Saturday, December 27, 2008

Post-Christmas Sogginess

The weather is completely out of control. After nearly suffocating in snowdrifts while enduring frostbite, it has now been pouring for an entire day. Water is creeping into the run-in, turning it into a mud pit and the melting snow has revealed all sorts of debris. We were let back in the barn around one o'clock and given hay and very deep beds so we could relax in comfort. I find myself strangely drawn to thoughts of building an ark.

My Christmas report is as follows. As far as I can tell, the humans spent the day in the house eating and unwrapping things. When the woman came out to do our night feed, she smelled strongly of poultry and apple cider. I don't care for the poultry aroma but the apple cider smell is quite pleasant. I should note here that we weren't offered any.

I received my usual Christmas fare; one plastic candy cane filled with stud muffins and a new bucket. Jack received a strange snacking device called a Likit. It hangs up and contains some sort of block of sweet stuff. I don't know what the woman is thinking - the veterinary dental torturer won't approve at all. Doc and Molly also got buckets and stud muffins. Very little imagination was shown this year. I expect the woman to put a little more thought into my Easter bucket.

The cat and dog received far superior presents. The dog got a toy that looks like a Santa Claus that has swallowed tennis ball. She also got a replacement for her rubber hamburger which has suffered irreparable collateral damage. Unfortunately, she received a bag of snacks that combine lamb and trout flavourings. Her breath smells like bilge water from an ocean-going fish factory. They may also have heroin in them as she has become fixated on the cupboard which holds the bag.

The cat received a hideous object called a Loofa toy - it is pink, furry, dog-shaped and has an alarmingly manic smile. It is stuffed with catnip and something crinkly, so she can become inebriated while driving everyone nearly mad with the sound effects. Continuing the fish theme, she received herring and whitefish snacks, which may also contain heroin. She drools when she sees the bag and like the dog, emanates a strong cloud of fish odour wherever she goes.

Jack and I took our "Merry Christmas" banner down today. We are in preparation for our New Year celebration. Removing the banner had the unexpected but rewarding result of seeing the woman crawling around on her hands and knees looking for the pins that affixed it to our stall. I'm afraid she found them all. I was looking forward to performing the role of a poor, suffering donkey who may (or may not) have swallowed one. Nothing much else to entertain us at this time of year.

I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and unlike the humans here, are not pale green and complaining about overeating. Oh well, at least they're confined to the house with the pervasive smell of canine/feline fish breath.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Violet's Thoughtful Christmas Gift

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
Not a creature was stirring - well actually, a mouse

Imagine our surprise when in the middle of last night a light went on in an upstairs window. The top half of the woman appeared and she seemed to be yelling something. Fairly typical - the yelling part. Her hair was standing on end and she was doing a series of clumsy balletic moves. "She's as mad as a hatter", I said to Jack. "Yep", he replied. 'crazy as a bedbug". We just assumed she was having some species of fit and had turned on the light to see better. But no. The feline had thoughtfully contributed a mouse to the festive table and had awakened the woman by loud howling so she could present it fresh and on the hoof, so to speak. The feline believes in combining her gifts with the elements of shock and awe.

A misunderstanding arose when the woman thought it was one of the felt mouse toys, of which the cat has many. She is notoriously short-sighted without her spectacles (the woman, not the cat - the cat has x-ray vision and night goggles). She went to pick it up and put it away till morning and then discovered that it was still moving. Hence the lively riverdance-like routine we had witnessed. Apparently the dog then got in on things and confusion reigned. According to first hand accounts, the mouse had so many holes in it that it looked like it had been the victim of a mob hit with a machine gun.

The woman retreated to bed, leaving the cat to finish off the poor, suffering mouse. The morning light revealed a scene of bloody carnage in the front hall but no sign of a body. This could prove most interesting as the cat has a habit of consuming the top half of the victim and presenting the bottom half as a gift. It looks like a pair of small furry pants with tiny feet and a long tail. Utterly revolting. The cat may be saving it for later presentation, which would be ideal, as another group of humans are coming over to dine this evening. One can only imagine the chaos as fifty percent of a mouse is discovered under the tree or in a gift bag! The cat is saying nothing but is looking even more smug than ever. I will keep everyone updated, but our hopes are high of having another piece of high drama played out for our benefit.

Wishing everyone of you a very happy holiday. I wish you could all be here with me to share in the festive season (not the snow and cold part, of course). There would be hot mashes for all, dry twigs to chew on and lots of those mint sticks. We would finish off the festivities with a rousing game of pin-the-tail-on-the-woman. Joy to the world!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Old Friends and Dignified Seasonal Greetings

One of the best things about this season is that old friends come to visit (one of the worst is having to dress up). Two female humans appeared yesterday to see me (although they were polite and spent some time in the house with our humans). I've known these two visiting humans all my life and was anxious to introduce them to Jack.

Jack was a bit worried at first - he feels that any stranger could be a potential abductor or abuser or axe murderer but when he saw how donkey-friendly they were, he relaxed and unpursed his lips. Mary Jane understood how worried Jack was so she crouched down at floor level and stayed very still. He grew much more comfortable and tried to climb in her lap. She is an extremely polite human and let us choose which brushes we liked and said many, many complimentary things about our appearance, intelligence, bravery, furriness etc. "Sheaffer, you're growing even more handsome with age and your tail is magnificently full", she said "and honestly, I don't know why anyone would say you're too full-figured - you're in peak condition." I draped myself over her shoulder and breathed heavily.

Mary Jane even managed to remove the dried food from Jack's beard. He becomes so literally wrapped up in his hot gruel that some of it ends up welded under his chin. He grows impatient with our woman and stomps off after only a few crumbs have been removed. Although it was bone-chillingly cold in the barn, Mary Jane stayed crouched down and gently worked away till his beard was nearly food-free. Meanwhile, Janet, the other visitor, held the ends of my ears to warm them up. Beard cleaning and ear warming; it was a most excellent, civilized, visit and we look forward to seeing them again soon.

The woman relented on the decorating front and has installed a low-key, yet festive, banner on our stall. I fervently hope we don't have to wear it at some point. You never know around here. She chopped up some apple pieces very fine so Jack wouldn't choke and put them in a bowl. Then the male human held them for us to eat while she took photos. They call it a photo-op but it is actually a thinly disguised bribe. We allowed ourselves to be bribed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sounds Of The Season

As I mentioned the other day, the sounds of the season have pervaded the airwaves in our barn for the last week or so. As a strong supporter of the musical arts, I applaud the idea (figuratively of course, not having opposable thumbs) but some of the modern compositions are absolutely bizarre and others frankly disturbing.

I prefer an all-classical selection or at least some of the older and more dignified standards. I enjoy Schubert's version of Ave Maria, anything sung by Caruso or Pavarotti or the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. I've even been know to bray a few notes of "Good King Wenceslas" or God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen". Good, solid, traditional fare.

And then there's Doc. His taste runs to the dregs of popular culture at it's worst - nothing sacred for him, only the profane will do. His all time favourite is "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer". Whenever it comes on the radio, he rushes to his door and his head starts bobbing up and down, until by the end he has a stitch in his side and is in a state of near hysteria. He never, ever grows tired of it. He also has a soft spot for "Zat You, Santa Claus?", sung by Louis Armstrong; heavy on the sound effects, including tremendous crashing noises as Santa falls down the chimney. "Dig that crazy Santa Claus", sung by Oscar McLollie and his Honey Jumpers comes in a close third. Other than that, anything loud with lots of loud bell ringing and drums and tubas makes him happy.

Molly's selections are, not surprisingly, highly self-centered. She has memorized the lyrics of "Santa Baby", sung by Eartha Kitt and it has become her seasonal mantra. It's the story of a brazen gold-digger dictating her Christmas wish list to Santa. It runs to light blue convertible cars, platinum mines and diamonds - absolutely no mention of peace on earth or good will toward men. "Five Pound Box Of Money" sung by Pearl Bailey, is another of her favourites and requires no explanation.

Jack's preferred compositions harken back to his youth. He loves the Gene Autry original version of "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and got quite stroppy with me when I pointed out the biological impossibility of a red nosed member of the deer family. "Ha", he said, "I seen plenty a red-nosed humans this time of year, why not a reindeer?" I didn't have the heart to point out that the logical conclusion is that Rudolph is a lush. He is also very taken with "Jingle Bells", especially the part about bells on Bob's tail ringing. I think I'll just leave that slight mis-reading alone. Last Christmas he wasn't expecting to be around for another one so I want to ensure he spends as much time revisiting his early donkey-hood memories as possible.

The cat tells me they have put a monstrously large real spruce tree in the house and festooned it from top to bottom with shiny cat toys - none of which she is supposed to touch. Last year she was told off for removing the tiny people from the tiny stable and batting them around the living room and down the hot air vents. She hasn't touched those this year but sits by the hour staring at them longingly with eyes the size of saucers. If one of them makes a move, they're done for.

Yet another storm is predicted for tomorrow. Please think of me, locked in the barn, being forced to listen to "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" again and again and again..... Meanwhile, I shall coninue to "troll the ancient Yule tide carols", even if they fall on deaf ears.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Global Warming ? No, It's Snowmageddon

The Apocalypse is upon us - it has arrived in the form of winds that sound like runaway potato trucks and is accompanied by snow that blows in from all directions at once. And it's not even officially winter yet. I've consulted my legal tomes and it seems there is nothing that can be done to stop it. Apparently the laws of nature over-rule all other laws.

When the woman thrust us rudely outside it was merely windy. When she returned an hour later it was snowing heavily, with the result that we all had full body suits of snow. She let Jack and self back into the barn and gave us a mound of hay to soothe our weather-frazzled nerves. Doc and Molly got another pile of hay in the run-in but it was too late to put coats on either Jack or Doc because they were completely snow-encrusted. Fortunately Jack and I were able to double the time it took her to clean the barn. Jack kept pretending to have amnesia and walking into the tack room in search of food. I whittled the handles of the wheelbarrow and we both went in the horses stalls and rearranged their beds. We whinged a bit to see if she would give us our hot meal several hours early, but unfortunately failed in that endeavour.

She then let Doc and Molly inside and we were given further piles of hay. We slept and napped, repeated the process at leisure and soon it was time for our afternoon high tea. Finally, a hot meal was served at this version of Fawlty Towers and we got extra bedding. The wind continues to howl and hurl snow at the windows and Jack Frost, the lunatic graffiti "artist" has defaced every pane of glass. I might as well live in outer Mongolia.

The woman did leave the radio on for us, setting it on an all-Christmas music station. There is division in the barn as to what constitutes proper festive music but I will tell you about that later. For now I will post some photos that were taken today so you can see what I must endure for the next four months.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Portrait Of The Donkey As A Young...Reindeer?

Today started off quite well. The wind was minimal, the ice has been covered by a few centimetres of fresh snow and the sun actually made an appearance. We had our breakfast served in front of the barn so we could enjoy the token warmth and the woman said over her shoulder as she made for the house "this is Christmas photo day, so don't roll in anything horrible".

Photo day, I thought, hmmm, this might prove interesting. I envisioned someone like Cecil Beeton or Josef Karsh showing up with dignified seasonal props - an ermine cape or a few yards of red velvet. I would pose, resplendent against a snowy backdrop, captured for the ages as the ideal of what a festive donkey should look like. What a fool I was. I should know by now not to allow myself to be taken in by someone like the woman, whose bad taste is surpassed only by her feeble sense of humour.

Around noon she emerged from the house, laden down with all sorts of nonsensical looking items. I felt a strange foreboding. She proceeded to put something like a festive dunce cap on Doc's head, fastening it with her own hairclip because of Doc's extreme lack of mane hair. He was very pleased and mugged for the camera like the Grade A ham that he is. She then fastened a ridiculous badge to Molly's forelock - you can read the message for yourselves in her photo. I find it highly distasteful and refuse to give it any room on this page. Molly just smirked and said she hoped it could be read as far away as Nevada. That girl does NOT need to be advertising her charms to the world at large.

And then...oh the indignity. Jack and I were sunning against the cedar hedge in the front paddock when she tracked us down and began affixing what appeared to be comic antlers to our heads. The best Jack could manage was a one ear forward pose, saying something about not biting the hand that feeds him. I left hastily but she caught me in front of the barn and put BOTH sets of antlers on my head. I just hope my new friends, especially the Regional Dean at the Anglican church, don't see me thus covered in shame and embarrassment and antlers.

So, no dignified elder statesmen of the professional photographers guild to take our portraits, just herself with her modern excuse for a camera. If she's going to make me look like a circus freak, she might as well invite Diane Arbus over for the day. The woman just laughed and said it's too bad Ansel Adams is no longer with us because he was used to taking photos of large geographical features - and then she looked pointedly at my waistline. I forbade her to publish these travesties - you can see how far that got me.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Feline Update

I'm happy to report that the two mini-felines who were discarded in our ditch are now installed in their new cat-centric household, with two humans to see to their every whim. They have blossomed in every way while under the tender ministrations of Alison and are now happy, healthy and very much in favour of interaction with the human race. Their new humans emptied their bank account and have bought them every toy and accessory they could find. We're all very pleased to hear that the brothers will be together for life.

The woman has promised me my own cat and I just wish she'd hurry up. She says we will know when the right one comes along. Maybe she'll get me two. Or a baker's dozen. I plan to spend lots of time educating them and showing them all the important things felines need to know. Well, except for catching and dismembering rodents - they'll have to work that one out on their own.

The woman went away today to visit relatives - some nonsense to do with the festive season and while she was gone Doc helped me to prepare a surprise for her. I'm still quite annoyed at having been told off about my self-help plan to overcome my fear of shavings bags by ripping them all open. I was staring through the gate at the rows of bags that she had placed out of my reach when Doc came along and asked what I was doing. I explained my frustration at being denied the tools I need to conquer my phobia and he immediately offered to help. "Dood", he said, "ya just had ta ast me." With that he reached over the gate and by latching onto the keystone bag in the middle, he pulled over the whole pile. Then we went to work , ripping and pinching and puncturing until we had shavings and bits of plastic everywhere. I felt like a born-again donkey, in charge of my life and afraid no more of the crackling demons. We were so hard at work that we didn't see herself appear at the door. "WHAT.HAVE.YOU.DONE??" she bellowed. We exited hastily, leaving a churning mass of shavings in our wake. "Thank you so much for turning the run-in into a snow globe", she shrieked after us.

She became so embroiled in cleaning up after us that I'm sorry to say dinner was late. When I made a pathetic whuffling noise to indicate that I was light-headed from starvation, all she said was "you brought this on yourself, you conniving little donkey". Any festive spirit that she acquired today obviously wore off on the way home.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Most Peculiar Visitor

This morning dawned cold and windy. That in itself is not noteworthy, because it has been cold and windy around here for the last eon or so, but today the woman decided it was time for Jack to don his new checkered sport coat. She has been dithering about the timing for this wardrobe upgrade. Jack has decided he will graciously accept this new covering because it allows him to navigate the entire paddock in comfort, without being harassed by the buffeting wind.

As someone who despises any sort of equine clothing, I assured him I will do my best to sabotage her efforts. I have begun on the tail cord and am happy to say I accomplished my mission in record time. Said tail cord is now a mere frozen strand of pathetic string. Jack says he's not sure he wants the whole thing demolished but I pointed out that the idiot woman had left the price tag on the front - which is the height of gaucherie. Jack said "I kinda like lettin' the world know I'm a valable donkey with a new suit a clothin".

With Jack in his new coat, price tag flapping in the wind, we made our way to the front of the paddock. You can't imagine what we saw on the side of the road, right next to our fence. There was a huge yellow metal diamond with a flat man on it. He appeared to be shovelling dirt but was obviously working in extreme slow motion because I didn't see him move all day, nor did he ever utter a peep. There were humans in the distance waving flags and stopping traffic and other humans digging up the side of the road but the flat, quiet man kept to himself. "I seen him before", said Jack, "he's allus on his own, never takes no lunch break or talks to nobody and he works real slow. He must be the boss cuz they carry him around an he jus leans on that shovel all day long, watchin' them others work." I'm obviously engaged in a staring match with a member of management.

With that Jack went back to the run-in for a snack. I settled in for the morning to see if the flat man would ever blink. I used classic guerilla warfare tactics to approach him without his seeing me, moving left and right and hiding in the shadow of the fence posts. The woman says fence posts only work as a hiding place if your stomach doesn't stick out on either side. Always harping on the negative. At one point Doc spotted him and galloped over, making loud trumpeting noises, Molly following in his wake. Doc challenged Flat Man to a rasslin match but gave up in disgust and came back to say "Dood just stands there all flat sayin' nothin' - I tole him I'd kick his butt only he don't seem to have one." Poor Doc, he's finally met someone with as many dimensions as himself and it's confusing him terribly.

I've given up spying on the flat stranger for today but I fervently hope he is back tomorrow. I'm growing quite fond of him - maybe he can move in with us. The woman says she needs him for the front of the barn to indicate that a lot of shoveling goes on inside, but it's not gravel being shoveled.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Love Happy Endings

I am so elated with the news that came today that I can barely dictate my thoughts to the woman. My first Christmas present arrived - or occured - and it is by far the best I have ever received. Even better than those striped mint canes or a twenty four pack of Stud Muffins.

We received a call this morning from the kind hearted Alison who took in my kitten - one of the brothers discarded in the ditch at the end of our driveway two weeks ago. She took the scrap of fur home and has had all his medical things done and has generally gotten him in splendid form. When she discovered that his brother had been left at the Animal Control Shelter, she rushed over there, worried that she might not be able to identify him amongst the approximately four bazillion other discarded kittens. When the shelter human brought him out, she realized that he was a carbon copy of his brother, though a bit smaller.

It seems that the brother had been put in a cage with a group of other infant kittens but was very depressed and just stayed in the corner. Alison bundled him up and hastened to reunite him with his sibling, hoping that the two would remember each other. After all, five days is a long time when you're only six weeks old. Well! It brought a tear to my eye when Alison said their conversation went something like "Where the heck have you been?" "Well, where the heck have YOU been?" and they entwined all their limbs so they made one solid mass of purring kitten and fell fast asleep. They are now running and playing and have decided that not all humans are like the conscienceless lunatic who threw them in a snow-filled ditch.

The next chapter could have been written by C. Dickens at his festive best. Through a friend of a friend, Alison heard of a human couple who had just lost their twenty-two year old cat, his brother having pre-deceased him at the age of twenty. They told Alison they were still very sad and didn't want to adopt a cat just yet. When Alison had number two kitten in her possession, she phoned them back and told them about the reunion of the brothers. The human couple took this as a very strong omen that they should at least go and meet the brothers. Of course, it was love at first mew and the brothers, now named Bounce and Spring, will spend the rest of their nine (or eighteen) lives being treated as furry Princes. It's a long way from an icy ditch.

We are all delighted and I for one have had some of my faith in the human race restored. To all of the humans like Alison, who go out of their way to help animals in need, on behalf of myself and Jack and Doc and Molly and Violet and Penny (oh alright, and the humans here, too) THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU AND WE WISH YOU THE HAPPIEST OF HOLIDAYS! Alison, you must be one of those Christmas angels of whom I've heard tell.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Damned If I Do - But Saved By a Butterfly

After my near-death experience with the plastic shavings bags (I think I had an out of body experience but the woman says it was just gas from being overwrought) I thought it best if I began a self-help program. I believe the first step in a successful desensitizing program is to get as close to the feared object as possible without inducing a sense of panic. My planning was impeccable.

We were nearly out of bedding by Monday and so the woman summoned the persons who supply us with shavings, which of course come in those dreadful plastic bags. All four of us feel compelled to assist with the delivery and unloading of anything destined for our use and so we lined up at the gate to give advice and helpful hints. We're so helpful that the woman had an extra, and of course unnecessary, gate installed to keep us at a distance.

When the shavings humans left, we discovered that they had stacked the front row of bags directly against the gate that keeps us out of the storage area. I spent the rest of the morning just staring at the unmoving mound of plastic rectangles. By dint of deep breathing and some basic meditation techniques, I edged my way over to within a few inches. Still they remained unmoving, so I casually brushed one with my muzzle. I took the precaution of springing backward with a great snort, but still the thing just sat. Time for some retribution, I thought, and pinched a hole in the plastic with my front teeth. A small avalanche of shavings poured forth. I methodically worked my way through all the rows, pinching holes in each bag until there was a mountain of shavings at my feet. "Take that, you dastardly cowards", I said, , as each bag fell victim to my razor-sharp teeth, "vengeance is mine at last!" I was euphoric. And of course you can guess who runined it all.

She completely misunderstood my motives and scolded me for being a self-centered, thrill-seeking vandal. She threatened to make me WEAR one of the terrible bags as a hat! That completely and utterly undid all of my self-therapy work and when she dragged out the first somewhat depleted bag for our bedding, I succumbed to my usual panic attack and bolted for the trees. "You don't see Jack up to this sort of nonsense", she shouted after me. Of course not - his teeth just aren't up to it anymore so the whole burden falls on my shoulders. She's completely gormless and without empathy for a donkey's emotional state.

Fortunately, my good friend Billie, human to Rafer and Redford the donkeys, has sent me a Butterfly Award for my scribblings on everyday life here at the Gulag. SHE understands the inner life of donkeys and I am most appreciative of her recognition. You can read her blog at And be sure to linger over the photos - you can actually see how much warmer it is than here at this Siberian outpost. Thank you Billie.