Last night after work and a hellacious thunderstorm that just hung over the house for about an hour, throwing down lightning bolts and rain until the barnyard looked like the boiling mud that spews from volcanos—except with ducks in it—the farrier came and trimmed the hooves of my donkey, Neb. His feet are sound and tidy, and James says it is the first time he’s ever done Neb’s hooves without getting cut. I feel a lot better about life today.
Somehow I had this idea that donkeys had to have their hooves done once a year, the way you shear most sheep. But one day this spring I went out to feed the barn folk and noticed that, in fact, my donkey was getting slipper-footed, like one of those “Before” pictures you see on donkey rescue websites. I was mortified, so I immediately called the farrier and set up an appointment. But when that day arrived, I went down to the gate with the halter to suit Nebbie up for his spa treatment, and he heard the halter clanging before I was halfway down the yard, and off he went down the hill, never to return until after I had gone indoors and cancelled the appointment. I called around my equine acquaintance and got the name of a sweet woman just a few miles away who has several smaller donkeys. She provided some advice and emotional support (because I defy you to name another person you know who has been on the cover of Bad Farmer magazine as often as I have), and I came home to get to work. I bought a new halter in a different color—the checkout girl at Tractor Supply advised me to point out to the donkey up front how handsome he was going to look in red, as this knowledge would make it far easier to get him into the device—and I started going out every afternoon on my lunch break and brushing him a bit with a soft scrub brush, because he likes that, and gradually introducing the new halter by sight and by feel. After several weeks of consistent appointments, lubricated by about 20 pounds of chopped carrots, this process resulted in the donkey wearing his new halter; walking on his matching new lead rope; and standing in relative peace for the farrier, magnanimously overlooking their past history together, and the fact that the farrier is male, a category which I have been told Neb is prejudiced against. The reader will also note there was no biting, which is another fast solution the donkey favors when the odds are running against him. All in all, I think anyone would agree that the donkey has made the executive decision to rise above.
Now that this handsome fellow is possessed of adorable cute feet and all these skills—we have pretty much mastered “kiss” this week, in a manner so gentle that no blood at all has been shed from my nose, though I did see stars the first couple of tries—I cannot help but reflect on the fact that when Neb stepped off the trailer here last summer, he arrived with a driving harness in his luggage, as well as a library of books on the subject. When he hastened to the graveside of the second dog to die last month—the funeral having been conducted in the family plot inside the pasture—I told him he was going to have to absorb a lot of unused dog love, and even though the new dog is coming home this weekend, I think Neb and I had just enough of a gap to establish our understanding, and that we can commence sorting out what a donkey might like to do with his time besides stand around the barn with the grazing classes, who, much as I love them, are not as smart as a donkey. There are definitely no Scrabble tournaments going on out there. The ass might like more to ponder.