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Having lost the Eight Years War (see last post), and with a couple of months of donkey experience behind me, I feel a sense of overwhelming self-righteousness. I am so smug I almost don’t like me. Donkeys are far harder to look after than I was led to believe. And they are about ten times more expensive. Here’s a list:

400 metres of electric fencing

A contractor to cut and clear their field of grass as a matter of urgency

More contractors to stock fence 350 metres to divide the field into two parts

Someone to build them a stable

Dividing up part of a barn so they have a ‘safe haven’ in our yard

Head collars, crops, reins, leads and all manner of leather stuff

A large library of books called ‘Know your Donkey’ and ‘How to cope with laminitis’

A massive vet’s bill for castration and after-care

Someone to come in frequently to train them (and us)

A farrier every two months because their hooves grow so fast

I won’t tell you what this lot cost, but private education for one’s children would be cheaper.

Basically it turns out you can’t just leave a pair of donkeys in a field with their testicles intact to get on with life, in spite of the fact that that’s what they’ve been doing for the last four years. Testosterone makes them aggressive (who’d have thought?); too much grass gives them a terminal disease (their natural habitat is desert); the weather here is wholly inappropriate for donkeys so they need shelter (their coats are not waterproof); Mrs B has a burning urge to add to her extensive collection of veterinary textbooks; she also likes buying leather things on-line; vets are very well paid…and so on.

Donkeys are also extremely smart. It took them five minutes to work out how to circumnavigate the electric fence. They know, even from a distance of several hundred yards, if you’re calling them into the yard for a treat or for an injection. With obvious consequences. They never defecate in their stable (unlike horses, which apparently just dump anywhere). They they know that humans almost always have carrots in their pockets.

So I am smug but poor. And the donkeys are now in donkey heaven. And Sarah is happy browsing through her library and reading out all the Latin names for illnesses that donkeys get – and which will require the endless services of the vet.

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