a mother and two offspring who are in training. The dog chases them when she sees them, but they prefer night-time operating hours, and in fact are quite patronizing with the dog. These criminals eat virtually anything but especially enjoy foodstuffs gotten through illegal means. I almost (almost...) wish we had TJ back for a few hours because I think he would understand their level of plotting , schemeing and general perversity. It would make for an interesting meeting of warped minds. These animals laze away the daylight hours in the treetops but I wouldn't put it past TJ to climb up there and beard them in their dens. so to speak.

The humans thought we donkeys would enjoy a constitutional around the property and so Jack and I donned our halters and off we went. Our walking styles turn out to be at either end of the fast/slow scale. I'm a meanderer, taking slow even steps and stopping often to make observations and smell things. Jack is a donkey on a mission, though what that mission is remains unclear. He strode off down the lane, forcing the woman into a brisk walk. Looking neither left nor right, he adopted an Olympic walking style that soon left the male human and self far behind. I got him to cast a glance over the acres of magnificent potatoes that surround us but then he wanted to be off. He did stop to examine the view from the meadow but merely said "Uh-huh, lots more here ta eat than them there spuds". He's rather food-centric owing to his time of starvation, but I hope he may eventually recognize the aesthetic side of things and not just their caloric value. His pragmatic outlook is similar to that of the masked bandits - life consisits of two categories - edible and non-edible.

Jack of course knows all about the bandit animals and warned me "Them critters is downright despicable - if ya close yer eyes when they're in the locale, count yer whiskers when ya wake up." Now I'm afraid to even nod off - I'm very attached to my whiskers and would hate to wake up with bare patches on my chin.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Human-Donkey Miscommunication

I would just like to go on record as saying that if a person leaves a round object with a projecting flat surface around it's edge hanging in the barn, and if said object is made of a straw-like material, and a donkey or donkeys should happen upon said object, certain misunderstandings are inevitable. How were we to know it was her hat? We don't wear circular, pot-shaped objects with a shelf all the way around the edge on our head. She says it's ruined, but it actually matches her rather disheveled appearance better with pieces missing. All that fuss and it was really rather bland.

Our delivery of hay for the next year has not yet taken place owing to a rainy spring. The woman borrowed two bales from the tall woman but after tonight that will be gone. I'm very concerned - what if the woman just can't be bothered trying to find us interim food? I've always worried that this day would come. I can't share my worries with Jack, he's spent too much time already worrying about where his next meal will come from. I have a nagging fear that we will be reduced to living off the woman's collection of old straw hats.

On the advice of a friend who knows these things, the woman set about checking Jack's gums for their "capilliary refill". Given Jack's advanced age, she wants to keep a close eye on all systems. She finally backed him into a corner and, prying back his top lip, proceeded to press her thumb very firmly on his upper gum. He was highly affronted and as retribution for this personal assault, he pressed his hoof down firmly on her foot, thus checking her refill time. His refill time was much better. "Landsakes", he said "can't a body doze off for a second without crazy people taking liberties with their chewin department." He's a very wise donkey indeed to have figured things out so quickly.