Eat, Bray, Love

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Keeping Jo-Jo

The donkeys were different. Jo-Jo, whom we'd acquired to babysit the horse, was a family pet. White and petite, with dainty hooves, she was more a big dog than a small donkey. She stood patiently as my 8-year-old brushed her and shuddered ecstatically when her ears were scratched. One Halloween we dressed her as a ballerina, in a tiara and a pink tutu, and she won first place in the costume contest at the garden center.

I had already lost too much; I couldn't part with Jo-Jo. So I rationalized: Donkeys don't eat as much as horses, and they don't need shoes. I could make this work. But that meant I couldn't get rid of Foggy, the shaggy brown donkey I'd gotten for free after my husband left. When Jo-Jo and Foggy met they sniffed each other and brayed enthusiastically. Donkey love -- it's a beautiful thing. I couldn't keep my own marriage intact but I would keep the two of them together.

For months I ignored my checkbook's howling that a single mother shouldn't also be feeding two 400-pound donkeys. But it wasn't just the expense. It was the workload. I was already running on fumes caring for my children and the grueling work of mucking stalls, composting manure, and hauling hay pushed me to exhaustion.

So, finally, after much angst, I decided to give them away. The children were heartbroken anew. The 8-year-old sobbed when I told her. Then she made signs that read SAVE THE DONKEYS! and taped them all over the house. My 17-year-old son, a big, tough linebacker, wrote an essay for his English class, saying how our barn, once "the liveliest place I knew," would soon become "the most dead."

Surely this was the right choice. The bills said so, if not my heart. The donkeys went to a 24-acre farm an hour away. Their new owner, Nancy, would train them for parties where they'd wear zany hats and get lots of attention. I almost, but not quite, convinced the children we had done the right thing. I almost, but not quite, convinced myself.

Continued on page 3:  Life Without Donkeys


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