Does anyone remember that Randy Newman song from the 70’s “Short People”? Having stood, much to my embarrassment, at an altitude several inches higher than most of my classmates in school, I never quite “got” the lyrics – they seemed, well, gratuitously cruel. I never had anything against smaller people – in fact, I thought that being short (or at least short-er) would be distinctly advantageous, and spent most of high school hunched over and wishing I were petite. Since those gawky tall girl years, I’ve found great delight in travelling to places like the Netherlands where the majority of the population out-heights me. Maybe it has to do with fitting in, or just fitting, and being with other lanky, long-limbed people was comforting. We really don’t have any control over things like the size of our feet, or the country we were born in, or how many inches our head will hover over the earth. It’s not easy.
The beautiful thing about living with animals is that size, though convenient at times, really doesn’t matter all that much. Attitude is all (although admittedly, having large protuding sharp horns can help). When I first moved to the farm and had 2 small lambs and insufficient fencing, I worried a great deal about their safety. Research and conversations with farmers showed that a donkey might be able to protect my little ones; donkeys (and mules) work as hired help on farms all over the world, chasing off dogs, coyotes, wolves, bobcats, and even larger predators. Days End Farm Horse Rescue happened to have at this time a sad, elderly little donkey — a miniature Sicilian, who had been seized in a neglect case. I went to see her but not only did she appear to have no discernable personality, she was, well, short. The adoption coordinator was convinced that my farm would be the best place for this little Jennet (female donkey), so with more than few misgivings I did the paperwork and one day in May of 2002 Dee Dee Donkey came home.
Depression will give a false reading, and upon her arrival here little Dee Dee was severely depressed and continued to be so for about a month (we’re not sure if it had anything to do with having to share quarters with Mr. Newman Goat). But after Miss Lucy, an elderly, broken-down but beautiful Palomino mare, moved in, Dee Dee found herself and joyfully took on the role of Miss Lucy’s lady-in-waiting. She blossomed.
Scratch the comment about having no personality; Dee Dee may be diminuitive, but she is a pistol, and she never ceases to surprise. One day a volunteer was sitting on the ground pulling weeds. Dee Dee walked up to him, showed him her backside, and sat, plop, right in his lap.
In addition to being melt-in-your-mouth cute, Dee Dee makes herself very useful, serving as the local foghorn alert system. For example, very early one morning last fall I heard Dee Dee sounding off with a particularly hysterical bray. Instantly awake (and barefoot and clad in pajamas), I rushed outside to find Spenser (horned sheep, weighing in at approximately 250 lbs) ramming, repeatedly, the bejesus out of Mr. Newman Goat, who had gotten his horns caught in a wire. She’s similarly alerted me when animals have managed to escape through an improperly closed gate into the woods.
Dee Dee is very sensitive to anything that seems amiss; unfortunately, when it is hoof-trimming time, and I have turned a sheep on its back, she invariably comes very close to me, takes several deep breaths, opens her jaws wide and lets out the college yell so close to my ear it reminds me of the time I played a joke on my grandmother … I pretended to want to whisper in her ear and then shouted, causing her to nearly fall off her chair. Yes, what goes around, comes around.
What is most endearing about her is her love for children. Dee Dee, close to the ground in every way, can spot a little person a pasture away. She will walk calmly and deliberately up to the child, and then stand there, leaning just every so slightly towards the child’s body. I have seen her remaining absolutely still for a full half hour while children love her, brush her, kiss her, talk to her.
But every being on this earth has many sides to her…. I may have mentioned previously that the theme at the farm this spring is “let’s all visit the neighbors”. Accordingly, one afternoon Dee Dee slipped out the front gate as I was pulling the truck in. Without hesitation, she took off up the hill at a pace I can only describe as a hip-hop-gallop. If you have never seen a donkey gallop, you have truly missed a great deal. Bear in mind that Dee Dee’s leg’s are probably only 40 inches tall or so, but her
belly’s width far exceeds that. And donkeys do not do a straight out “I mean business” horse run; there is this sort of Ginger Rogers side and back twinkle-toes movement every 5 steps or so. Now, I’ve seen Dee Dee do a straight kick-back, accompanied by a high pitched grunt, when an animal such as Tetsuro the pig or Newman Goat (yes, really, she has kicked Newman!) has
annoyed her. I’ve also seen her charge, head down and ears back, full steam ahead, and tumble a hapless stray dog who got into the farm’s perimeter.
But never before that day had I seen such pure little girl, running-and-dancing-through-the-meadow glee in this thirty-plus year old donkey who used to be so depressed she would walk the fenceline for hours at a time.
Of course my misgivings at bringing this short person to Star Gazing Farm are long gone; I expect that hers are, too.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats