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Monday, December 15, 2014

A donkey looks good to a donkey

“I haven’t seen you in a donkey’s age. You’ve been gone for donkey years. Almost as long as donkey’s ears.”

The many variations on the theme of this colloquial expression would lead one to believe that a donkey lives for a very long time. They also have long ears.
We aren’t exactly sure how old our Donkey is. He is getting bald patches on his back again but that is due to rain rot – a type of fungus – and not necessarily age. A few good applications of sulfur rub and he will be growing a thick, wiry coat again. Not a shiny, glossy and furry coat like the winter wear of the horse, but a reliable, almost impermeable covering of bristle that will get him through the colder months.
A quick search of the Internet says donkeys can live between 45 to 50 years. That’s a good 20 on a horse. The oldest donkey on record lived to the ripe old age of 57.
Donkeys are very easy to care for, they don’t ask for much, they are smart, and hardy and dedicated. So why the bad rap? Why do we have insulting references in almost every language on the globe, related to the stupidity of the ‘lowly’ donkey? Probably because the donkey can be found on just about every continent on the earth. They are common. They are easy to care for, so they are owned even by those who cannot afford the fussy feed and care that a horse might require, for example.
The donkey is the only animal on our farm who does not complain about the food. When the hay is a bit moldy or the silage a bit too ripe, he just keeps eating while the horse, cattle and even the lone sheep line up at the fence to sing a complaint in the general direction of the farm house. Donkey just stands at the feeder, happily chewing and swallowing down the sub-par menu.
When Donkey comes in to the stable for the night as company for the horse, he doesn’t even eat or drink. He just stands guard while she tosses her hay around and spills her water everywhere. He can get to her water and hay if he needs a snack but we don’t even bother to fill his water bucket anymore as it is just frozen solid in the morning, untouched.
If the horse is getting sweet feed, however, you have to give Donkey some. Same with apples. If he smells an apple, he will have his chin on your shoulder, nibbling at your ear until you hand it over. That animal loves a good over-ripe apple.
On our farm, the donkey has built a bit of a reputation because he is very smart and therefore, like the horse, he gets bored. If the ATV or tractor is left out in the open where the animals can access them, they will happily bite and tug on the squishy padded seat and rubberized handles for hours. The hoodlums will have the tractor stripped by the time the Farmer gets home.
If the animals are on the lawn, trotting down the road or visiting the cornfield next door, you can bet it was Donkey who let them out. He studies a gate latch and plays with it for hours until he masters it. What else does he have to do all day? Might as well work on his Houdini routine.
The Farmer says we don’t need Donkey anymore, because we only have one sheep left and she is kept safe by always standing next to the big Belgian horse. But I argue that Donkey and Misty the horse are best friends since she lost her sister. She would be lost, without him. She doesn’t even like to go into the stable if he isn’t with her.
Donkeys are important. This time of year we tell the story of a very special donkey who carried someone named Mary quite a distance on his back, without complaint or demand, all the way to Bethlehem.
So once again, I argue respect for the donkey. He shall receive a large bag of over-ripe apples to share with the horse and the sheep and his favourite cows on Christmas morning. They can eat the sweet fruit until their bellies ache. Except Donkey won’t get a belly ache, because he has a cast-iron stomach and he isn’t fussy like that.

Merry Christmas!

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