Writing about, er, donkeys! Bravo, Benjy


A short and totally true story of how we can learn so much about relationships from children and animals…

freeimage-1844359-webAt the farm where I kept my horse, there were two donkeys. One of them, Benjy, was very fearful of humans – with some justification, as he was a victim of cruelty and mistreatment before the farmer rescued him from his former home.

Even when I walked into the field brandishing carrots in my hand, Benjy wouldn’t approach. Although the other donkey trotted up to me expectantly, Benjy would hang back well out of range, longing to come forward but held back by his fear of what might happen next. If he was approached by someone he didn’t know, he became defensive and would bite or kick rather than let himself be caught.

One afternoon I was walking around in the field, doing a few jobs, checking the horse. My (then) 8-year-old son was with me, messing about as children do, kicking at tufts of grass and enjoying the early spring sunshine. I should have warned him to stay out of Benjy’s way. Donkeys have strong jaws and hard hooves. But I forgot. Oh well, I justified to myself, he’s a sensible lad and will stay clear.

Having become absorbed in adjusting the horse’s rug, I lost sight of my son for a few minutes. Then I looked round and still couldn’t see him.

I walked a few strides away from the horse, and to my horror, saw my son standing next to Benjy, one arm casually placed around the donkey’s neck. Both child and animal were peering absent-mindedly at the grass, sharing a daydream.

With a mother’s instinct I was about to scream at my son to get away, but something stopped me. Instead I called out, “you OK?”

Boy and donkey slowly lifted their gaze in my direction. My son was smiling, totally relaxed, not the slightest hint of fear or nervousness on his face. Benjy pricked his ears, swished his tail slowly, then lowered his head and gently nuzzled my son’s leg.

“What’s the problem, Mum?” asked my son.

“No problem,” I said. And suddenly I knew why there wasn’t one.

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