Living the dream
George Peppard’s character on “The A Team” may have said it best when he coined the phrase: “I love it when a plan comes together.”
One of the last pieces of the puzzle that is my master plan fell into place last month when I fulfilled a longtime secret dream: to have a little donkey. It started out as a joke. For years I have made cracks about wanting a jenny or jack of my own. I’d laugh about how we’d get a pony for my daughter Lizzie, and a donkey that I could ride, to follow her hither and yon.
For years I admired a nearby farm that had a donkey in the pasture, where it kept watch over a flock of sheep. I coveted that adorable “long ears,” and wanted one of my own.
It’s funny how the universe can bring your heart’s secret desire and plunk it right in your backyard, literally. I swear, there’s no other explanation. The stars aligned. I wanted a donkey, and now now we have two. Just like that. Danke schoen.
A surprising number of friends and neighbors have been envious of our new pets, telling me to keep them in mind if I ever happen upon more donkeys. (Like it happens every day.) Others have been incredulous, asking why in the world we would WANT a donkey, let alone two. My answer is simple: I don’t know. I have no real answer, and trying to explain it, quite frankly, is sort of embarrassing. Is this my mid-life crisis? Instead of a convertible, I get two donkeys? Why, indeed?
The answer came a few days ago when my dad called to ask what was new. I didn’t tell him about the donkeys at first. He already thinks we’re crazy for keeping what he calls a traveling circus with our chickens, cat, dog and pony show. Finally, I couldn’t resist any longer, and sprang it on him.
“Donkeys! Are you drunk?” he asked.
“No,” I giggled.
“I think you’ve been drinking,” he chuckled. “Seriously, are you kidding me?!”
“No, it’s true,” I said. “Their names are Rosie and Radar. You’re gonna love them.”
And that’s when I got my answer.
“I can’t tell if you’re pulling my leg,” he said, “but if this is for real, I know why you did it. It’s in your blood.”
He explained his mother, my Grandma Ferrazza, had a little donkey back in Italy when she was a girl. She rode the donkey and used it to carry things, like bundles of sticks, apparently. Dad related that a small scar she had near her mouth was the result of a kick from her stubborn steed.
So there it is. Donkeys are in my DNA.
My husband grudgingly accepted the donkeys into our family. I told him to forget the roses. All I wanted for Valentine’s Day was the two donkeys. Better than a dozen donkeys, I kidded. He didn’t look amused.
He measured and hammered and framed and wired the barn to create a comfortable space for our furry friends. With apprehension, he asked me what to expect.
“Worst case scenario is the pony kicks and bites them and they break out of the fence,” I said.
“Yup,” he said, with an expression that said, “I’ll look forward to that.”
They arrived on a windy, frigid day. Our pony, a senior citizen, seemed interested but not especially excited by the two strangers in his pasture. We eventually let him investigate them and he quickly gave chase. They ran, he nipped one on the rump, the donkey fired a warning kick, and they broke out of the fence.
Worst-case scenario? Pretty much.
Now everyone is getting along well. The pony dozes on the ground in the sun just a few yards from the donkeys, who also take a snooze in his presence without worry. Their cuteness is getting rave reviews from the neighbors, who love saying, “What are those two jackasses doing next door?” (Never gets old.) And I expect to give Lizzie the best birthday yet, since we can pin the tail on not one, but TWO donkeys this year. (Not to mention the pinatas we’ll have!)
Kidding aside, I suspect the pair will be excellent body guards for the aging pony, who one night fell into a deep sleep in the far pasture after dark. Fearing the worst when he didn’t show up for dinner, I walked up and saw his dark shape motionless on the ground. We scared each other half to death as I walked right up to him, assuming he had expired, and he jumped to his feet and bolted, first straight at me, and then in the opposite direction. We both earned a few gray hairs that night.
But there’s no sneaking up on a donkey. Rosie and Radar are on high alert all the time, and they say there’s no better guard dog. So Teddy the pony is in good hands. Now, about that convertible.
And the beat goes on.