I’d been shoveling on and off all day, it was time to feed the donkeys and sheep and I was beat. I just wanted to get back into the house, sit by the fire with a cup of tea and read.
So when I opened the gate with my arms full of hay and both Fanny and Lulu grabbed a mouthful of it knocking all the hay out of my arms, I was beyond annoyed.
“Bad donkey, ” I yelled at both of them, as I do to Fate when I catch her stealing a cookie off the kitchen counter.
I was pissed. I snatched the hay away from the sheep who had gathered around it and were eating it off the ground and dumped it in the feeders. When Fanny walked by me I took a handful of hay and threw it. She didn’t notice when it landed on her back but did pay some attention to my scolding words.
I don’t remember exactly what I said, something like “Don’t you knock the hay out of my hands I’m so mad at you donkeys you’re both bad donkeys.” Then I stormed out of the barnyard as they ate their dinner.
I stayed angry for a long time after that.
As I was telling Jon what happened, I realized that I’d never been mad at the donkeys before. I get annoyed with them sometimes when they want me to scratch them and nudge me too hard with their nose, but it doesn’t last.
The next morning I was still a little mad but I knew I’d have to make peace with the donkeys. I’ve seen them hold a grudge.
It took Lulu years to let Jon get close to her again after he sent her and Fanny to a farm in Vermont for a winter. He was going through a lot of changes and decided to get rid of all his animals. He changed his mind and took them both back the next summer. Fanny forgave him right away, but not Lulu.
So when I went to feed them breakfast, I gave both donkeys a treat at the gate which they easily took. But when I walked into the barnyard they turned their backs on me and walked away. Even when I brought in hay (they didn’t grab at it or knock it out of my hands) and fluffed it up in one of the feeders, they moved to another one.
It was when I was on my way back from a walk in the woods that we made our peace.
All the sheep and both donkeys had made a path through the snow into the back pasture and were eating the bark and branches from a bush. Fanny and Lulu were standing side by side and I walked between them. Fanny kept eating but Lulu turned and walked away.
So I scratched Fanny’s butt, her favorite place to be scratched. And she let me.
I thought after a while Lulu would come over to us. But she didn’t. So I went to her and just stood next to her for a bit. But when I tried to scratch her back, she walked away. We did this for a while. Me trying to scratch her back or neck and her walking away. But each time she stayed a little longer.
By now Fanny was looking for more attention and I decided it was time to let Lulu come to me.
While I was scratching Fanny in those places that are hard for her to reach, like under her chin and neck, I felt a donkey nose nudging me. I lowered my head to Fanny’s neck and gave her a kiss. Then I turned to Lulu and without a word started scratching her back. Then I worked my way up to her neck and chin.
By now the sheep were headed back to the barn and I felt all was forgiven between me and Fanny and Lulu. “Okay,” I said out loud, “let’s go.” I followed the animal’s trail through the snow back to the barn and Lulu and Fanny followed me.
In the past I would have felt bad about getting angry with the donkeys. I would have blamed myself for getting mad at them.
But I didn’t see it that way anymore. I thought of it more like an argument. In any relationship, good or bad, there will be times people don’t get along. So why wouldn’t it be the same with the animals we live with.
For most of my life arguments frightened me. I’d try to avoid them often not expressing what I was really feeling just to “make things better” again. But I’ve learned in my relationship with Jon that when I trust the other person, I don’t have to be afraid of getting angry and even arguing. It’s all part of being human and it’s very natural for people who spend so much time together to get annoyed and angry with each other.
Knowing that and being with someone who also feels the same makes my anger less scary, just a part of life.
So instead of blaming myself for not being patient and understanding that the animals too get restless when the weather is bad, I let myself be angry. Then, when I let go of it, I went to the donkeys and made up with them.
That seemed to work just fine.