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Monday, December 30, 2013


jack starts to bray

I look out the window at grazing donkeys. Jenny is rubbing her neck in the fork of the dogwood tree. The woman I bought her from told me she liked having her neck rubbed. I wonder how long the dogwood can live with the equines and the bovines rubbing on it. That fork in the tree is at the perfect height for them. It's like the tree is made for donkey rubbing. The tree stands in a circle of hoof prints in soft ground. Jenny is giving herself a good scratching. The woman I bought her from, whose name I don't know, told me when she bought Jenny, she had a bad case of fleas. She took care of the infestation by covering Jenny in used motor oil, the country cure. Works on mange too. When it's too expensive for the vet to cure, working people have to find their own ways. I'd like to go into the meadow and take some photos of Jenny scratching, or make video, but I know as soon as she hears my door open, she'll start walking toward me. Even if I'm quiet with the door, she sees me the moment I step outside, wherever she is in the meadow. When I think of what Jenny has been through, getting here from there and living with a rapist, I forget that she's had her entire body soaked in old motor oil. Donkeys, like cats and dogs, are vain about their appearance. Every animal is. Every bird is. They are literally grooming when they lick their pelt. I can't imagine Jenny's misery smelling old oil all the time, that nasty mess all over her body. And it stayed on her until it wore off with time and weather. I'm sure she preferred fleas. There, she did not have a place where she could wallow on her back in dirt to cover herself with dust for insect repellent.
jack brays
Jenny and Jack were both in good moods this morning when I went to them with hay. I walked through the gate and they greeted me with eye contact. Jenny walked by my side out into the meadow. I put some hay down for her and she started eating. Jack came over and Jenny grunted a warning on the verge of threat, a short, sharp grunt. I spread some hay for Jack and occupied him. Here come the calves. I spread some hay for them and they were happy. I went back to Jenny. The temperature was around 45, the ground mostly dry, so I sat down beside the hay she was munching, leaned to the side on one elbow and talked with her, face to face, not talking down to her, but on the same plane. I feel like this is how I communicate with them best. I had not yet felt enough trust with Jenny to sit down beside her eating. I took advantage of the warm day to celebrate the new trust. I feel like we've reached a place where we can trust each other. I was within easy reach of her hay. She munched along, our eyes together. I talked to her, telling her I'm happy she's here, which I tell her every day. I think of it as verbal affection. I feel like she takes it for such. They love to hear us talk, and they know what we're saying, by tone of voice, eyes, body language, if not by telepathy too. The relaxed calm I saw in Jenny's eye and her munching told me we have come to mutual trust. Good. Gaining her trust is a giant leap in getting to know Jenny as an individual. Jack appears to feel no apprehension when I'm nearby. While Jack was munching, I rubbed his rump and back legs. He stops grazing when I rub his legs. It's like it puts him into a meditation-like focus, relaxes him way down. While I had him close by, I put my right arm around his neck and gave him a hug. I stood beside him and bumped him a little bump on his side to say, Hi. He went back to grazing and I returned to the human barn.
jack continues to bray
I've been reviewing my comfort with Jack and Jenny, watching it evolve separately, though similarly, from being apprehensive in the first days to step into the meadow with Jack, and  then Jenny later. We didn't know each other. I took Jack a couple of carrots in the afternoon. The first week, I handed them to him through the gate. The day I felt like he took me for a friendly, after our brief experience, I stepped inside the gate to give him the carrot. He seemed happy I'd joined him. For a week or two I just stood with him inside the gate. I'd never been around equines and had no idea what to expect. I asked Jack to teach me donkey. By now, half a year later, or less, as I look back, I see he has taught me a very great deal. I've asked Jenny to be my teacher too. After I'd known Jack inside the meadow a short time, he was letting me touch him. I'd run my hand the length of his back, rub the side of his neck, rub his legs. I was a bit hesitant about being touchy-feely with an Equus. Then I saw his dinger was lengthening. Oh shit. I stepped back, held both hands up in a Halt gesture, and said, not in a scolding way, "This isn't what we're about, Jack. We're not going there." The swelling went away immediately and it has never happened again, not one time, not even a suggestion. This was my first clue the donkeys can understand what I'm saying verbally. By now, both Jack and Jenny have shown me so many times they know what I am saying, that I just tell them what I need them to know, taking it for granted they get it. I'm finding these donkeys have the intelligence of a really smart dog and a smart child.
jack concludes his bray
My friend Justin and his wife, Crystal, have a couple of little girls, six and two and a half. The oldest one, of course, picks at the younger one uncontrollably. So little one has learned to take care of herself and takes charge of the situation saying, Stop it Sissie! And she means it. Then she leaves and goes her own way to whatever is next, that does not include Sissie. Crystal and I were talking last week and laughing about the kids. I said to her, "They're donkeys." We laughed and laughed at how the two kids and the two donkeys behaved so much alike together. Vada, the younger one, is now talking in sentences. She's completely skipped one word at a time talking. Of course, she started with single words, but about the time you'd expect her to start relating words to one another and figuring out how to make a sentence of all the words, Vada skipped that step. She just started talking in sentences. She doesn't know how to articulate a lot of the words she means, but it doesn't slow her down. She talks to me now as if I understand her clearly, the way little girls talk to their dolls, and I do intuit her clearly when I don't know most of the words. I have always talked to her like she intuits meaning, which I learned from pets I've lived with. A young child has very similar intelligence to a cat, dog or donkey. I believe it is at least a part of what attracts dogs or cats to human babies. A human without guile. Crystal and I sat on the basement steps having a cigarette time-out, laughing our bellies sore seeing the kids and donkeys developing the same. They fight and fuss if they get too close. Toys are MINE! They also have affection for each other that the fussing doesn't change. The annoying behavior is still a form of communication and affection. Jack and Jenny walk along side-by-side comfortably. From me staying out of the meadow in Jenny's first weeks to sitting beside her while she's grazing, talking to her, makes a good measure of the evolution of our inter-species friendship over a few months.
jack and jenny welcome the ice cream man

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