From time to time, I’ll run across articles that feature different species of animals who have become unassuming best friends. I seem to recall once reading about a chimp and a duck being inseparable. There was also a tortoise and a hippo who latched onto one another. Here at the ranch, we have our very own surprising duo that only within the past few weeks has emerged: Tyrion the mini donkey and our almost one-year-old, Little Foot.
It started when Little Foot was ready to walk away from the safety of our house’s carpet and tile to the more technical terrain of the pasture. King Ranch and I put the most adorable black and red baby cowboy boots on his confident feet, carried him out to the middle of the property, and set him down.
He stood there for a moment with a curious grin on his face and stomped a few times while saying, “dat-un.” King Ranch and I stood on either side of him taking turns saying things like, “it’s okay,”and “you got it!”
With a flail of his arms, Little Foot was off. He glided over the grass like he’d been doing this walking thing his whole life. We followed him around and around the property watching him stop every few steps to poke at pecans or pick up small sticks.
While this was going on, Bunny and Tee stayed exactly 10 paces behind us. Every time Little Foot would bee-line in a different direction, they would too – their ears straight up and eyes wide. It seemed as if they were as blown away, confused by, and impressed with his walking skills as we were several weeks ago.
A few times, Little Foot U-turned and headed straight for them to which they responded by scattering away and repositioning at their safe 10-paces behind him. King Ranch and I were so tickled by this.
The next day, we repeated the process: boots, carry, freeze and stomp – only this time, Tyrion followed Little Foot a bit more closely. Little Foot, too, was more interested in Tee. He would stop every few steps, turn around, and reach his hand for Tee’s snout. To our surprise, Tee never really flinched away.
On the third day, after boot, carry and stomp, Little Foot quickly waddled right up to Tee and placed his hand on his snout. Tee snorted, nudged his arm, and as if they’d planned it, they both walked off together.
Have you ever seen Disney’s ‘The Fox and the Hound?’ Do you remember when Big Mama sings the song: “when you’re the best of friends…having so much fun together…you’re not even aware, you’re such a funny pair…?” This song has been on repeat in my mind since that day.
Now, everytime we go out into the pasture, Tee stops what he’s doing and ignores eveyone except Little Foot. If we’re outside and Little Foot starts to cry about whatever baby-thing is making him upset, Tee drops his ears back and nudges Little Foot’s back. Even when Little Foot bashes Tee in the face, Tee only responds with tender nudges. It’s like he enjoys any contact – bash or otherwise.
Little Foot looks for Tee, too. When we unlock the gate that leads into the pasture, Little Foot grins and starts kicking his legs. When he sees Tee, he does this unique laugh that we only seldom hear that sounds more like a dolphin croak than a giggle.
This friendship is one that my heart is having a hard time handling. I’ve spoken before about how I’m having a difficult time identifying as a mom when I still seem to have only questions instead of any answers. I’ve spoken about how the love that I have for Little Foot is so overwhelming that I sometimes feel lightheaded. I’ve spoken about how donkeys have become the most surprising and beautiful creatures I’ve ever encountered.
To then take that a step further and see our mini-donkey become enamored with and protective of our infant, while Little Foot is starting to see Tee as some sort of idol to look up to is like two darling universes colliding in an explosion of rainbow sprinkles, puppy piles, and baby socks. It’s just – it’s just so darn CUTE.
This friendship has become a sign, I believe, as well. It’s a sign that 1) we are absolutely meant to be in this place right now and 2) that everything will be okay. There’s a lot of really scary and upsetting things that happen all over the world every day. There are tragedies. There are losses. There is fear. There is hate.
But here and now? There’s a boy and his mini-donkey. And very closely behind them, usually with cameras ready and tears in their eyes, are two parents who have become complete and utter softies that crumble underneath the sweetness that is this unassuming pair.
How lucky we are that our world has slowed down enough to be able to witness the blossoming of what I can only hope is a very long, beautiful, fruitful, and squee-worthy friendship.
Little Foot and Tyrion the donkey: BFF.