Saturday, April 8, 2006

A strange new friendship

It's a beautiful day outside, as long as I'm inside! The grass is turning greener, and our tom turkey is strutting around in front of the girls in all of his glory. The daffodils have just begun to bloom. Squirrels are running here and there looking for food, and we had a visit from two pairs of Canada geese this morning. It looks like the temperature is 70, not 40-something! So I've been content to stay inside, cleaning mostly. Every now and then, however, I am drawn to the window to watch the animals' antics.

Stormy, the miniature donkey, and Sovalye, the livestock guardian dog, are developing an interesting relationship. They are both the same size, and I am finding that they are making strange playmates. Donkeys traditionally hate canines, which is why they are excellent guardians -- they will kick and stomp coyotes until they're dead or run away. Sovalye is only 18 months old himself, so there is still a lot of puppy left in him. Although it doesn't happen as often any longer, he is still reprimanded for playing too rough with the goats, who have no idea he is playing! Stormy is only 10 months old and is still a young boy. I'm not sure which one I worry about more when they play, but it seems to be impossible to keep them apart since Sovalye will go through the fence to be with Stormy.

You know Sovalye is ready to play when he takes the typical chest-on-the-ground pose of a dog who wants to play, then he'll jump at Stormy or even jump on him or over him. Stormy appears no worse for wear. Then Stormy rears up and jumps on Sovalye. I see Sovalye mouthing Stormy with his giant jaws on Stormy's neck, and then Stormy spins around and grabs a mouthful of Sovalye's skin. I've never heard either of them yelp in pain or stumble or appear to be hurt in any way. Yesterday, at one point, I thought they were getting too rough, so I sent Katherine out there to remove Sovalye from Stormy's pasture again. When she had Sovalye by the gate, Stormy came running up and turned his back end towards her and kicked up his heels, which is what he does when he's angry or feels threatened. Obviously, he did not want Sovalye to leave!

This morning as I was watching them play, I thought about getting on-line and posting a question on my donkey group about whether it was okay to let them play like this -- and then I stopped myself. I'm sure I'd get some very insistent opinions on all sides of the issue. There have probably been dogs and donkeys who've been best friends for life, while there have been others who killed each other. This dog and this donkey are unique, so I need to look at them and this particular situation. When a donkey is really angry, he kicks up his hind legs, and he's never done that towards Sovalye. On the other hand, Sovalye has killed raccoons and chased off coyotes, so he could hurt the donkey if he saw him as a threat.

Before they started playing with each other, Stormy would throw buckets around the pasture and chase the sheep. Sovalye would try to play with the goats, scaring them and causing them to run around the pasture. When I watch them together and ask myself what I see, I see that these two young animals really wanted a playmate, and they've found that in each other.

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