Friday, February 27, 2009

The Diva Returns

The weather today pulled out all the stops. It began by being quite mild but also by raining every which way, including upside down. Doc went out and had a leisurely roll in the muck and Jack and self wisely stayed in the run-in.

In the midst of the maelstrom, the woman bolted out of the house and down the driveway. Good, I thought, she's finally decided to grace someone else with her presence. But no. The tall woman pulled up towing her metal box on wheels and the two of them disappeared. "Yep", Jack said sagely, "sometimes they gits the spring fever and jist cuts and runs." My hopes were revived.

Shortly thereafter they returned and loud, hoarse horse whinnies were heard from within the box. That smoker's neigh could only belong to one equine. La Molly was back. She splooshed loudly over to the paddock and she and Doc had an animated discussion, comprised of snorts and grunts and blowing. All nonsense of course. Jack and I watched from a safe distance. And what, in the midst of this biblical flood did Molly do? Why, begin vacuuming up any loose hay on the ground, completely unfazed by the driving gale.

Sally did not know there were equines other than we three boys and she was so amazed she said "Wowwwww!" and disappeared into the hay storage to think things over. Molly marched over to the hay storage gate and shook it violently, causing Sally to ascend into the rafters and stare down in horror. Molly then tested the barn door and found it was shut as well. She gave up and chased us instead.

By this afternoon the temperature had descended into the minus one hundreds or something and the muck and slop was frozen solid. The woman cooked us a hot dinner and Molly sashayed into her stall and took up residence just as if she had never been away. Oh well, I suppose the annoying neighbours must return from holidays eventually.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An Excellent Visit

Imagine my surprise when yesterday a vehicle drove up to the house and my friends from the church I visited in the fall (including Ed the former jockey) hopped out and began shouting greetings in my direction. It was the one bright spot in an otherwise windy, snowy day. They donned boots and bustled right over to see me.

Doc intercepted them at the gate and began his usual antics to draw all the attention to himself. He pulled back his lips and smiled, he washed the fronts of their jackets and he bobbed his head up and down til he became dizzy. The woman explained to the visitors that he has ADD and a terrible need to be the centre of attention. I called to Ed from the back of the scrum and he battled his way through the chaos. He massaged my ears and told me I was looking well and we exchanged pleasantries until Doc noticed and barged in. Jack examined the visitors from a distance and decided, based on my enthusiastic endorsement, that Ed looked alright and came over for some light forehead massage.

The woman allowed us in early because of the piercing wind and all three equines and six humans piled into the barn. The woman cooked our dinners and when Ed saw the meagre portions he said, "My goodness, the racehorses in Newmarket (in England) got eight quarts of oats at each feed, are you sure this is enough?" Finally, someone who understands the prisoner of war conditions under which we exist. The woman gave an evil, callous laugh and said we were all going to join Molly on the Jenny Craig project. I don't know the Craig hussy, but I do know I despise her.

Doc's feet were sliding every which way on account of ice buildup and Ed ducked into his stall, spry as could be, and cleared it out with a hoofpick. He uses the racetrack style which involves cleaning both front and back hooves from the same side. Doc was puzzled at first but caught on quickly. Given Doc's bulldog-like build and short, muscular legs, herself was surprised that he managed to not topple over on Ed.

Ed spent some time talking to Jack and when he saw Jack eating his dinner off the metal stall front he said, "That feels good on the gums, doesn't it, laddie?" Jack was astounded at Ed's level of understanding and on thinking it over told me, "I like that one - he knows a thing or two. He can lick gruel offa my stall any time." High praise indeed.

Too soon Ed and the others were whisked off to the house. Ed has promised to return and the friends who invited me into their back yard last fall have reissued the invitation. I plan to take them up on it. The woman's camera apparatus was paralyzed by the cold weather but she managed to snap a photo or two. I apologize for the dreadful quality but, as you know, I have no control over my universe.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Party Planning

The woman has broken down under my persistent haranguing and admitted that there is a birthday fete in the works for me. Before it moves entirely beyond my control, I thought it best to present her with a list of my requirements and a stern lecture about unacceptable practices.

I will require a large marquee in which to entertain my guests - if it means removing one from some human nuptial setting, then so be it. First things first. I also require a team of liveried wait staff. Food will lean heavily toward the vegetable and stud muffin groups. Beverages will consist of large cups of tea served in proper tea cups and lemon squash for those intimidated by strong tea. A string quartet will provide a musical backdrop, with possibly a suitably costumed group to dance around the Maypole in celebration of my day of birth. All very low-key and understated, as you can see.

On the forbidden list: mules of any sort, loud persons of any species, fireworks, shavings bags, ear-pullers, games of pin-the-tail on the donkey and snow/ice, except in the lemon squash. It is requested that ladies wear suitable head coverings, specifically straw hats at least as large in circumference as a donkey's dinner bowl, with an ample number of genuine floral accents. These may be consumed at the end of festivities. Gentlemen are asked to wear suitable garden party attire - loudly patterned shorts, "foam domes" and string undershirts are strongly discouraged.

There have been mumblings about my giving guests rides in my cart - why do I sense the woman's devious mind at work? She's plotting something. She has also asked that in lieu of gifts, donations be made to the PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary. Next she'll be suggesting that guests bring dewormers for those poor suffering souls.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bits And Pieces

We have had several days of spring-like weather, complete with sunshine and some flooding of biblical proportions. I don't care for wet hooves but Jack and I have been following the trajectory of the sun and baking ourselves thoroughly on high ground. Occasionally we descend to a muddy area to roll, making sure to work the raw material into every follicle so that when it dries we look like clay donkey sculptures. The woman then attempts to groom us and that results in her flailing her arms in the volcanic dust cloud and coughing spectacularly. We regard her histronics with stern disapproval. It was nice while it lasted but now we are back to "normal" temperatures for this time of year.

Fortunately, Penny has taken it upon herself to entertain us. With the thaw, all sorts of strange and odoriferous things have emerged. At our ten o'clock feeding one night last week, the dog disappeared into the paddock. She frolicked to the house ahead of the woman and shot up the stairs to the room where they keep the moving picture box. The male human was staring at said box and ignored Penny's entrance. When the woman finally hove into view, the prevailing calm was broken by a series of strange and ungodly vocalizations issuing from her person. Penny had snuck a "thing" into the house and deposited it on the floor. Penny says it was a "treasure" which she tried to share and the cat, who is my informant, says it was "pfffttt", which is her term for anything she thinks beneath her.

It turns out the "thing/treasure" was the rather dilapidated hind limb , complete with hip bones protruding, of one of the brown hopping creatures who lives(lived) amongst us. Penny had, ahhhh, "conditioned" it to a state in which it was nearly unrecognizable. The cat watched with disgust as the male human ran to find a bag in which to place it. Meanwhile Penny, who was following him, shot back up the front stairs and retreived her treasure. The male returned and scratched his head in wonderment at the bare floor, only to turn around and find Penny sitting directly behind him with the object in her mouth. Negotiations ensued and the offending object was removed from the premises. Sometimes I'm almost glad we live in the barn.

Sally is expanding her territory and skills by the day and is trying her paw at many things. She now has a scratching post thingy which she attacks with glee and uses to sharpen the needle collection in her feet. The tack room is so cluttered with cat toys and exercise apparatus that soon our meagre feed supply with be pushed out completely. Sally has learned to climb the mountain of dreaded shavings bags to gain access to the rafters and has even begun exploring the drive shed. She has been eyeing the crows in a thoughtful manner but I fear she has set her sights too high. Those are avians of a criminal and dangerous nature.

I hear rumours of a spring birthday/garden/tea party for me but knowing the woman it will somehow involve work or "being a good citizen" which is just an underhanded phrase for work.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Jack Is Immortalized For the Ages

For over two years now my portrait has been hanging in the upstairs front hall of the humans' residence. I can only take their word for it as I have never been invited inside. They think highly enough of self to have had a likeness done but not enough to let me inspect it personally. Gives you a good idea of the double standard in place around here.

There has been talk of having Jack's portrait done as well and we thought it would all come to naught, as many of the woman's blatherings do. He is very taken with having his own stall, stall sign, blankets, red bucket and so on and he was keen on the idea of having his likeness hang beside mine. Little did we know that the woman had sent off a series of photos of Jack to a woman in Germany who does animal portraits. Herself had it framed and today brought it out for our inspection. Jack is so overwhelmed that he wants it to hang in his stall where he can check it on a regular basis. "Well", he said."well, well, well , well, well, well, well, well. I finally got him stopped on the seventy- fifth "well" by pointing out a stray piece of gruel on the floor that he had missed.

"Dang", he said, "mebbe I am near as ole as dirt, but I make a damn fine subjick for a likeness. Nex time I'll put in muh uppers and lowers." I assured him he looks perfectly fine without and he went off beaming and doing a little jig of sheer donkey delight. He says in his view that having one's portrait done is a sure sign the management, as he calls the woman, wants him to stay around.

While mine is a formal portrait, Jack's is more casual, and it suits his down-to-earth personality in every way. He doesn't look a day over fifteen and the woman told him he was like the human in "The Picture of Dorian Grey", who remained perennially youthful while his portrait, stored in the attic, continued to age. Now Jack wants to keep a close eye on it for any signs of subtle changes.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sign Of The Times

Finally, steps are being taken at Molly's winter barn to limit the amount and variety of food gifts from her multitude of admirers. She is utterly shameless and bats her long eyelashes and makes gutteral begging sounds and tosses her platinum forelock and foodstuffs magically appear and are thrust through the bars. It's utterly despicable.

The woman drew up a rudimentary sign advising Molly's admirers not to feed the portly pony pig and pinned it to her door. It has caused sadness and dismay amongst her following but seems to be doing the job. A male human who lives at the barn studied the sign and decided it could be upgraded to something more, ummm, professional looking. He did a stellar job and I had the woman photograph it for me. As usual, her lack of talent in the area of photography is plain to see, but will give you a general idea. I do not know of the human females Jenny Craig and Kirstie Alley, but appreciate their help in limiting Molly's calories.

On the home front, Sally is now spending most of her time playing very vigourously. She has thorougly destroyed her baler twine toys so the woman appeared with a hideous, bilious green toy called, according to the label, Marty Mouse. Marty was hung from the door handle by a piece of twine around his neck - gruesome but highly appealing to Sally. When the woman returned there was a green leg and bits of ragged green fabric scattered around the run-in. The rest of Marty had disappeared. After feeding us, the woman stepped into the run-in and there was a much reduced Marty, a mere shadow of his former self. Sally had put him in the doorway as a gift. The woman appeared to be speechless at the magnitude of Sally's generosity.

The lesser Marty is back in the noose looking like a green, multiple amputee, Sally is working at reducing him to nothing but threads. She is so full of the pure joy of being a young cat that she is leaping out from behind doors and threatening to swat our legs. Yesterday Jack had pretend amnesia and casually walked into the tack room. The woman ejected him immediately and Sally leapt from her bed and assisted by swatting his hind legs as he departed. It appears she is a cat who will brook no nonsense in her sphere of operations.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Donkeys And Their Proteges

I'll try not to mention the weather too much. Just let me say that the relative warmth of the last two days has given way to the usual deep freeze. It was nice while it lasted and Jack and I managed to soak up some sun. Jack was extremely pleased to be coatless.

Penny the dog was also coatless, a fact of which Jack took notice immediately. He has been "grooming" her green winter coat - he calls it that but it's really intensive licking. Yesterday he slid up beside her and began examing her real coat. He used his nose to massage her back and then decided her tail, which curls up over her back, needed straightening. He used his rubbery upper lip to pull it out to it's full length and seemed perplexed when it sprang back to it's original shape. He repeated the process for a few minutes before giving up, saying he'd get back to it later. The dog was initially and understandably rather sceptical but soon decided he was harmless enough.

On the Sally front, I'm pleased to say she is coming along splendidly. She has used the good weather to commute back and forth to the hay storage/run-in and is enjoying her expanded horizons. She is also developing a great need to play and is stalking bits of hay and shavings and even occasionally pouncing on her own tail, which she pretends is stalking HER. The woman is making her baler twine toys and has started importing bits of feline gymnastic equipment from the house. Today Sally was rolling around in a patch of sun in the barn aisle so I made my way over and offered her a midriff massage. She accepted. Then she sat up and rubbed her whiskers against mine and gently began to bat at said whiskers. I let her, of course. When I turned around the woman looked all sort of misty-eyed and said "Oh Sheaffer, you're such a good donkey!" Gave me quite a turn, I can tell you. I'm much better prepared for her hectoring/nagging persona.

It's worked out very nicely that Jack and I have different preferences on the companion animal front. If we both favoured either cats or dogs we might end up wearing off their fur. As it is, we each think the other is mistaken in their choice but politely accept that it's all a matter of taste and simply can't be explained. We all agree, however, that a barn is a much homier place with a cat in residence.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Donkey News From Africa

I keep an eagle eye on the important stories of the day and have some excellent donkey news to report from Africa. This particular story comes from Ethiopia where illiteracy and mistreatment of donkeys are both widespread.

To combat these issues, a colourfully painted wooden cart, pulled by two earnest, scholarly looking donkeys, tours through the towns. The sides of the cart fold down, revealing rows of books and a collection of small stools. Local children are thus given instant access to both reading materials and a place to sit. The two donkeys are unhitched and given a rest in a shady spot. I can think of no better calling for a donkey. Bringing literacy to the masses via a slow and stately means of transport, lots of stops for rest/snacks/admiration and never, ever any snow. Or ice. Or that lunatic Jack Frost. But I digress.

The entourage includes an elderly donkey called Queen Helena, who wears embroidered finery, including quite a spectacular head-dress. Given the shocking treatment of donkeys in that country, her role is to educate human youth as to the true importance of our species and the respect we deserve. I plan to offer my services as King Sheaffer should she decide to retire. I would feel quite comfortable wearing a crown and any flowing robes required, in spite of the extreme heat.

The link to this wonderful story is as follows
And thank you to my alert correspondent in Ottawa who posts on here as "libraryperson". She is someone who knows all about books.