Watch what you wish for
The Donkeypocalypse, as I fondly refer to it, has ended. But my husband and I apparently will be the butt of jackass jokes for years to come.
Never one to admit defeat, I spent five long months trying to make it work. But like a romance that was doomed from the very start, my dear donkeys and I were star-crossed lovers. Our affair started with a rush of affection, adoration, and mutual need. (They needed a home and I mistakenly believed I needed two donkeys.) However, things quickly devolved into a downward spiral of anger and betrayal, mistrust and, ultimately, despair and madness.
Not six months ago I wrote of my joy at bringing home the two shaggy bundles of joy. They were like the long-eared babies I never had. It was a dream fulfilled, I said at the time. My heart was full and nearly runneth over with love for precious little Rosie and precocious Radar Luv.
Never mind the fact they broke out of their pasture three times and made me chase them all over the neighborhood. That was our fault. I took full responsibility, blaming myself for not making the fence high enough, then low enough, and then indestructible enough.
Still, we were part of a mutual admiration society: I loved them for their freakishly long ears and adorable expressions, and they loved me for the endless supply of hay and carrots I provided on a daily basis.
I would ooh and ahh over their dainty hooves and paintbrush tails, and their daily antics brought me endless delight. Their spiky manes and dorsal stripes made them resemble the little zebras I always had wanted to own, and thought I never could. If I squinted my eyes, I could pretend they were zebras. And often, I did.
And their braying, oh, the braying. At first it was like sweet, sweet accordian music, or a squeeze box, that reminded me of my Italian ancestors. So unusual and unmistakable, like the sound of a rusty hinge on a swinging gate. It gave our little home sweet home such charm, and brought the place to life, especially at 6 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Foolishly, I had assumed they were a lot like horses and ponies. I was wrong. The donkeys had no barn manners whatsoever, and no sense of personal space. Leading them anywhere by their halters was similar to roller derby, with the donks jostling and hip checking me against the barn walls, doorways and gates. But I took responsibility for this too. They needed training. I was not donkey savvy. I should have done my homework. They would improve with time.
My pony-loving sister attempted to lead one donkey into the barn one day, and got knocked down and dragged. I’ll never forget the look of shock on her face as she picked herself up from the barn floor and dusted herself off. She was stunned. I apologized for that too. Should have warned her.
They chewed on their stall. Our fault for building the stall of wood, I told my husband. I bought “Chew Stop” spray at the farm store. Apparently, they found it to be a delicious condiment, and chewed more.
They pawed up an underground power cable that had been buried by my husband, and chewed that. I scolded my husband for nearly electrocuting the donkeys. He observed they had no business digging it up in the first place, and he cut the power to my chicken coop. Foxes, coyotes and other predators began prowling around the coop at night because there no longer was a motion light for security. This put my little flock in danger. Shame on me.
Teddy, our 31-year-old pony, who I had believed was lonesome and needed the company of two donkeys, seemed perpetually annoyed and angry. His ears were back most of the time after the donkeys moved in, and he clearly resented them both.
When he would eat his grain each morning and night, they would stand behind him, crowding him in his stall. Each time he dropped a single pellet of his breakfast or dinner, they would scurry under him like greedy mice and gobble it up from the floor. To Teddy’s credit, he never kicked either of them, though he easily could have cleaned their clocks.
The pair devoured the shingles outside and chewed the sill inside our 1820 barn. They pawed at the pine shaving bedding and discovered the rubber floor mats in their stall — heavy, tight-fitting mats that cushion their legs from the cement floor. They somehow managed to pull them up in the center and chewed one corner of all four mats, leaving a big hole in the middle.
Our donkeys were like giant termites or carpenter ants. They had to be stopped.
“I don’t even know how they did that,” my husband marveled. “I have a hard time pulling those mats up.”
But the donkeys had lots of time on their hooves, and they packed a lot of destruction into each and every minute.
Our two-donk wrecking crew refused to stay outside, even on the nicest days. Despite the fact they had more than two acres of green pasture, they chose to stand in the barn, wreaking havoc on their surroundings. Finally, one day, I’d had enough.
“OUT!” I yelled, waving a muck rake over my head like a crazy person. “GET OUTSIDE NOW!”
It was a beautiful June day and as usual the donkeys were inside, chewing the rubber mats and the sill. They looked at me like I’d gone mad, which I had, and hurried out the barn door into the bright sunshine.
“AND STAY OUT!” I yelled, slamming the barn door shut.
As I latched the door closed from the inside, I heard a crunching sound. They were munching the shingles. I grabbed a broom and ambushed them from the side door.
“I SAID GO AWAY!” I yelled, waving the broom. They looked at each other as if to say, “Is she talking to us?”
“GO!!!” I bellowed. They moseyed into the pasture. Just to be on the safe side, I parked a wheelbarrow and a garden cart in front of the barn, so they couldn’t get to the shingles or door. They looked at me like a couple of surly teens and gnawed on a nearby fence post.
“BEAT IT!” I said, charging them both with the broom. They sulked and pretended to eat grass.
Back in my house, I looked out the back window. Imagine my surprise when I saw one of them was chewing on my wooden garden cart and the other was tasting the wooden handles on the wheelbarrow.
In that moment, I admitted defeat. I knew I had made a big mistake. And I knew these donkeys had to go. I picked up the phone and called the friend who had given them to me. I told her our trial run was not working out, and she needed to find a donkey savvy home for Bonnie and Clyde. She graciously agreed to pick them up on the weekend.
Family and friends have yet to stop making jackass jokes, but we’re good for it. It is my penance, and I earned it.
“Hey, we tried it, and it didn’t work out,” my husband said generously. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
On the day they left, peace was restored to the valley. We raised a glass and toasted their memory. Teddy did not seem to miss them a bit. I think even he knew they were a couple of jackasses.
And the beat goes on.