Friday, October 31, 2008

Festival of the Orange Gourds

After a spell of ear freezing weather, we were blessed with a day of sun and balmy breezes. I know the weather gods will make us pay later, but for now a donkey can snooze and graze, snooze and graze and then repeat at leisure. My friend Buddy in Nevada was asking when we are forced into winter clothing and the answer for now is a joyous - NOT YET! I absolutely refuse to keep the damned things on and would rather freeze to death but Doc and Jack have extensive wardrobes. Molly has a plush double fur coat designed for the high Alps so she swelters if she is anything other than "au naturel".

This date each year marks a bizarre ritual in which humans seem to take great delight. They dress up in ridiculous and/or hideous costumes and rush around giving the option of either tricking or treating. The excitement builds during the day and at nightfall the offspring from the farm across the road are driven over. They spill out of their vehicle, unrecognizable in various disguises and wearing eerie glow-in-the-dark rings around their necks. Then - and I'm not making this up - they hammer on the door demanding candy. And the humans give it to them. Can you imagine if I were to conduct myself in that sort of brazen manner? It would be hard labour in Siberia for several decades. Yet another example of the double standard by which humans operate.

I have heard tell of a donkey in our area who goes out with the human offspring, one of whom is dressed as something called a "Shrek". This donkey receives so many handouts of apples, carrots and other delicacies that they are rationed out over the next few weeks. I could probably work up greater enthusiasm for this Halloween charade if I were to find myself in that sort of supporting role - even if every second human felt compelled to shriek "Donkehhhhhhh" at the mere sight of me.

One last terrible and truly gruesome thought - what if TJ takes part in this ritual? His deceptively innocent appearance would result in mountains of treats - meanwhile he would be in his glory plotting the "trick" element. I shudder to think of the carnage.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Someone Turn Off the Wind Machine

The weather gods have obviously decided to hit all the buttons on the weather machine simultaneously. That can be the only explanation for this nonsense. We may have to fashion a sail for our barn and just go where the wind takes us. South, hopefully.

Jack hates the wind even more than I do. His, ahem, rather large ears don't cope well with anything over a light breeze. He tries to keep them folded along his neck but the wind keeps prying them loose and tying them in a corkscrew shape. He shakes them out and it starts all over. Coupled with the last of the autumn leaves, which today are more like flying missiles, the weather is extremely donkey-unfriendly. Doc and Molly just turn their considerable backsides to the wind and keep eating.

I think we have finally solved the Jack dinner bowl crisis. He has had a dish just like mine since he arrived but he suddenly decided he didn't like it. He finds the woman makes his dinner too sloppy, even though he knows it's because he has had choke. He began treating the dish like a curling stone, shooting it around on the mat and finally tipping it over in utter disgust. Then she tried a feeder like Doc and Molly's, which hooks over the stall front, and that was too high. The woman snatched it away when he started making gargling sounds. Now he has one of the big water buckets, hung over the stall front with a long hook. He likes this the best because he can whack it back and forth to mix things to his liking, but the bucket stays upright. And, as the woman rudely noted, I can't jostle it under the partition. Don't know what she's complaining about - I leave it spotless.

Fortunately, her heaves seems to be abating, though at one point they wanted to keep her in the human vet clinic. She explained that, owing to our needs, she could not possibly stay and made them do all the tests in an afternoon. Much better that way- our routine remained undisturbed and she's here where I can stare at her from a distance.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Don't Worry, We're Doing Fine

The woman's heaves has turned into some sort of super-heaves and she has become a revolting sight. She coughs up unmentionable things and yesterday her eyes become protruberant and red and began oozing hideous yellow matter. She's been to a vet, so we think she's just sick but we have an exorcist on call just in case. Until she stops all that honking and snorting, we're keeping a safe distance.

I must admit, she does know how to prioritize. The one thing she has continued to do is to see to all our needs and our rooms are freshly made up as usual before she staggers back to her pallet. Today she thought we were still in the lush paddock but we had sidled back up behind the barn to sunbathe. When she wheezed off with the wheelbarrow, we saw she had left behind some interesting objects by the fence.

We know she has some something edible in her pockets because she keeps popping these small paper-wrapped discs into her mouth. Her jacket was hanging on the gate post so I trawled through her pockets and we began sampling. I had the wrappers off in no time so Jack wouldn't choke and we began our work. The first ones were quite pleasant, the same fruit flavour of one of our wormers, the second were positively revolting and tasted like something used to cure splints. We went back to the first type and finished those. Then we examined the small box that contains the thin paper squares she keeps holding to her nose and honking into. They taste of nothing in particular but are linked together in an intriguing chain. Pull on one and the next one magically appears. We took turns removing those until it looked like we had been caught in a snowstorm of immense flakes. Her bulgy red and yellow eyes appeared over the fence "Gahh whadareyoudoig " she rasped with what is left of her voice. "Geddout"! We got out as fast as we could, leaving her in a shambles of wrappers and white nose blowing papers.

Jack says that when humans blow into the white paper squares, they are actually blowing out their brains. He makes a good point. Her modest intellect has certainly ebbed since she has had this ailment. My great fear is that she will become a roarer and drive us all to distraction.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Great White Hades

Just a few days ago Jack and I were standing in the shade, swatting flies and now this. It has been snowing sideways all day and is now accumulating on the ground. It's the terrible wet stuff that trickles into a donkey's ears and soaks them through. Jack galloped off snorting and bucking this morning when the woman got out one of his new blankets. Now he says he might wear it afterall.

The woman continues to battle the huaman version of heaves, which has provided us with some excellent comic moments. She has let us onto the lush side of the paddock now that the grass is dying down, with the condition that we must come back up after a couple of hours. I wait till the other three are up there and drift back down to the far end of the lush paddock. Now she has to reinstall the electric strand to contain the others while she cajoles me up towards them. I allow myself to be led, slowly, the length of the field. When we get near the wire, I pretend to be a wild stallion who has scented a large predator and gallop off again, nose stuck in the air, tail whirling madly in circles. Beads of sweat pop out on her brow and she makes noises like an old steam radiator. On Sunday she got so dizzy she had to go back to the house to enlist renforcements. I had a most enjoyable afternoon and feel it makes up somewhat for the muzzle outrage. Now she carries a long, long whip with her and makes phlegmy growling noises at us while honking her nose into a white paper thing. Not at all attractive and enough to make us run for cover.

And now...all is doom and gloom. Jack says he personally knew the old farmer who started the almanac book and all the signs point to a long, hard winter. He bases this on the circumference of the woolly caterpillars, the quantities of food being stored by squirrels and the extra layer of fur that has sprouted in his own generously-sized ears. Not sure about the last one, afterall, he is ancient and extra ear hair seems to be one of the hallmarks of the truly aged. I do know that Voltaire called this country "Quelques arpents de neige" (a few acres of snow) and for that alone he is one of my favourite philosophers. The man knew whereof he spoke.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Party Is Over

We were still tucking into our six o'clock hay feed at ten in the evening (Jamie is very generous with portions) when the door creaked open and a horrible croaky voice said "I'm back!" Yes, it was the woman returned from her roaming and she is incubating some sort of heaves called "a cold" to which humans are prone. It makes her already un-dulcet tones positively freakish.

Jack was ecstatic and called her over for a huge session of patting and hugging, the horses just asked for more food and I was able to use my patented Sheaffer freeze-out technique on her to excellent effect. I snorted and reeled back, while shrugging off the hand attempting to pat me. I gave every impression of never having seen her before and in fact of suspecting she was a serial donkey abuser. It makes her gratifyingly annoyed and hurt. After a while I let her stroke the end of my nose but continued to express my fears that she might be the reincarnation of Lizzie Borden, without the charm.

Except for the issue of muzzles, on which our views are diametrically opposed, Jamie is an excellent minder. He gives us everything we need and more and does a thorough job of chambermaiding our rooms. Before his current employment, he worked at a place with one hundred and thirty high-strung race horses, which the woman says is just about the right experience for dealing with four spoiled, calculating equines here. Typical of her tendency to massive exggeration.

Jack has been bitten by what he calls"the rasslin bug" and spends much time offering to put me in various complicated holds. This worried Jamie terribly until he realized it was Jack doing the instigating and not me. I am happy to indulge this cool-weather whim of Jack's and we spent many hours last week snorting and grunting and stirring up the dust like Roman gladiators. Jack emerges as fresh as paint but I usually go off under the trees for a restorative nap. I just don't know where he stores all that energy.

The humans' travels sound distinctly boring - they brought us not one gift nor did they see any donkeys on their travels. I really don't see the point in all that fuss and bother if all they do is drive around and eat and look at things. Next time I will go with them and will steer their travel plans in a more exciting direction. A tour of a carrot plant or a visit to another church event or a spin around one of those historic gardens they mentioned (I would love to sample some heritage plants). I was born to travel and they are thwarting my desires and ambitions. Typical.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

My Work Here Never Ends

It took me a few days to recover from my most excellent adventure last Sunday. There was so much to mull over and so many things I needed to share with Jack. He tends to slumber whilst I analyze and dissect the day from the very first minute to the last. His motto is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", so he doesn't hold with a lot of in-depth musing. He's adhament that I've done enough "galavanting" and should now just stay put - forever.

Hard on the heels of my first missionary project came the second stage of harvest at our place. The main crop was potatoes but the secondary was soy beans and they need my presence, leaning through the fence, to pull the whole thing off successfully. I'm spent, but the last of the harvest has safely been hauled away. While the potato harvest is long and drawn out, the soy beans were gone within the afternoon. My very favourite machine, the huge green combine, thunders up and down the fields, collecting all the beans and flinging the rest out the back in a gigantic cloud of dust and chaff. Jack says the whole thing makes him dizzy and tells me I'm a "modrun" donkey to find it so interesting. Inhaling dust all afternoon doesn't bother me one bit.
I would be willing to climb up in that high glass box on top at a moment's notice.

The resident humans are going off on something called a vacation tomorrow, which means our friend Jamie will move in to cater to eveyone's needs. Unfortunately, the woman has told him about the muzzles Molly and I must currently wear. The officious ninny even wrote it down so he won't forget. Pahhh. She's not the only one getting a vacation. I am unfortunately dependent on her for my typing needs, so dear readers, I will be back at my post in a week. I have selected some photos I wish to share and instructed her to post them.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

I'm still recovering from my grand day out but every minute was worth it. We were gone for six hours, three of those spent in my metal box crawling through something called a traffic jam. I'm not familiar with those but can safely say I don't like them - there is absolutely no jam involved.

We arrived at the church with not a minute to spare and I was thrust into hat and tie. Everything in the city seems to be covered in a hard black surface so it was a relief to cross the street and enter the church paddock, or front lawn as they call it - it even had an apple tree so I knew I had come to a donkey-friendly locale. There were 81 other animal participants, including a rabbit and a blue bird called Bubbles in his cage. I've never seen so many dogs in my life but I behaved perfectly and didn't try to murder any of them. I was intrigued by the very busy road in front of the church - the traffic went in both directions at all times. I suggested we explore but the woman wouldn't let me off the lawn.

I could hear someone who turned out to be the Rev. Kevin talking in the background, saying nice things about the importance of animals in the world, when all of a sudden a huge din broke out and everyone was singing about "All Things Bright and Beautiful". The woman kept glancing at me to see if I would make a sudden exit because of all the noise and activity but I simply stood still and studied the new and fascinating things around me. I was patted on the forehead by so many people that I think my hair has gone a bit thin. They all said complimentary things and asked many questions about donkeys.

We animal guests each received our own personal blessing and the Rev. Kevin thanked me for coming and told everyone how I was a great gift to my family and he wished me a long and happy life. Then he told everyone how donkeys have a cross on their back because it is a special gift that is mentioned in the bible and there was much amazement when they saw mine is so clearly visible. The woman gave him a stack of papers that tell all about the PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary and they were snapped up in no time by the crowd. Our goal was to raise awareness of the sad plight of many donkeys and I think we were quite successful in our mission. The ceremony finished with a portrait of self taken with the three clergy in attendance, including an important person called the Regional Dean, who very rarely visits. I was not able to give my sermon this time but am quite sure I will be invited back to do so in the near future. I wouldn't want to waste all that latin.

Back I went into the trailer, not to go home but to the home of friends who live near the church. I've never seen anything like it. No paddocks, but lots of greenery and more of those lawn things everywhere. These humans have an acre in the city which is considered a lot of land - I was a bit concerned about the small size of their farm but then they took me into an area behind the house called the backyard. Pure magic. It was full of amazing things. The most amazing thing is a huge blue body of water they swim in - of their own choice! I stared in disbelief - the only way you'd get me in that much water is - well, you couldn't get me in there and that's that. It has a board on springs that they use to catapult themselves in there - insanity! There is a perfect little house next to the pool that a donkey could live in very comfortably and lots of tropical plants all over the place. I peered through the windows longingly but the woman wouldn't open the door and let me in.

I was received so graciously by my humans' friends that even though the environs were strange, I felt quite relaxed and comfortable. Then the most wonderful human from across the street came over to meet me. His name is Ed and he was a jockey long ago for someone called E.P. Taylor, both here and in Europe. We bonded immediately and he and his other half, Brunhilde, catered to my every whim while my humans went in the house. It was getting darkish and we had to head home, but I balked and didn't want to get in the metal box. I wanted to stay for awhile and visit some more with Ed while I took in more of the wonders of city life.

Jack's minder did an excellent job and except for some initial braying, he wasn't very upset at all. He was overjoyed to see me, though, and tried to pry the gate open with his nose before the woman could get the latch undone. When I got in the paddock, he jammed his nose up against me and didn't stop till we went in our stalls. I was just as glad to see him. The woman says I was overstimulated because I could hardly eat my dinner and couldn't relax for the longest time. I spent the night telling Jack everything I had seen and done. I didn't even stop when he lay down and started snoring.

I know I am cut out for the missionary life and now I have the travel "bug" I plan to journey as far afield as the metal box will go. If I just keep moving I can probably avoid winter for the rest of my life.

Friday, October 3, 2008


I'm in a state of shock. The results of the photo contest are in and the image of TJ's beady right eye came first and an image of his equally beady left eye came fourth. Someone obviously got to the judges with a large sum of money. Susan, the photographer woman, promises that all her entries next year will be of me. I will hold her to that promise.

Jack seems to be on the mend but he has not forgiven the woman. He feels she is dangerous and unpredictable and is treating her the way one would an escaped ax murderer. Very wise of him. She is pleading for his forgiveness and babbling about it being for his own good but he will hear nothing of that. He is well-practiced in sudden-donkey-deafness and simply stares off into space.

I am fine tuning my sermon, trying to find the right balance between terror and inspiration. I have invited Jack but he says he thinks he'll stay home and keep an eye on his teeth in the glass.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jack's Very Bad Day

I knew something was up. The woman left Jack and self in the barn with our breakfast AND she put Jack's halter on. She put the horses out and put Doc's halter on him. Hmmmm, I thought, this doesn't bode well. And it didn't.

Who should stroll in shortly after but the young woman vet (the one who cleared Jack's choke with a garden hose) and her assistant. The vet woman was carrying her suitcase of dental torture implements - designed by Torquemada and manufactured by Dr. Crippen Inc. Jack said "See ya later". He put up a tremendous fight but eventually they got him sedated and peered into the darkest recesses of his mouth. Our woman says his breath was slightly musty and he was quidding, which is a hundred dollar word for dropping unchewed wads of hay here and there. They removed his tartar buildup and sanded down some points and then the vet woman discovered his two furthest back molars on top were quite loose. "Oh dear", she said. With great reluctance she decided they must come out. Turns out they were attached by the merest thread and had food wedged underneath. Jack said it hurt, though not too terribly, but I was very worried about the whole dental procedure. I watched the entire thing closely, not moving a muscle, but using my concerned tone (a grunt, rasp, moan combination). I interjected lots of exclamation points so they would know I was upset. "He's old", I said "and he's scared, and he doesn't like what you're doing and neither do I, so please stop it immediately!!!". Finally it was over and Jack was put in his stall to recover.

Doc had his teeth done as well, but they didn't give him the filed-tooth cannibal look he greatly desires. He doesn't mind the process at all and gets so relaxed that he hangs from the rafters, eyes glazed and mouth gaping open, looking like an old-fashioned opium smoker. As usual, he had to nearly be carried to his stall to sleep it off.

We had just gotten nicely settled in the paddock and Jack was trying to figure out a new chewing method, when back comes herself and drags us into the barn again. This time it was for the foot man, whom we don't mind at all. Jack was left till last so he could see it was just the usual routine. When the woman went to catch him in his stall, he was furious, and turned his back to her and even aimed a couple of token kicks in her direction. She already felt terrible about what he had gone through (and so she should) and asked the foot man to catch him. He had no problem at all and Jack said "she's a traitor and I don't have no truck with that kind". Then he was positively angelic about having his feet done. The foot man said they're coming along beautifully and praised Jack lavishly for his good behaviour. The woman is very downcast.

Tonight Jack had his hay soaked and was able to eat it a few strands at a time. I'm still very worried and am watching him like a hawk. I realized today just how important a part of my life he has become. I would be very lonely without him. He says he's putting a freeze on the woman till he has her so remorseful she'll never betray him again. So far his plan is working beautifully. I plan to stay awake all night to check on him.