Donkey Jack gives me a surprise every day. Today when I went into the meadow with his carrots in hand, he came loping from his hideout and danced a brief jig in front of me, moved against me sideways and lightly swung his neck around me. A donkey hug. Yesterday, he came loping to me, put his nose out for my scent, and that final confirmation of what he thought he saw brought light to his eyes. The day before, he ran a short gallop of maybe five yards and swung to my right directly in front of me. It was a swift turn like a polo pony that blew my mind with the grace. He approaches me as a friend every time. His eyes light up when he recognizes who it is. We have passed into a zone of trust in the last few days. Today, after the carrots, after petting and talk with him, I sat on the ground and he grazed around me. Every time I have sat, he has come around to put has backside to me and I got up to move. I didn't know that he's not getting ready to kick. I've never felt like that was his reasoning, but didn't know. Today he turned his backside to me, backed up until his back knees were touching my shoulder, kept on grazing and moved forward a step at a time, keeping an eye on me. I've wondered what that was about. I felt like Jane Goodall with her chimpanzee friends.
A time when Jack's face was close to mine, I looked into his eye and told him I'd like for him to teach me donkey. I want to learn donkey, how a donkey thinks, what it is that makes donkey besides what I see with my eyes. I want to learn donkey behavior. He put his nose up to my face and felt my face with his nose. I exhaled lightly into his nostril to let him smell my breath. Breath that is rank to me smells good to a four-legged. They still like those smells we humans turn away from. I told him I would help him understand human too. I've seen enough indications he has understood what I was saying, that now I talk to him like I talk to any person. Jack listens, pays close attention. Yesterday while I was talking to him, he put his forehead to mine and we touched foreheads four or five seconds. I feel like I understood why he ran at me the day he played like he wanted to scare me. Herd animals run in fear. Predators run in pursuit. I felt like Jack ran to me in a game of trying to make me jump, because he was afraid. We were still somewhat apprehensive of each other though we'd already connected as friends. He ran to me that day and stopped with his nose just a couple inches from my chest, a sparkle in his eyes like he'd just done something fun.
I suspected that would be the last of his running to me. I felt like both of us broke through the apprehension we had of each other. A couple days later he ran a short spell and has not run to me since. My feeling is that his fear of me is fading away daily. Now, he walks to me or does a little lope, a fast walk and a happy dance at once. Now that he is trusting me, he has no need to run. Or so I suppose. He heard me when I said I wanted to learn donkey. I felt like him backing up to me, touching me with his back knees, was consciously telling me something about donkey. I wondered, since four-leggeds tend to claim their territory by various methods from their backsides, maybe Jack was symbolically claiming me, knowing I don't want him to dump on me. A way of saying, I like you. We're friends. I know when he takes a dump, he backs up to one of his toilet piles. He backs up to it just right and they fall where he intends. You can be sure I watched to see if that might be his intent, to mark me his territory. No. He was so close that when he switched his tail back and forth it sometimes hit my face. I watched his leg muscles to see if I could see in advance if he might want to kick. Never once. He kept an eye on me all the time his back end was to me. One thing I know is they don't see shit the way we do. They stick their noses down in it and take a big whiff like it smells good. It has meaning for them that we have lost calling it nasty.
I'm wondering, since he backs up to his places where he drops his apples. They fall exactly where he aims. I think of a child's game of dropping something like a clothes pin into a milk bottle from standing up. It's not easy dropping something exactly where you want it without practice. Jack has plenty of practice dropping donkey apples. It tells me he has as much control with his backside as his frontside. Of course he knows his body well. It's everything he has, his only possession. Therefore, I will take it for now that he was telling me something by backing up to me. One, he's not going to kick me. Today I showed him I trust he will not kick me. He even stamped one of his back feet a couple of times like he does over the nuisance flies. Since I've asked him to teach me donkey, I'm taking his gestures, his body language, to have intent behind them to answer my request. I know our minds are connecting now. Jack knows it, too. This means I will pay closer attention to a donkey's way of communicating. I want to learn to communicate with Jack the way donkeys communicate without talking. It's like trying to talk with someone of another language, like Serbo-Croatian with somebody who doesn't know English. It turns into the game charades right away. It can be done. Making no attempt to exchange information, sitting quietly can be an excellent form of communication, possibly the best form.
I talk with Jack and sit quietly. I talk to him while he chews carrot chunks. Today I was telling him I know he has an intelligent mind and I'd like to get to know his mind. I'd like to have some insight into what donkeys think about and how they think. I believe I've had some insight in seeing that his running was an expression of fear. This is an untrained donkey, so he doesn't know about running by command. I don't handle him, don't push him around, don't push him aside saying, Get outta my way ya dumb jackass! I don't give him any sign that I believe I'm in charge of him. I let him know that I am not in charge of him. Jack is an independent autonomous being with the same rights I claim for myself. This is the Jack I want to know. I don't believe giving him commands and putting a rope on him will help our communication unless necessary, and I can explain to him the need. I give him the same respect I give a human, making no special thing about it. I'm seeing his face now as he approaches me when we meet in the field, his conscious, intelligent eyes looking at me. I want to know the person in there. And I see the person in there wants to know the person in me. I can see Jack likes that I've taken an interest in the person within, who he is. We've connected. I must never take it for granted, but always honor it.
I've been noticing that Jack doesn't really like being touched. I don't blame him. Who wants somebody to walk up to you and start rubbing your face or petting your back? He mostly moves away from a touch unless he invites it. I'll pay attention to that. He likes to be brushed, but not every day, only when his hair starts looking scruffy. Then he likes it. Evidently the brush messes up his layer of dust he keeps in his hair inhibit the flies. He likes to feel my hand move over his back and along his ribs, but only after he knows that's what touching him was about. My hand doesn't remove his fly shield. After I'd brush him, he'd go wallow on his dust spot. I'll ask permission before I touch him now. More than likely suddenly being touched startles him. I'll speak to him about touching him first, see if that takes the edge off the natural instinct not to want to be touched. I am aware that he never knows what to expect from a human's hands, so I sometimes keep them behind me, mostly down at my sides. I am conscious to move my hands slowly and keep them in his sight. He's comfortable when he knows where my hands are. Even when they're rubbing his back and neck, he knows where they are. I'm getting the impression Jack is in awe of me, or donkeys are in awe of humans, for having arms and hands. I must remember to be more conscious of my hands with Jack the African Wild Ass. His donkey reflexes are instant.