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Monday, February 23, 2015

PORTRAIT OF A DONKEY

jenny

Yesterday morning I heard Jenny make a successful bray. She has found the horn. She has not yet learned how to extend the horn like Jack, but she's found it. She's looked for it over a year. I was told by Jenny's previous human that she brayed all the time. I don't believe it. She's been over a year attempting to learn how to bray. She sounded like a high-pitched hound's bark until yesterday. It has been a real effort for her to find the horn in her throat that makes the bray. I see her watching Jack closely when he brays. Sometimes she will start her squealing attempt, then Jack will go in to full bray, Jenny will stop and watch him closely like a guitar player watching another guitar player's fingers perform a particular run, learning by watching. I keep her aware I'm paying attention to her progress. I congratulated her on successfully finding the horn. Her next trick is to figure out how to extend the honk like Jack does, make a long, deep-throated donkey bray. She would be comic if I didn't know she is trying so hard. It amuses me to see her attempt a bray, seeing she tries with all her might the best she knows how. I encourage her efforts. She's getting there. My guess is this time next year she'll be braying alongside Jack. I'll have a donkey duet in the mornings. I tend to give carrot to Jack first, honoring his Alpha status. He doesn't seem to care and Jenny doesn't seem to mind. She wants to be first, but defers to Alpha. When she was Alpha, she got the first, no two ways about it. 

jenny

The donkeys taught me this. I didn't just figure it out. Even when Jenny's nature makes her want to be first, she will defer to Jack's status. Jack couldn't care less. Or so he gives the appearance. Jack doesn't show feeling like Jenny does, but I also know Jack feels. I suspect Jenny's interpretation of why I give carrot to Jack first could be a reward for his bray. A time or two I've given Jenny carrot first and Jack looked on with an eye that says something is not right, a pattern has been broken. Jenny's emotions are out on the surface all the time. I can read Jenny's feelings easily. Jack, on the other hand, shows what appears to be absence of emotion, but as I know Jack better with time, I see he feels the same as Jenny feels, it just doesn't show as readily. Jack is a shy donkey. Jenny does not do shy. Jack has learned to get along with Jenny by giving her Jenny's way. She will have it. I can see his love for Jenny out in the open. His love for her is so much a part of who Jack is that his character is up front, foremost, his love for Jenny. In his Alpha status, he automatically defers to Jenny from his love for her. When Jenny was Alpha, she was a bossy, aggressive Alpha, not in love. She was stressed by the role. Jack is the same as Alpha as not. Alpha's role is to keep an eye on the meadow for any potential threat that may cross the line of the fence. Times when they are at the other end of the meadow and I go out to take them grain or hay, they don't seem to recognize me from a distance. Jack will see me first, then Jenny will look. They will stand and look at me while I call their names, looking like they're not sure. Sounds like, but sound is only one of the senses in the test. 

jenny and jack

It seems from a pattern I find consistent, they recognize me by sight at about fifty feet. It is the distance they stop walking toward me when approaching from the other side of the meadow and take a good look to confirm their uncertainty. Once recognized by sight, Jack walks fast or runs to me at a gallop. First thing, he needs to smell my hand. Only after a sniff is he convinced it really is his human friend. He smiles big, a happy smile. He snorts in an excited equine manner. Jack is a happy donkey by nature. Jenny had some extreme experiences before she came here to live with Jack that made her slow to get to know. She was aggressive in her defensive feelings. The aggression went out of her the day she fell in love with Jack. She was in shock, a young donkey. Two men muscled her into a trailer, hauled her up a mountain with uncountable curves and put her out with a jackass rapist. I was told she was three, though my feeling now is she was maybe a very early three like just a few weeks. I don't believe she was much past two. My feeling says Jack is close to the same age as Jenny by months, one way or another. The woman I bought her from told me she'd bought Jenny (Daisy to her) from a woman she was buying miniature goats from. She said the donkey looked so undernourished her ribs were showing. She bought the donkey with the goats to bring it up to good health. Jenny lived with goats all the time before she came here. She and one of the goats were friends where I bought her from. I felt sad for both Jenny and the goat being separated. Animals mourn the loss of their friends like we mourn the loss of our friends. Jenny's difficulty in the first months here were the months of grief after losing her goat friends and her human friends. Taken by force from her life. I gave her plenty of space, because she needed it. Jack gave her no space at all.

jenny

I was told Jenny once had a bad case of fleas. The treatment was to be covered with used motor oil. It works. My imagination can't go far enough to get a sense of how much Jenny hated having her lovely hair covered with oil. The scent must have been agony for her, like gasoline fumes. Donkeys have sensitive noses. Like all the animals and birds, donkeys are vain about their appearance, their hair, their scent. Then she was sold like a slave to be sexually harassed in her grief. It was not easy for her. I stayed my side of the fence for several weeks, maybe even a couple months after she arrived. She acted like she wanted to bite me sometimes taking a carrot. I watched my fingers at first. A time came I could count on her not biting my finger, but she'd touch a finger sometimes with her teeth taking the carrot to make me jump. Donkey slapstick humor. I gave them carrot every morning. Even when Jenny was in her most hateful first months, I gave her carrot by hand every morning. I expected nothing of her. I've never forced her, never even scolded her. There was a time we were getting acquainted on the verge of becoming friendly she kicked me. It amounted to no more than a tap. Fact is, I believe she withdrew the force of the kick as soon as she saw it was me, not Jack. I spun around like a donkey and kicked her in the rump with the side of my foot, merely a tap to a donkey. She jumped and looked around at me with a look in her eye that said, I didn't know you could kick. I said, You kick me, I kick you. She never kicked me again except the time I stepped between her and Jack just as they were starting a kick-boxing match. Her hoof touched the side of my leg like touching my hand to the side of my leg lightly, barely a touch. She withdrew the force as soon as she saw what she'd done. She had repentance in her entire demeanor. I thanked her and congratulated her on a good save. 
jenny

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