Donkey days, again

Almost three years after my former rescue donkey couple did a “baby makes three,” I’ve been given a new handsome, healthy, smart and sociable “longears.” Renamed him from Festus to Festivus–he may not notice the difference much should respond (or not!) equally to the similar-sounding new moniker, but I prefer it.


That’s Dora, Damiana and Diego–rehomed after they got me in trouble raiding a neighbor’s cornfield, and, coincidentally and beneficially, blew up my latest troubled marriage. But that’s a story for another blog.

Here’s Festivus, examining a new, alternative, non-equine yard maintainer:


He’s really bonding nicely with me. Cries/brays for me in the early morning while I’m still in bed: “OK, I’ve come down off the hill, where are you?” (Note added: I’ve realized he may be demanding some grain. I don’t give it when demanded–I don’t rain anyone, human animal or non, that “demanding” works.)

But, he is “attached” to me: I was interacting with him a recent afternoon, then went inside. Came back out, he was lying down by my yard chair, waiting for me–seemingly dozing, his head bobbing every few moments. I made my presence known, sat on the steps of my deck and he came over just to graze by where I was.

Likewise, Hellboy is so content, after some petting while I have my morning coffee on the deck, just to then lie stretched out, near my feet.


Funniest thing, my ex back in Phoenix called me one mid-evening to wish me an early Happy Father’s Day (no one else did, sweet of her), and I went to sit in that lawn chair for a conversation with her.

Festivus hung around me, occasionally nipping my arm or leg! and leaning against me in jealousy that I was paying less attention to him than to her. Wasn’t that I wasn’t paying him attention too, addressing him now and then and patting/stroking him–he could still tell my attention was DIVIDED, and he didn’t like it!

An interesting point perhaps, as to my style of animal stewardship. Partly out of resigned laziness, for the past few years I haven’t bothered much to pen or fence in animals here. If it doesn’t work, I rehome them, as I can be cited and fined if they roam off the property and someone reports it.

But meanwhile, the animals I can “convince” to more or less live around the house, which is in the middle of my 8 acres–with a long steep driveway the only convenient but non-obvious means of egress off the premises (and I installed a cow panel to pull across it if needed)–are like co-residents, rather than livestock per se, that I “own.”

They get themselves up in the morning, put themselves to bed in the evening–all 21 of the new chickens returning the the hen-shed, geese retreating to under the back porch, Festivus going back to wherever up the hillside he has found a nice shelter under some trees.

He had disappeared after his first afternoon here enjoying his freedom from continuous close confinement, grazing, starting to acquaint himself with me. I thought he had taken off for parts unknown, was upset about it. But, he showed back up in the yard a week-and-a-half later, apparently having merely lodged himself in the groves uphill from the house, hemmed in though by the sturdy 3-strand barbed-wire fence that separates my property from neighbors’, who run cattle. He still disappears up there to sleep, but increasingly spends the rest of the time around the house …

Meanwhile, the chickens do their thing around the yard during the day, grazing, scratching for grubs and ticks, taking dustbaths, socializing and bickering … with Hellboy watching them all in tolerant, bemused curiosity (while “entitledly” imagining I’m his human in a way I am not to the the rest of them).

I say hi to them or engage in other banter and interaction upon most encounters, advise whether they’re due yet (or not) for the feed treat they’re clamoring for or whether they already had it and so should quit bothering me … I love this life.

Those of you with DOGS, I can understand why you’re so enamored–but I feel that’s a pale substitute for having these theoretically useful, but more to the point, oddly semi-wild, semi-autonomous fellow community members all around.

I think our society’s obsession with household pets–ESPECIALLY DOGS–is born of our contemporary general lack of contact with livestock and wildlife in our daily lives. Get back to the garden!

Here’s an article about the burgeoning phenomenon of keeping–enjoying–donkeys.


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