Posted Feb 16, 2015
Donkey Oatie was a long-eared lord. He was wise and protective, and kind, and long-suffering and waaaay smarter than any dog I've ever met. Donkeys are quite simply amazing. They feel - the appreciate sunsets and can get quite jaunty. He cost 300 euros and was my daily companion as we crossed France and Spain, making a 500 mile journey from the Dordogne, to the city of Jerez in Southern Spain.
He was a stallion, and someone had warned me that he would be able to smell a horse or another donkey that was in season from 15 miles away and then become an uncontrollable lust truck, smashing fences and quite possibly me on his journey to satisfaction. This was not at all the case. There was one time I accidentally dropped his lead and he did find a mare in heat - a divine chestnut dressage horse. Immagine the owner's face 12 months later when his prize mare delivers its long-awaited foal and the ears unfurled... But actually that was never a danger: I walked up to him quite scared of what his reaction would be. He came away like a little lamb. The only problem with his manhood, was, well, his manhood. People would come with their children, saying,
"Look, children, look at the donkey." Then there'd be a pause - they'd realise he didn't actually have five legs and bellow: "DON'T LOOK AT THE DONKEY!"
As we went along I trained him to pull a little cart. He took everything in his stride. By the time we reached Jerez he didn't even need leading, but would follow me like a dog. He was also a great guard animal - braying furiously any time anyone came up to our tent. He also had a brilliant sense of direction. Basically we went south, south, south. One day I took a wrong turn and started heading east. He took a few paces, unconvinced, and stopped. We argued. I consulted the map and then had to admit that he was right. We had a flat tyre once and he trudged through the rain, uncomplaining. I had no idea that with the tyre flat his little cart was five times heavier. He was also fantastically sociable, giving rides to kids whenever we stopped and generally revelling in any extra attention. Sometimes he did slow the pace a bit. I'd sing his favourite song faster and faster and he'd keep pace with that!
If I could have kept him, I would have done. It was a very sad day indeed when we had to say goodbye.
You could not ask for a kinder, braver or more patient animal.