Saturday, November 5, 2016
What Does it Take to Own a Donkey?
Those of us who own and love donkeys, nay, perhaps obsess over donkeys often fall into thinking that EVERYONE should own a donkey! However, I am constantly reminded that no matter how much we think of these wonderful animals, not many people are truly set up or properly equipped to own one. I see it on a daily basis almost. So, let's chat about it.
What sort of things must one be able to do/possess in order to care for donkeys appropriately? I know we have chatted before about physical objects like good fencing, clean water, appropriate low energy feed, housing etc. But what sorts of people do best owning donkeys? What attributes are important in a human caretaker of donkeys?
1. A sense of humor. I can't stress this enough. The ability to laugh at yourself and at your animal's antics is super important. Those of us who work with donkeys daily know that without the unique viewpoint that no matter what we think of ourselves as trainers or caretakers, that the donkeys will always find a way to befuddle, outsmart, and stymie our best tries.....we would be frustrated indeed. People who anger easily and are impatient should probably not own animals in general, but certainly not a donkey!
2. Respect for the animal. Donkeys are abused worldwide, in higher numbers and to a larger degree than any other domestic animal ON EARTH. Let that sink in a bit. Those of us who work in rescue totally understand this concept, and have heard it all: snide remarks about asses from every conceivable angle. Then, you get the cowboys who like to shock you in automotive stores by saying they pushed a donkey off of a cliff last week because you made a previous comment about how donkeys are naturally protective of themselves and won't go near cliffs. Yes, they dragged the donkey off with a rope and told us about it, after killing it. If you think that donkeys are an object to be laughed at, you certainly shouldn't own one. A little light humor can do a world of good (notice point number 1), but if you can't help but denigrate the species in order to get attention, then they aren't for you. The most abused animal in the world needs more allies, not people spreading misinformation about how "dumb", "stubborn", or "useless" donkeys are. Nothing could be further from the truth!
3. A sense of patience. A DEEP sense of patience. Donkeys are deep thinkers and also can sense of a motive from a mile away. Training-wise, this means that you need to approach objectives with the least amount of urgency possible. Once the donkey understands a concept, then it can be expected to be completed at a faster pace. If you don't have a lot of time to be still, to observe, to notice, and to reflect with your donkey, then a horse is a better fit for you. Donkeys are incredibly stoic, and really spending the time to know when your donkey is feeling good or bad can be vital to their health or life in a medical emergency. Many times, by the time a donkey is showing signs of poor health, it is too late. Spend time with your donkey, become friends. Know what is normal behavior for them.
4. An open minded willingness to learn. Those of us who truly love the world of equines also have a lifelong appreciation of learning. No one is ever the "best" horseman out there, just as no one is ever the "best" donkey trainer or caregiver. We can all always improve, and should be actively seeking as much information and ideas as possible in order to make our donkeys' lives better and hone our skills every time we work with our donkeys. The best praise you can get is when your donkey responds how you wish, willingly.
5. Good work ethic. If you don't have the time constantly to muck, to feed at appropriate intervals, to keep water tanks clean and full, to repair fence, to pick out hooves, to groom, to be there for the vet or make appointments regularly with the farrier, then you probably would do better with a goldfish than a donkey. Donkeys require daily care and attention---period. There's no day off. If you want to have days off from caring for your animals, you will need to find a good donkey sitter.
6. Caring. All of these attributes come down to a single word. To CARE. They cannot come second to your social life, your work, or even your health! They must be cared for just like a child---they come first. If you cannot properly care for your donkey, and you care about their well being, consider finding them an acceptable and safe home. Many rescues can help place donkeys into caring homes, even foster homes until an owner can get back on their feet health wise or financially. Be responsible for these wonderful beings who rely on you to care for them. Always.
Like all of my articles, this one is not meant to shame anyone. It is meant to be a mental checklist for those interested in the responsibility of taking on some of these wonderful animals. They are amazing beings who deserve to be treated with care, respect, patience, humor, and open mindedness. They deserved to be well looked after.