I’ve trapped Bunny and Tyrion into a small paddock near the garage by luring them with carrots. My intent is to try and get their harnesses on them so that we can restrain them and trim their hooves. I hate that I have had to resort to manipulation, but if we don’t trim their hooves, the overgrowth becomes injurious to them.
What’s odd to me is how opposed to the harness both Bunny and Tee are – Bunny more so than Tee. I don’t have enough experience with livestock, however, to know if this is something in which all equine have an objection, strong or otherwise.
At the sight and/or sound of their harnesses, the donkeys scatter away which is why I’ve had to lead them here into this small fenced in area that has a large tree in the center of it. The ground is covered in dried up leaves and packed-tight clay.
I start with Bunny. I pull her harness out of my coat and she immediately dashes towards the gate which is closed and locked. Her ears are pointed straight up and her eyes are scanning the fence for an escape route.
“It’s okay, girl,” I repeat over and over to her in as calm of a voice as I can.
She trots to the gate, then to a corner, then to another corner. Tee is standing by the tree, clearly anxious, with his ears straight up and eyes wide. I’m avoiding positioning myself behind her because one swift buck and I’m a goner.
I hold out another carrot and she stops and stares at me. She’s not looking at the carrot – she’s looking at me.
“It’s okay, girl,” I say and take a step towards her.
At this moment, I recall something that the probably 20-something year old, blonde, and surprisingly gruff farrier told me last time she was here. I remember her deep-southern twang saying: :
“You gotta watch their eyes to see their next move.”
Bunny’s eyes are fixated on mine, still, so I take one more step towards her – leaves crunching under my boot. Her brown eyes dart left, so I side step, but she pushes me out of the way and runs catty-corner across the paddock.
“Come on, girl,” I say walking back towards her, holding a carrot out. Tee snorts, shakes his head, and trots past me to join Bunny in the corner.
“Come on, Bunny,” I beg, “It’s alright.”
She lowers her head and looks right at me once more. I squat down and plead with her, “Come on, Bunny, it’s okay girl. It’s okay.”
I’m letting the harness dangle towards the ground in my left hand, the buckles clanging like tiny cymbals, while holding out the carrot with my right. I glance at the carrot which is shaking – partially because my hands are always quite shaky, but also because I think I’m nervous.
Then I remember something else the farrier said:
“Donkeys are highly intelligent. They know if they can take advantage of you. They know your weaknesses.”
I shove the carrot back into my pocket and stand up straight.
Bunny’s eyes dart right, so I side step right. Her eyes dart left and she takes a step, so I hop left. She snorts and backs away from me as far into the corner as she can.
“Bunny,” I say with more authority, “Bunny, it’s okay.”
Tee trots to the corner directly across from where Bunny and I are scanning each others eyes.
Bunny snorts and jolts to the left. I side step in front of her. “No Bunny,” I say and raise my hands up to her face level.
She dashes to the right. “No, Bunny,” I say and block her path.
She lowers her head and snorts. I don’t know what this means. I’m suddenly aware that my heart is throbbing in my chest – with their large ears, the donkeys must be able to hear it pumping frantically.
“Bunny,” I say, taking a step towards her.
She throws her head up and I wrap my arms around the top of her neck, pulling the harness over her snout. She shakes her head from side to side, and me along with her, so I use my left arm to pull her head down against my left thigh. She tries to pull away, so I squeeze harder. “It’s okay,” I say, gritting my teeth and fumbling with the buckle behind her ears – my hands shaking. “It’s okay.”
She raises her head a bit to where the side of her face is pressed into my chest. I’m trying desperately to push the the strap through the buckle but my hands are shaking too much to aim properly.
She snorts and stomps her front hoof. I pull her in tighter to my chest and grip the harness as tightly as I can.
Suddenly, she relaxes. Her head is against my chest and I feel the muscles in her neck relax. She’s stopped fighting.
“Atta girl,” I say, releasing the grip on my arm slightly and a large exhale at the same time.
I push the strap through the buckle and secure it. As I remove my arm, she slowly raises her head and lays her ears back.
I reach into my pocket and pull a carrot out. She looks at me for a moment – right at me.
“Good girl,” I say, “good girl.”
She takes the carrot from me and I step back.
This reminds me of the times I’ve had to take Little Foot to the pediatrician to get his vaccinations. When I have to hold his arms down while the nurse shoves a needle into him, I always watch his face instead of the nurse’s hands. He usually smiles at me until he feels the prick and then as if the world is crumbling around him, his face turns red and tears well up in his eyes. He searches me for answers and comfort and all I can keep doing is holding him down while telling him that it’s okay.
Little Foot can’t understand why I’d hold him down on a cold table under bright lights so that some mean ole’ nurse can stab him with something. I want so badly for him to know that it’s for his own good.
Just like the donkeys can’t understand why I’d strap something over their heads and proceed to poke and prod at their hooves. I wish I could explain to them that it’s for their own good.
It makes me wonder what it is about my life that I lay awake at night obsessing and sometimes crying over when really, it’s something happening that could be for my own good.
For example, King Ranch still hasn’t found a new job – neither have I – and we’ve both been endlessly searching. Why are we still in this situation? Why hasn’t something worked out?
I imagine what Bunny must have been thinking when I blocked her in the corner of the paddock. Or what Little Foot must be thinking when I’m looking down at him on the pediatrician’s table.
Although I don’t know if I can subscribe to the idea that King Ranch and I are in this jobless situation “for a reason,” maybe we can make one. Maybe we can pretend that this is a good thing. Better yet, we can turn it into a good thing.
We have had a lot of time together over the past two and a half months – even if much of that time has been scanning the internet for jobs. We can still look over at each other and laugh when Little Foot makes a silly sound or laughs at his toys. We can have a cup of coffee together every morning. We can bounce ideas off of each other. We can just be together more right now.
It’s weird to think that we probably (and hopefully) won’t be in this situation again for a very long time. And in a weird way, it will almost be sad when one of us finally lands something because then our days together will once again be limited to the weekends. Although much like Little Foot and Bunny, the time apart will, at that point, be for our own good because we’ll be on our way to back on our feet again.
Sometimes the harder it is to understand, the more you have to just let go. Maybe that’s what Bunny did when she pressed her head into my chest – maybe, just maybe, she felt the beat of my heart and the warmth from my hands and knew that it would be okay.
I think of life sometimes as a Chinese finger trap – the more you tug and pull, the more tangled you become. If you just relax and breathe, then you understand how to set yourself free.
Peace doesn’t mean that it all makes sense or even feels good. Peace doesn’t equal happiness. Peace doesn’t prevent sadness. Instead, in peace there is strength. In peace there is hope – even if it’s in pieces. In peace, there is freedom.
The donkeys are out trotting around the yard now in their harnesses. I’ll be chasing them down again soon to remove the harnesses from their faces. For now, I’ll just watch them run free. They’ll be okay. They’ll be just fine.