Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Yes, she is furry brown and cute and has huge dark eyes and ears. When we walk in the mornings down the Camino, Lola the Donkey is a pilgrim magnet... her photo is part of holiday albums from Italy to Japan. She is SO appealing.
As of today, a little more than a week after her arrival, Lola the Donkey is turning out to be a bull-headed, mulish bad-ass... which is to say, a burden. She came to me in a dream the other night as a dark, heavy cloud. (the same dream featured a hen nesting in our refrigerator, so I don´t take it too seriously!)
Lola makes the most extraordinary noises. No friendly storybook “heehaw.” We´re talking the sound of heavy furniture scraped across a wooden floor, or perhaps the fog horn on a fishing trawler. She makes copious amounts of fine fertilizer for the garden. Matter of fact, the area we´d intended for a garden in the spring, which I spent hours bashing at with a hoe a few weeks ago, is now beautifully stirred into deep black mud by Lola´s sharp hooves. I wonder where we will put the garden now.
The dogs want to be her friend, but Lola doesn´t like how suddenly they move.
She doesn´t like how suddenly the wind moves, even, round the walls of the house. When I walk her ´round a corner she rolls her eyes and pitches up her head, afraid. When I tell her ´no,´ I get the same reaction. Drama. We got ourselves a drama queen, a diva, maybe a spaz. I never had any patience for drama queens, victims, fashionistas, high-strung fluttery hothouse flowers... folks with huge dark eyes, brown and cute and so appealing, but oh so nervous and delicate!
Nicolas, my dearly beloved godson, is here for a week, visiting from his home high above Boulevard Clichy in Paris. He is three years old. He´s never been around any kind of critter. He moves fast and suddenly and very loud... an antithesis for Lola and many other high-strung animals. He is enchanted by all the friendly farm animals he´d only seen before in books or videos, even if they don´t want him riding on their backs or tugging at their lead ropes... or feeling the straw underneath their feathers for eggs. Since Saturday Nicolas has cut a swath through Moratinos, visiting all the neighbors, patting or chasing or clucking at every cat, dog, duck, chick, turkey, pheasant, hog, pup, or parrot in the place. They are animals, and nothing more – simple and easy and honest.
But Lola, Moratinos´ only donkey, is a different creature from all the rest. Nicolas fell for Lola´s good looks, though, and perhaps her honking singing voice.
And so here is the Drama du Jour: (note the French influence)
Monday morning off we went for our morning walk with the whole fam damily, right through town and down to the Mushroom Field: Paddy with Una and Tim Dogs, me with Donkey Lola in hand, and Jeanne (my best old friend, back to 1993) and three-year-old Nicolas, Jeanne´s boy and my godson. This is their first visit to The Peaceable.
And as we all gambol around in the field, Una takes hold of the end of the donkey´s lead rope. It´s a good 6 feet long, no big deal. She´s done this before. But Una is an Actors Studio kind of dog, and when she takes hold of a rope, she growls and tugs and carries on like it´s a rattlesnake. I laughed, I looked at Patrick and we shook our heads at her silliness. Lola was in a field of tender, fresh greenery. She didn´t care about a silly dog, not so long as I was there holding the length of rope that separated her from the Drama Dog.
But I handed my hank of rope over to Paddy, and for some reason walked a few yards away. Una, (always my dog), dropped the rope and followed me. And that´s when (I think) little Nicolas decided to pick up the dropped end of the rope. (he´d “helped” me lead the donkey a few times in the past couple of days, with me safely between him and Lola...see the pic.)
Una saw that Nicolas had taken her spot at the lead rope, and went back to re-stake her claim.
Time slowed down. Nicolas let go of the rope, and staggered backward, right into the donkey´s front legs. Una grabbed tugged at the rope, smiling her doggy smile. And Nicolas, off balance, suddenly sat down, hard, on the ground. Una moved in to lick his face.
The donkey panicked. Her front feet were suddenly up and off the ground and over the little boy´s head, striking out at Una dog. I saw nothing then but Lola´s right front hoof. I thought I saw it hit Nicolas across the face. I thought the left hoof had struck Una in the ribs. I saw Jeanne´s body appear between the donkey and her boy. Paddy stepped in. I saw them all safe somehow.
And the next thing I saw, or felt, was my shoulder striking against Lola, and my hands on her halter, and her turning and wheeling with me and away from the dog and the child and Patrick, steps away, rearing and shouting. And I´m not too proud to say I punched her in the face. I bruised my fingers like a bar-brawler, and then I dissolved into tears like a little girl.
This was, and is, one of the most horrific things I have ever seen in my life: an animal supposedly in my care and control, doing grave harm to a helpless child, a boy born of my own heart.
At the end of it all Nicolas, who had backed into grave peril, didn´t see what was going on. He has no idea what happened. No one was hurt. Both Nicolas and Una somehow dodged the flying hooves, which were probably wielded more for warning than for harm´s sake. We shook in our boots. We thanked our Very Effective Guardian Angels. We went home for a cup of strong tea.
Still, we have put Lola on waivers. She is obviously not the docile bomb-proof donk we were led to believe she is. A kind French friend, who´s traveled the Caminos with a donkey named Dalie, is holding my hand through this crisis... it´s not Lola´s fault, she says. We´re asking an awful lot from a donkey we´ve had for only a week. And if Lola had wanted to kick the kid or the dog, she would have done serious damage.
She is probably right.
...but I love Nicolas, and Una, so much more than I love any donkey, no matter how cute or pilgrim-friendly camera-ready it might be. So the next few days we must decide if Lola is, or is not, the donkey we´ve waited for. We´re leaving her pretty much in peace, to settle in and settle down.
Meantime, let us all hope we get the upstairs heating system working around here, or donkeys and dogs will be the least of our concerns! We are all off tonight to the Hotel Posh in Sahagun, where we´ve rented a room and will spend the hours imbibing Tinto de Toro and watching the election returns unfold. We hope to celebrate, but if things go pear-shaped we will likely be suitably anesthetized for a little while.