Lulu was the only Donkey I have owned. She was one of my patients in a petting zoo, which was part of the facilities at a children’s summer camp in the mountains not far from my home.
The petting zoo included miniature horses, pot-bellied pigs, lambs, goats, ducks and Lulu.
Lulu was a full sized burro. The camp adopted her as a foal for the children to enjoy, but when she was two years of age the camp director told me that she had grown “too big” for the petting zoo and that he wanted to donate her to somebody who would provide her with a good home.
I had been thinking for some time of getting a donkey to control the weed growth in our highly inflammable canyon, especially outside my fence lines on our neighbors’ ranch properties. So, I said, “I’ll be glad to take her. She can be good company for my horses.”
That’s how I came to own Lulu, and she came to educate me, to understand the donkey mind and how it differs from the horse’s mind, and, importantly, she helped me to understand and appreciate the hybrid mule.
For example, as soon as I got her home I got a long rope, attached it to her halter, and tied her to an oak tree. She immediately started grazing the tall spring grass around the oak. I stood by with a sharp knife, ready to help her if she became entangled. I knew that, although halter broke, she had never before been staked out on a long tie rope.
It took about 15 minutes before she stepped into a loop of the rope. Then after another 5 or 10 minutes, the rope encircled another leg. As she moved out away from the tree the slack came out of the rope and tightened around her legs. Soon it disabled her. She went down. A horse, two years of age and never having been staked out, would have struggled and probably suffered rope burns or worse.
Lulu, however, quietly sniffed and examined the ropes encircling her legs, gently tried to free them by moving them, and then gave up. She sighed, laid her head on the ground, sighed again and then just relaxed.
Her behavior was so different than that of a horse experiencing a new and incapacitating situation that I marveled at the good judgment this species was capable of.
A few years later, when I became a mule owner, breeder, trainer, and admirer, this experience with Lulu, and several others led to my attitude towards mules; I often say, “I love horses! I respect mules!”
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