The donkeys have spent the last couple days in their summer meadow lush with fresh grass and yellow wildflowers. I walked them over there one morning and they followed in line all the way. Walked them back in the evening and they followed in line again. This morning I opened the gate for them to follow me to the other meadow and they both meandered away following their own curiosities. I wasn't alarmed. They were wanting to walk in areas they've only seen, graze the grass beside the road, kids walking home from school. I'm happy for them to have their own minds. I like to let them follow their curiosities, discover something new. Yesterday, I wore a new tshirt that had new tshirt smell. Jenny wanted to sniff it. She sniffed carefully, took ahold of it with her lips, feeling the texture, then with her teeth. She likes to examine my shirts. Every time she takes a small pinch with her teeth, she gets pesky and tugs on it. I let out a small yelp and she lets go. They explored the area around the bird feeders, Jenny in one area, Jack in another. I knew their eyes were on me while they explored. They weren't going anyplace. I walked on to the gate and they fell in behind, Jack in a gallop.
I learned on the way back this evening that Jenny is the one to lead with. I opened the gate and they came out from their shelter among the rhododendron. They have found a place the Christmas tree growers have been piling dead Christmas trees against the fence for years. Evidently, it makes a good shelter. Yesterday, rain had fallen in a good shower before I went out to move them. They emerged from their shelter only slightly wet. I'm glad to note they have a shelter. I bring them back at night because of rain, so they can have shelter in their shed. Too, I like walking them from one meadow to the other. Today I noticed both Jenny and Jack standing at the edge of the road like they were thinking about stepping onto it. I don't want them comfortable with the road. I may transfer them less. I'll put them over there in the morning and leave them there for awhile, now that I'm assured they have good shelter. Walking back this evening, Jack was the first one out the gate. Jack is a rambler. He likes to look around, sniff and taste. Jenny then falls in with Jack sniffing and tasting. I'm ok with it and am glad to let them take their time. It doesn't take long for them to lose sight of purpose.
I remembered that Jenny follows close to my back and Jack falls in behind her. Jack takes the lead and he meanders wherever his curiosity takes him. I encouraged Jenny with a rattle of the grain bucket. Her ears perked up and here she came, Jack close behind. I walked on through the gate, Jenny with her nose at my back, to the place I pour the grain for Jenny. Jack had taken a digression and fallen behind. He came running through the gate for his grain poured for him in another place. They have no more jealousy of me with the grain after it's poured. Jenny used to swing around on me if I came to close to her while she was eating. She doesn't worry over me wanting her grain anymore. Jack used to snort at me sometimes for stepping too close to him while eating, but he's not doing it anymore. I stood there among them for awhile watching them eat, feeling happy, a love sensation in the heart, affection for Jenny, a donkey I know well and is my friend, and the same for Jack, a donkey I knew well that is a friend. We've bonded. I feel safe with these massive beasts that can be dangerous as a mountain lion or wolf if they take a notion. Either one of them could kill me in just a few seconds were they to take the notion. They will not take the notion, because I feed them, talk to them, feel with them, treat them right.
I found a video today of somebody demonstrating how to clean donkey hooves. At first, I felt like it was out of my league. It pulled me in when I saw this guy knows donkeys well, really well, while he was talking about reading the donkey's thinking. He knew. He even spoke of them not particularly liking being touched. Interacting with each of the two donkeys he worked with, I saw he started with his hand on the front shoulder, where the cross crosses on the back, and move hand out from there. Jack taught me that some time ago. He doesn't like me to put hands on him by surprise. He likes a hand on that spot. Jenny too. I put hand there and move out from there to wherever I want to touch. I can easily lift Jack's foot off the ground when I go at it calmly and in no hurry. This guy in the video did exactly with his donkeys as I do with Jack. I learned it from Jack and the guy in the video learned it from donkeys, too. I listened to everything he said and by the end of the video believed I could clean both Jack and Jenny's hooves. He emphasized throughout the video the danger in working with donkeys. I noticed that his donkeys responded the same to just the touch of a hand as do Jack and Jenny. It calms them down noticeably. When Jack was new here, I asked him to teach me donkey ways. I saw in the video that Jack has taught me quite a lot, enough that I understood everything the guy in the video was saying.
return to the meadow
photos by tj worthington