Tara and Easter

Tara and Easter
"Aw, mom"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Perfect Repellant

I'll bet you saw the title of this blog entry and decided it would be about bugs.  Why would I think that?  Because my state is famous for bugs.  Large bugs, small bugs, bugs as big as your face.  Brown bugs, blue bugs, bugs that like to chase.  Sad bugs, happy bugs, bugs with attitude.  Shiny bugs, dull bugs, bugs that are quite rude.

However, this is not about bugs.  In fact, if there was a perfect bug repellant, we would have chased the bugs somewhere else.  Like Georgia.  Alas, our bugs are still with us, happily gearing up for their best season of the year.  

So, no, not bugs, but our other famous inhabitants.  "Aha!", you say, "I know!  This is about alligators.".  Again, a mistake.  Alligators are also enjoying the waning days of spring and looking forward to a long summer of feasting on birds, fish, small mammals, and inattentive tourists, (they are trying to cut back on native Floridians that wander within their reach because of the alcohol content).  Indeed, nothing repels an alligator, except heavy layers of clothing (which isn't usually a problem down here).  I suspect many even have flip-flop and Speedo collections to recall their favorite dining experiences.  

So, our other most famous resident, that is not normally covered in either scaly skin or an exoskeleton, is the human kind.  A unique breed of human, common in all states, predominantly male, and goes by his scientific name: homo crackerien.  Now, why, do you ask, would this rather common species act as any sort of repellant?  To understand this is understand the nature of Floridians.  From the time of the first inhabitants, there has been a pattern of behavior that involves hours of standing in shady spots communicating with each other.  This was likely  brought on by the heat making it too uncomfortable to work for long hours during the day.  Some would call this gossiping, but it may have actually developed as a survival technique to stay out of the worst of the heat.  When one among many did something that resulted in pain, loss of limb, disfigurement, or death, everyone discussed it in cool spots with cool drinks in hand.  As our society became more public, Floridians kept widening the circle until sharing the antics of the weirdest among us is too hard a habit to break.  Thus, while most states are clever enough to hide the daily lives of their residents who attempt the odd, the strange, the weird, or the drunken dare;  we in Florida put ours on display for public discussion.  Every Floridian mother's nightmare is to see their son described in any article that begins with the words: "Florida man....".  

Now, we get to the repellant part.  This article is what I call the latest in a long campaign to slow growth in Florida.  The perfect repellant.  Perhaps there is a bit of genius behind these antics.


Or, was it, perhaps, not the Florida man at all, but the serpent that should be held accountable?  

It was not enough that the snake was handled.  No, dear reader, that snake desired a closer relationship with his unwary handler.  This, my friends, is how Eve was tempted.  That snake seduced the poor man into kissing it.  And, our hero could have had beer or money on the line as well, which would have been hard to resist.  (Please know that this young man is expected to recover with a painful memory and an interesting story.  God bless his poor mother).  

Florida is experiencing too much growth, as of late, so please pass these and all similar stories around to help discourage anyone else from coming here.  Stories like this are meant to be shared in a long tradition that began when the first two people met the first large reptile and one of them uttered that famous phrase heard throughout the land, "Hold my beer and watch this..."

Monday, March 6, 2017


Our farm has animals that come and go, for various reasons.  Weanling calves go on to new homes.  Steers go to slaughter.  Sometimes, however, somebody gets a new home.  This time, it was Gus and his beloved donkey friend, Xavier.  They are inseparable, so, when we needed to cut back on our herd, they had to go together.  

Gus was always the extra pony.  We took him in because he was feral and about to go to slaughter.  He didn't even have a name when we brought him home.  It took him a week before I could pet him, but he came around slowly.  We've had him for four years and during that time, he was not asked to work very often.  After all, John has Maggie to ride.  He rode Gus a little, but he and Maggie had a stronger bond.  

This year, we worked with Gus to get him ready for the Scottish Games (he is, after all, a Shetland Pony).  Maggie has been many times, but this was his first time.  He did very well.  There were huge crowds and lots of people visiting his pen.  The were bagpipes and balloons.  Drums and little kids with sticky fingers.  He became quite sociable.  The ultimate test was when we took him in the parade.  There was a huge crowd in the bleachers around the arena and Gus took it very well.  

After the Games were over, we decided he was tame enough to have a little kid of his own.  We found a very nice lady, not too far away, with a two year old girl.  She has plenty of horse experience and there is time before that little girl will be old enough to ride.  

But, what to do with Xavier?  He never fit in with the horses, but loves to play with Gus.  They chase each other and play fight.  Xavier will even pick up a bucket and rattle it while chasing Gus.  They are so much fun to watch.  Before the Games, we separated them.  Maggie and Gus were together to get ready and Xavier was by himself.  Xavier pouted and pined for his friend.  

When the lady came to meet Gus, we told her about Xavier and she loved him.  Xavier was who helped us recover from the loss of Donkeyotee.  He came to us secondhand from an auction covered in lice and scared.  Now, he loves hugs and scratches.  He can be ridden by children and will give you hugs with his head.  He also was wonderful with kids of all ages at John's school when he was the Nativity donkey, two years in a row.  It was a difficult decision, but he belonged with Gus.  

They left Saturday morning for their new home.  

Among the equines, we have Phoenix, who is a 25 year old AQHA gelding.  He is retired due to navicular.  We also have my sweet Libby, a 26 yer old Morgan, who is still spunky and going strong.  And, we have Maggie, John's adorable Shetland Pony mare.  My husband does not have a horse to ride at the moment, but we will not be getting him another riding horse until the fall.  

Now, once again, we are without a donkey.  This is not acceptable after one has had a donkey.  They are the most dog-like of equines because of their friendliness.  They will even leave food for attention.  Once you have a donkey on your farm, it just isn't the same without one.

We talked as a family last night and came up with a new plan.  We will mail an application in for a BLM burro.  There will be an auction in our area of wild mustangs and burros in a few months.  The burros come from Arizona.  We have the facilities to train and house one and, we believe, we have the experience to gentle one.  The only concern we have is if we will ever get the burro to relax when they hear a helicopter.  If not, we will just have to make sure they are in a safe place when one goes overhead.  Helicopters aren't that common around here, but they do fly over occasionally.  Helicopters are used to round up mustangs and burros, so it's a common fear among them.  We would like a young jenny because she would fit in with our herd best.  Adopting from the BLM has become less popular lately because of the economy.  There are many animals stuck in holding pens out west because interest in them is too low.  There isn't enough forage for them on public lands and not enough people willing to give them a home.  If we get just one, we have done our part to help and the new burro can make the farm right again with her brays and unique donkey personality.  I will keep a log of the burro's training and, perhaps, it won't seem too daunting a task for someone else to try.  

Here is Gus at the Scottish Games (Feargus, actually).

This is Xavier as a Nativity donkey.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

My Name is Harold

....And I am the oldest calf at Moonlit Oaks Ranch.  The other calf, Ian, is a pest.  He always wants to see what I'm doing.  Anyway, I need to complain about my really bad day on Saturday.  In fact, I will call it that:

Harold's Really Bad Day


Saturday began normally.  It was cool and refreshing in the morning, but it warmed up quickly.  I made a couple trips to the milk bar (Mama Cow) and then chased Ian a little.  Grumpy old Auntie April told me to keep it down and Buttercup gave me a sneer.   I'm almost as tall as she is, so, whatever.  Holly Cow used to be fun to play with, but she's pregnant now and all grown up (so she says).  She also brags because she belongs to the Church, rather than the farmers, as if I care.  So, yeah, no fun to play with anymore.  The big steers (they spook me with scary stories sometimes) were telling me something about 'my turn' is coming.  Spare me.  Anyway, it was a completely normal day in the pasture.  

Then, the farmers were carrying a green bag and played with the chute thingy.  I didn't think anything of it because they had GRAIN.  Oh, sweet, lovely grain!  They pulled the feeders into a weird spot and we followed.  Then, they pulled them into the bull pen.  I've never been in the bull pen.  So cool!  I wanted to see where daddy spent some of his time before he left for Texas.  So, in we went.  Of course, they closed the gate behind us.  Then, the lady farmer shooed me into a spot in the bull pen where there was an extra fence.  I like her, so I went there without complaining.  Mama Cow yelled out to 'be good'.  Huh?  Well, into that chute thingy I ran and it stopped me.  I was stuck.  "Um, excuse me?", I said to the farmers that were there with their little farmer kid.  The kid (he's my favorite) petted me and I figured the farmers knew I was there and would help me out soon.  Then, the torture began.  Cold wet stuff in one ear and then PINCH!  Ow! Ow! Ow!  "I'll talk!  I'll talk!  I have no idea what you want to know, but I'll talk!", I told them.  Then, they stabbed my other ear and it felt heavier.  Oh man, now I had one of those silly yellow earring things the big cows have.  No one asked me if I wanted one.  That would have been more polite.  Then, the nasty bee sting things (must be the shots the steers warned me about).  And, yuck!  Gooey stuff down my back (it's supposed to get rid of worms.  I don't have any worms, seriously.  I would know!).  Then, as if that wasn't enough, they ripped some hair off of my tail for 'genetic testing'.  Dude, seriously?  The final evil was this heavy thing they strapped onto my head.  It felt weird and was itchy in, oh, about two seconds.  Finally, the chute thingy opened and I was on the wrong side of the fence.   I complained to the farmers, but they didn't seem concerned.  Everybody else was back in the pasture and I was stuck in daddy's pen, all by myself.  While I complained, loudly (sounded a bit more like daddy, actually.  I think my voice is changing), everyone just stared at me from the other side of the fence.  Mama Cow got all teared up with those weird happy tears mamas get.  "What?!" I said.  The steers were impressed with me.  They were the ones that told me the news. "Relax, Harold", they said (they never called me by my name; always twerp, goober, etc..  what a moment).  "You made it!  You're going to be a herd sire, like daddy.".  "Really?" I said.  "What does that mean?".  They both snorted, called me a twerp, and walked off.  Big help they were.  Anyway, all the cows, including mama said they were proud of me.  They told me I would be going to my own herd soon to grow up with strange cows, and then they wandered off to eat.  Okay, so I guess I'm going to be pretty awesome, like daddy.  But it was still a Really Bad Day!

That's my complaint.  Thanks for letting me vent.  I gotta go.  Gotta practice being awesome and doing, you know, bull things, like pawing up dirt and rubbing my horns on stuff.  I have horns, really.  They're short now, but they're growing.


Thursday, March 31, 2016

Live Nativity and Xavier's kiss

Xavier is our resident donkey.  He is talkative, affectionate, and sweet.  He is very popular among visitors to our farm.  I was asked by the principal of our son's Catholic school, if Xavier would be willing to be kissed on the nose.  The deal was that if the students at our son's school raised enough money, their principal had to kiss a farm animal.  She preferred a donkey to say, a pig.  Considering how far Xavier has come in his training, and how much he seeks attention from people, it sounded like a trip to the school would be fine.  In addition, this was to be done before Christmas Break, so the children would also be doing a nativity scene outside.  I arranged to bring Xavier, Fiona the Dexter cow, and our two tame sheep for the Nativity.  The animals were perfectly behaved as our priest, Father Andy, sat down on a bale of hay between some kids in costumes and the animals gathered around, and read the Nativity story to the pre-school children.  Due to privacy concerns, I cannot show you any pictures of the children in costumes.  This picture was taken before the event.  Fiona, having some experience at schools with children, was the star.  She enjoyed lots of treats and scratches from the children, and our priests.  

The sheep were also perfect.  They enjoyed pets and scratches from the littlest children.  Father Pervaiz even helped me feed them.

After the Nativity, the promised kiss was to be done in front of the entire school.  The children formed a horseshoe around the principal and I led Xavier in for his kiss.  He did quite well.  Here is a picture from the local paper.

Tara and Tina are coming home

In 1993, I began working with cattle while in college at Colorado State University after being inspired by my advisor, Dr. Temple Grandin.  I worked as a calf feeder at a dairy, wrangled on a bison ranch, and worked extensively with CSU's herd during calving season. These were large operations and the learning curve was high. At times, it was like taking a drink from a fire hose. I was hooked. I also worked with a local mobile vet. Of all the client's herds we cared for, my favorite were the little Dexter cattle at one ranch.  After reading up on their history, I learned about their origins in Ireland.  After college, I joined the US Navy.  I did a little research about Dexters from time to time while I was serving in the military and dreamed of a farm of my own.

In 2003, while I was still serving as a Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy, I bought my own farm in Virginia near where my ship was home-ported. I raised some commercial cattle at first to get a feel for the land. It was much different than raising cattle out west. Finally, one year before I was to be stationed on shore duty, I contacted a Dexter cattle breeder in Missouri. They had some very nice looking animals.  I arranged to drive out to their farm in September 2005 and pick up three 6 month old Dexter heifers, Tina, Tara, and Trudi. I would be returning from the war in August 2005 so I had enough time to prepare for my new arrivals.

A week before the trip, tragedy struck as Hurricane Katrina smashed the gulf coast. I looked at my big, empty, stock trailer that I would be hauling halfway across the country and formulated a plan. I dropped the trailer off on base in a prominent location and sent a message out inviting people to fill it full of school kits and personal hygiene kits. One week later, I left Norfolk, Virginia for Missouri with my two dogs in the cab of my truck, bedding, hay, camping equipment, and buckets in the pick-up bed, and a trailer crammed full of goodies for Hurricane victims.  I delivered the goods to the Salvation Army in Tennessee. They would be loading an 18 wheeler immediately to take supplies to one of the locations for displaced victims.

I left very early in the morning and pushed through all the way to Tennessee that first night to ensure the donations were delivered ASAP. The dogs and I found a hotel in Tennessee and then headed towards Arkansas the next morning.  We reached the Ozarks after dark and had to feel our way through strange mountain towns. Finally, at about 10:00 pm, we arrived at the cattle ranch in Missouri. The rancher was also a military veteran and had already insisted that I stay with his family instead of finding a hotel.

The next morning, we caught up my new heifers, haltered, vaccinated, and loaded them up for their trip home. They had the run of the big three-horse trailer. Shaving provided thick bedding, hay was piled on the sides, and a large tub of water was secured in the corner. I entered twice a day to play with them and feed them grain in their individual buckets (Tara has the green bucket and Tina has the blue).

We hauled out early the next morning and made it to an RV campground just over the border into Kentucky. The park owners were amused at the calves in my trailer. The dogs and I slept in the little tack-room area. We awoke early to the thumping of calves playing in the trailer. They had enough room to romp and took full advantage of it.

At a gas station the next day, a cattle truck, crammed full of steers, pulled in to refuel next to us. My girls were strangely quiet as they watched the random flashes of crowded cattle move behind the round holes in the sides of the huge double-decker trailer. A big, brown, eye peered out to the calves and some mooing was exchanged. It was a strange moment.

That night, I talked my way into staying at the Kentucky Horse Park's campground. The manager said I'd have to leave if the calves mooed too much. I only wanted a few hours sleep, so I promised that we'd be gone before the sun came up. My cows were quiet all night. 

A year later, I was married and out of the Navy. My husband and I took two trips with the stock trailer to haul, first the Dexter cows, then, our two horses and donkey, down to our new farm in Florida.

Florida was a whole new challenge to raising cattle. We are high and dry on our new farm in northern Florida, so it is similar to the west but the porous sandy soil means that their hooves must be trimmed because they don't wear naturally as they would on hard ground. 

Tara and Tina gave us Easter and April the following spring.  We sold Trudi because of some temperament issues.  

Over the next several years, Tina, Tara, and Tina's daughter, April, helped us grow our herd into a nice size.  

In 2011, we signed up to take ten cows to the local fair.  We had to dehorn Tina and Tara because of the fair rules.  They are at the far end in this picture from the Clay County Fair.

Our herd was too big at this point, so we sold Tina and Tara to a gentleman just starting out in Dexters.  This is one of the last pictures I have before he picked them up.  Tina is the black cow in the middle and Tara is the bigger dun cow behind her.

They had been bred to our bull, so this was a perfect "Dexter starting kit".  It seemed like a good home.  In 2013, however, I received a call from a lady in central Florida telling me a sad tale.  Tina and Tara had been left to starve in someone's pasture (not the person we sold them to).  This nice lady had picked them up cheap and brought them back to health.  She used them for milking for several years. 

This year, just before Easter, she asked us if we wanted to buy them back.  Since we are a small farm and bit light on cows at the moment, it seems like good timing.  There is also, of course, the emotional attachment one experiences when working with animals.  Tina and Tara were always easy to handle and nice to work with.  We are looking forward to bringing them home.  Cattle remember each other, even after several years.  In our herd, we have two daughters of Tina.  It will be fun to see how they interact when they are reunited.  

In addition, our bull was new when we sold them, so we never saw any calves from breeding Tina and Tara to our bull, Armstrong.  Hopefully, we will finally get that chance next year.  

I will post a picture of them, or maybe even a video of their reunion with their herd, this weekend.  :)

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Two New Donkeys

My husband, our son, and I discussed buying a new donkey and we decided on exactly what sort of long eared creature we were looking for.  We focused on finding a standard sized jenny, which would be different enough from the donkey we had, so as not to be an attempt to replace the irreplaceable.

I thought, perhaps, it wouldn't be too difficult to find a young donkey that had at least been vaccinated and had their hooves trimmed once or twice. With exception of the high end miniature donkeys, this was not easy.  We started with rescues, but they were out of donkeys in our desired size range.  If we lived out west, this would be easier because the Bureau of Land Management auction sites are much more accessible.  We searched sale ads regularly and never got further than a phone call with most folks.  I discovered an uncomfortable fact about the donkeys in our area.  Not only are do they tend to be not current on vaccines, but they have typically never had their hooves trimmed or even worn a halter.  What was mostly available were 'guard' type donkeys which, it seems, is a term used as a handy excuse to not provide proper vet and farrier care.  There was another group of donkey owners who turned random animals out together as some sort of pasture decoration or to get an agricultural tax break.  These donkeys were very similar to the guard variety in that they were neither vaccinated or handled.  None of the male donkeys of either type were gelded.  None.  I was shocked.  To make matters worse, almost every female donkey was turned out with intact breeding jacks, or even horse stallions, and assumed to be pregnant.  Our search for a donkey was very discouraging.

Finally, I responded to an ad from someone who turned out to be a horse trader, (not always bad, but in this case, not good).  My family and I had decided, firmly, that we wanted a jenny.  This time, the descriptions of trained donkeys and young donkeys made me hopeful.  They offered to bring the donkey to me, but I declined, preferring to see them where they lived.  I took the horse trailer, our son, and our eager German Shepherd (for safety).  They told me there was a four month old jenny foal that was already weaned.  I asked if she was still with her mother and offered to buy them both, if it went well, and sell the mother back after the appropriate weaning time.  They said we could work something out.  They even had a donkey that was broke to ride.  Quite promising.

I passed their place, hoping it wasn't the right address.  All I could see from the road were thick woods and big gates with 'No Trespassing' signs.  They had good reasons to hide their animals.  There was an overcrowded corral with many horses and donkeys clustered around a rather nasty looking round bale.  Some of the horses were slicked out and in fairly good condition, but the donkeys looked scraggly.  They showed me the jenny with a foal in a makeshift pen.  They explained that they had been separated from the herd for several days and the baby wasn't nursing at all.  They kept calling the foal a 'she' but it clearly had an appendage.  Definitely not a 'she'.  I asked if they were sure it was a 'she' and they confirmed it.  I just let it go at that point.  What was most alarming was how listless the foal was.  The seller picked him up and carried him out of the makeshift pen and there was no reaction from either mama donkey or the baby.  Something was very wrong.  Neither the jenny nor the foal had a name.  Perhaps they mixed up the foals or perhaps the jenny's condition was too poor for her to provide milk.  Either way, this foal was essentially an orphan and needed help.  Maybe it because the baby seemed so weak and I worried about our son being heartbroken if the baby died.  Maybe because I hadn't decided if I was ready to throw my heart into a new donkey after losing Donkeyotee only a month prior.  For whatever reason, I hesitated, so they offered to show me the 6 year old saddle-broke donkey, which was actually a jack (adding more evidence to my hypothesis that there are no gelded donkeys in our area).  This donkey jack was in another pen and was in good condition compared to the other donkeys.  He was the wrong sex, based on our criteria, but he had a gentle demeanor.  He was 12 hands tall, which is big enough for most small adults to ride over a relatively short distance.  They must have bought him from an auction because he still had glue on his back from the auction tag.  One of the seller's children got on the donkey and rode him.  He was very quiet and gentle.  I put our son up on him and knew that we had found our donkey.  I agreed to buy him.  As they loaded him in our trailer, I kept thinking about that foal in trouble.  He was so weak and not at all interested in his surroundings.  He didn't put up a fight when the seller picked him up.  He wasn't going to make it much longer.  I had the cash.  Would I be buying heartbreak and a big vet bill?  Maybe, but I followed my heart.  We had the room and I felt willing to help him.  Summer break had just begun, so we had the time.  I was out of excuses.  The seller picked him up and placed him in the tack room.  He laid down and rode that way all the way home.  I reported the sellers to their local Animal Control agency early the following week.

I texted my husband and told him what I had found.  He teased me gently about leaving with the trailer to get one jenny and somehow coming home with two jacks.  Did I have trouble telling their sex, or was it a counting issue?  Regardless, he liked the big donkey immediately.  With a twinkle in his eye, he marveled at how I had managed to find the most pathetic, needy, baby donkey in the entire region.

They were immediately quarantined on our farm, from our animals, and from each other.  The big one, who was certainly capable of wooing our mares, was placed in the round pen with two fences between him and our horses.  The baby was put in a stall in the barn.  Our family thought up names that evening and finally agreed upon Tobit (Toby) for the baby and Xavier for the big jack.

After making sure Xavier was comfortable, we checked on the baby again.  Tobit was in a nice clean stall with deep shavings, fresh water and a choice of fresh grass hay or alfalfa.  I put some pellets in a bucket for him to try as well.  I did try goat milk replacer, despite the seller's insistence that he was weaned, just in case.  I had no luck, but he did nibble at the alfalfa hay.  He was frighteningly thin and weak.  If I pushed on his back very gently, he gave way.  Tobit was dewormed right away, with a mild dewormer.  He was so weak that he would only take a few steps at a time.  I saw a little poop the next day and he was definitely peeing, but he was still spending a lot of time laying down.  When I was satisfied that he was at least eating and drinking, we left him to settle in.  Both donkeys called to each other during that first night.  It was Wednesday night, June 3rd, and the vet couldn't come out until Friday afternoon.  I was worried about the baby donkey.

In this picture, taken that first night, he looks more like a deer fawn than a baby equine.  Xavier, meanwhile, is at a healthy weight.

I had a right to be worried.  Toby was very sick.  His reactions were very slow.  It was like a failure to thrive.  I noticed he did not poop much at all and I feared he was only eating when we were with him.  We spent as much time as we could with him until the vet came on Friday afternoon.  We hoped he would be cleared to have a companion.  We had a four month old baby goat named Nancy, who really wanted a friend in her paddock with her.  If Toby couldn't be in with one of our mares, I hoped he could at least have a goat companion.  Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with lice.  We assumed Xavier had it as well and both were doused with premethrin.  The lice were species specific, so Nancy the goat could not get them from Toby (nor could we get them).  Both donkeys would need to stay away from the horses and ponies for the next month and we would need to be sure they were clear of lice after three treatments.  The vet gave Toby a body score of 2.5 on a scale where 6-7 is normal.  He gave him a vitamin B-12 shot to stimulate his appetite and the vet drew blood.  Toby was 7 hands 3 inches and weighed about 35 lbs.  He should have weighed about 60 lbs.

Nancy did wonders for Toby.  He started eating and kept eating.  His bloodwork came back the next day and showed that his liver enzymes were very high.  That explained the stupor he was in.  His poor overtaxed liver was trying to process his food and heal at the same time.  The vet suspected he was weaned several weeks before and had no mother to show him what was safe to eat.  He was likely fighting toxins from plants he ingested on the wooded area where the seller had kept his donkeys.  He ate whatever he could because he was starving.  The other possibility was liver damage from internal parasites.  We would know more in two weeks when we repeated his bloodwork.  There was nothing to be done except supportive care.  Either his liver would heal, or he would die.  He pooped somewhat normally on Saturday and even better on Sunday.  His stupor was so severe on Sunday, however, that I called the vet for reassurance that he did not need to be hospitalized.  The vet explained that the stupor was caused by the increase in his intake and should get better as his liver heals and he gets more energy from his diet.  He was walking a little more, but babies should run and play.  Nancy tried very hard to play with him.  By comparison, she was an entirely normal four month old herbivore.

In the meantime, Xavier passed his physical exam nicely that Friday, with the exception of the lice.  Since he had no vaccination history, he received all his shots.  He was castrated on Friday and we gave him pain control and an anti-inflammatory through the weekend.

Tobit was the 'extra donkey' and I felt funny about his vet bill.  We had the money and paid the bill right away, but, ironically, a check came the same day as his vet appointment.  It was from Donkeyotee's agent and it more than covered Tobit's vet bill.  We hadn't received any checks from Donkey's video for about a year or so.  What an irony!  Donkeyotee was a rescue, too.  It was like he was paying it forward.

By Monday, June 8th, I began to notice little improvements in Toby.  He was following me around more and seemed brighter and more interested in his surroundings.  His belly looked more full.  He still wasn't walking for very long, but it was a little better every day.  He had his first halter training session because I wanted to let him graze in the yard a little.  I did a very gentle pull and release until his hooves touched the edge of the grass and then I removed the lead rope.  He couldn't get anywhere quickly.  He figured out how to eat, but it was so odd.  He clamped down on the first plant and pulled and pulled until the root came with it.  Then, he chewed on the whole plant for quite awhile.  He dropped it, eventually.  It took several more bites and pulling, before he realized he could just bite off the growing parts of the grass and move on.  It must be how he learned to graze during his ordeal.

That evening, Tobit showed me a tiny donkey attitude when I was trying to take his picture.  He kept coming toward me whenever I stopped to face him.  I finally ran a short distance away from him to get his picture.  By then, he had stopped and was pouting a bit because I wouldn't let him come up to me for scratches.

 This picture was taken Monday.  You can already see an improvement.  The first picture shows his little pout.  In the second, you can see a more full looking belly.

*Tobit did not make it, despite the best care by us, and by our vet.  Xavier, however, is thriving.*

Saturday, June 6, 2015

A Hard Loss: Donkeyotee

All types of equines are uniquely structured to process large amounts of vegetation into energy.  They do this quite well.  Unfortunately, some of those very structures that help them can hurt them.  When an equine is born, whether it's a donkey, a pony, or a horse; things can go wrong.  They can get umbilical hernias, for example.  Sometimes, even years later, the damage caused by those hernias can cause problems.  They can even cause the death of the animal.  That is most likely what happened to Donkeyotee, one tragic morning.  It was very clear that he was in pain when we went to feed him his breakfast.  Through coaxing, I was able to get him loaded in the trailer for a trip to the university vet hospital.  We thought it was a severe case of colic, but something much more complicated was going on.  It wasn't until he was in surgery that the cause was discovered.  There was a loop of intestine that slipped through an existing tear in the intestinal support structures and strangulated.  The tear was as result of adhesions in the intestinal wall. The adhesions most likely go back to the original umbilical hernia that Donkeyotee had when we rescued him.  It was fixed as soon as he was strong enough for surgery, but damage had already been done.  He was not awakened from surgery but allowed to pass peacefully.

I cannot explain what a tragic loss my family suffered when our sweet donkey died.  This was a beloved pet who loved attention and always made us smile.  My husband, our son and I, mourned together.  Donkeyotee was not only our farm mascot, but he was the one animal that all visitors remembered.  His strong personality and playful nature was also very clear to people all over the world through his viral youtube video.  He was a character.  He always seemed to find new ways to make us laugh or get our attention.  He would make silly faces at us, or throw a hanging halter around.  He would walk up to me while I was cleaning his paddock and carefully reach over to one wheelbarrow handle, bite it, and lift it, just enough, to make it tip over and spill the contents.  When he played with Phoenix, he would kneel down and nip at his chest and legs or walk by nonchalantly and then do a sneak attack and nip Phoenix's side before cantering off.  I once caught him picking up a stick in his mouth and swinging it at Phoenix's front legs.  Phoenix had weight and strength behind him, but Donkey was cunning.  Their play sessions were a lot of fun to watch.  His death left a huge hole in all our lives.

We decided, after a week of mourning, that the hole was too big and the farm was too quiet.  We decided, as a family, to seek out another pet donkey.  One that was different, but still a donkey.  We said no brown donkeys, because Donkeyotee was brown.  We like the way donkeys see the world.  Donkeys were one of the first beasts of burden.  Not flashy, like a horse, but they have been there throughout human history, making us laugh and appreciate life.