He arrived here during the glorious spring of 2012. The wild plum trees and the hawthorns were in flower. Gilles and Laurent, father and son, two neighbours, had been helping us with the fencing poles and with Yves and his brother in law we had just finished building his shelter. Brigitte and Demian who came for lunch a few days earlier, had nailed in the first planks. Finally with Tina we had completed the sheep fences all around as Dora and Dini would be next to come and live here. It had been a full on team job.
He was only one year old but what a gait! No taller than a corn nubbin and yet looking like a little prince, head high and straight back. He stopped at the entrance of the field and the man who was with him talked gently to him, telling him this was his new home. He was motionless for a while taking everything in and everybody.
The man left and life started with Galopin. He already knew about harnesses and I left his hanging on the gate post. I was telling Geoff how much I’d love for him to pick it up whenever he wanted to go for a walk….It didn’t take long before he did just that, picked up his harness and shook it looking at us.
Soon we were walking on all the small roads from around here and soon it became clear I needed some help. For a start, one afternoon as we were getting back, he laid on the ground rolling from side to side, and back again, having great fun clearly, and no intention to get back to his field a few meters away. People in the village said Get a stick! It works!
I was horrified.
I went on line and found Melody (donkeywhisperer.com) she became my coach. Geoff filmed us while walking with Galopin together, then the short clips were sent to Melody who commented on them. Oh my God! She would say, you’re not the leader here, he is! We laughed. I was trying to look so cool as to impress her with my donkey, but she could see right through…She was telling me the ultimate test will be to be able to trust each other, walking with Galopin leadless and trust our relationship. Melody was saying donkeys enjoy a good leader but if you’re not up for the job, they’ll try to get rid of you. We worked on Skype all through the summer.
When Geoff was messing about in the garden, Galopin was in the enclosure straight above him and ready to accept any dandelion, purslane or any other unwelcomed weeds that he was dotty about. While grazing he always kept a sharp eye in Geoff’s direction and if per chance Geoff bent down to pull out something, Galopin was straight there in a tick pushing his lips above the fence begging for his present. Those two were getting along so fine.
In July we received his registered number from the French National Stud Office. He was No 52 646 211G. The vet came and vaccinated him for tetanus and equine flue but to tag him that was a different story. Because Galopin was feisty, we had him attached to the conker tree in the middle of the yard, and such that he would not worry about the needle this idiot of a vet was twisting one of his ears in the same time. That was it! Galopin broke his lead and went like a thunderbolt across the yard, through the gate and into Jean Pierre’s field. I was furious with this imbecile of a vet who left quickly. Never again this one I promised myself.
And then we met Jan ( libertedesanes.com), near Lauzerte, some 70kms West from us, who warned us of the dangers from non-castrated donkeys. She related to me some really terrifying accidents she had witnessed and I knew then that Bijou’s castration was on the cards.
Sharing his field with our little ewe Dora and her guy Dini, had not been very successful and finding a mate for Galopin became also a must.
So off to the Pyrenees we went one Saturday morning to choose between 13 years old Oscar, a sad, and sweet donkey, and Bijou, this one year old puny little thing, no arse, bowed back and laying ears, not one to win a beauty contest I thought but the one we chose as a mate for Galopin.
As Melody had advised us not to put them in the same field straight away but rather give them time to befriend each other for a while first, the day before Bijou arrived, we divided Galopin’s field in two with a fence and a gate. The fence didn’t stop them for very long: literally a couple of hours after his arrival, puny little Bijou had jumped over the fence to be with Galopin. The scenes that followed seemed quite violent to us: What we were about to witness was the taking charge by Galopin as being the dominant male as in any equine pack for the safety of the pack. Galopin spent the next two days mounting Bijou with repeated erections and even though there was no penetration, there was numerous ejaculations on Bijou’s underbelly with Bijou accepting of his mate’s domination.
A few days later another vet came to have Galopin castrated. I had given him a dose of sedative with his food a short while before taking him out of his field. What followed is a very sad story. Galopin died during his castration. His heart stopped. One of their weaknesses…or was it an overdose of anesthetic? We’ll never know. We cried for a few days for the loss of our little friend. Geoff, who used to write a monthly newsletter for his friends and family, stopped writing altogether. His heart was not in it anymore. As for Bijou, poor Bijou…he spend entire days waiting for his mate at the gate. Waiting for a mate who would never return.
We had had six months of learning and games and joys, and laughter, and naughtiness and then his time was up and he was gone…..