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Saturday, September 13, 2014


jenny and jack munch carrot

jenny and jack

I'm having a hard time reading the relationship between Jack and Jenny, can't tell who is Alpha anymore. I continue to give Jack first bite of carrot honoring his status, while Jenny reaches as far over the fence as the length of her neck and head allow. She's not demanding that I give her carrot first, nor does she attack Jack when I give him carrot first. She wants the carrot too much to wait. Jack has no me-first attitude in him, even as Alpha. Jenny is me-first all the time. It's just her nature. I can't train something like that out of a four-legged, let alone a two-legged, so I flow with it. Jealousy is her nature, like lust is Jack's nature. Earlier, I went out with carrots and camera. First, I wanted to get pictures of them among the purple and yellow wildflowers. I was setting up the camera on top of a fence post zooming in on Jenny when Jack came running from another direction. Jenny heard him galloping, looked up and saw the ice cream man was at the gate, turned and slowly strolled toward us, tacking like a sailboat, like when a cat is walking in front of you wanting your attention. Jack first and Jenny following has been their pattern since Jack became Alpha, but Jenny walking this way and that, tacking, as she approaches is new for Jenny. Seeing me first is the only clue I get that Jack is Alpha. If Jenny were Alpha, she would have seen me first and Jack would have followed her. This tacking approach has no aggression in it. It's a kind of Ol Man River, laid back rhythm stroll. She steps up to the fence a couple donkey lengths away from Jack, instead of attacking him for chewing carrot when she didn't have one yet. She knew hers was waiting. 

donkey jen chomps on carrot

cleopatra donkey

Jenny is so gentle with me after not quite a year that I can see we've bonded. In the first months with her I had to hold the carrot on the open palm of my hand and let her pick it up. Fingers on the carrot she'd go after with her teeth. She was mad at me and the world in that time. She was sold by a friend Jenny believed loved her. She learned in her experience that human love is fickle compared to donkey love. She used to make a dive for my fingers with eyes flashing, not rage, but a pesky attitude wanting to see me jump to give herself a laugh. I came to feel like it was a getting-to-know-you gesture. Early in knowing Jack, he played tricks on me to see me jump. It was friendly, no intent to hurt me, just to see me jump. First trick Jack played, he run straight at me full gallop like Usain Bolt, eyes on my eyes. I did not know him well enough then to guess what he was doing. I decided not to move, in case he was trying to intimidate me. If he knocks me down, I'll get up. I didn't believe he would knock me down, but didn't have confidence, knowing nothing then about donkey mind. Jack ran up to me and made a polo pony stop with his nose two inches from my chest. He looked at me funny and it was like I heard him say, I thought you'd move. Instead of scolding him, I broke out laughing. I recognized in his look that he was playing. It is donkey play to make the other jump like it is cat play, dog play, human play, even crow play. It is basic inter-species play. It told me we were friends, we had trust between us. A couple of dogs get acquainted and find out they're friendlies, first thing they do is want to play chase, run in a circle with one chasing the other, then switch so the chaser becomes the chased, running full-blast, ears straight back, a big smile on their faces and eyes sparkling. 

jack poses to have his picture taken

jack sez get one of me like this

Jack did the same thing next day. He appeared from another direction like he'd planned it and ran straight at me, full gallop, and this time made a 90 degree left angle turn just inches from me without touching. Again, it was polo pony grace. This time he looked at me with a twinkle of laughter in his eyes. First time, I surprised him by not moving. Second time, he was ready for me not to move. I felt like that was the first time I connected with Jack consciousness-to-consciousness. We trusted each other after this game. I trusted he would not hurt me with intent. He trusted me the same. It was important to him that I laughed at his comic trick instead of scolding him. I would go into the meadow to see him with carrots and sometimes sit on the ground when the carrots ran out and watch him graze in a circle around me. He grazed right up against where I sat and in a radius of ten feet or less, all the way around. I talked to him telling him I was happy he had come to live in my meadow, told him I'd always be good to him and take care of him through the winter. He listened to everything I said, closely. Instead of looking like he was paying attention, like we humans train each other to do, he was listening while grazing. He stayed close to where he could hear me, the only real sign he was listening besides the focus in his demeanor, like his mouth was grazing and his mind was focused on what he was hearing. Even now, a year later, all Jack's attention is focused on what I'm saying when I talk to him. Today at carrot time I talked to Jack and took pictures of him while I talked. I had not yet noticed that either one of them was aware of what I was doing with the camera. 

jenny tacks her way to carrot time

jack dodges Jenny's next kick

Jenny's jealousy kicked in after she assessed I'd taken enough pictures of Jack. It was her turn. I had just taken several pictures of her face. She put her face between the camera and Jack, and paused, then stepped forward enough to put her whole body between the camera and Jack, and stood there in her I-am-Donkey Jen stance on four feet. She did not move until I moved and turned to taking pictures of her profile. She turned her face to me to get more pictures of her. She was posing. She relaxed toward Jack and he came back to the fence wanting me to take more pictures of him. He posed and posed for me. Again, I spent too much time with Jack and Jenny lit into him, biting at him, and they swung their heads and necks around like they do in their matches of biting and avoiding a bite, back and forth like in martial arts sparring. Both of them lost the attention given to posing and between pictures I heard the particular slap of Jenny's hooves to Jack's ribs. Jack swung his rear end around on her and she stepped out of his range. Jack turned to me to have more pictures taken. I got several of Jack's ears every which way and Jenny came back, pretending to graze. She wanted to run Jack away from the camera. She reached for it with her lips like she really wanted to feel it with her teeth, unaware of human concepts like breaking something. She also had an air of wanting to bite it for taking pictures of Jack, to get it back. It made her mad. Who knows? So many wildflowers in the meadow now, may soon go out with camera and spend time with them taking pictures of them. Now that I know Jenny's limit for how long she can stand to see Jack getting exclusive attention, I can time my visits with Jack accordingly. I'd like to sit down on a day when the ground isn't soaked and let them go back to grazing and get pictures of them in a world of wildflowers. The mystery for them of what that odd thing the ice cream man pointed at them is evidently solved to their satisfaction. Now that the donkeys are aware of what I'm doing with the camera, they will pose for me like show donkeys. Sometimes.    

jenny's back

jack got an itch


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