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Donkeys Separate

Listen to “Donkeys Separate.” Prose.

The miniature donkeys, Chippo and Ziggy arrived as yearlings to the farm in 2012.  They were sold as a bonded pair.  Bonded in equines means fast buddies, a team that stays together while grazing, a team that grooms each other, plays together, and feels distress when separated. Normally a pair bond lasts a lifetime.

In January 2020 we discovered a sarcoid skin tumor on Ziggy’s sheath.  The tumor grew from an insect sized bite to baseball-like very quickly. We decided to treat aggressively, and we had a vet give Ziggy four chemotherapy injection treatments under anesthesia over a period of five months. During the second treatment in March, the tumor was surgically removed. Right after the surgery we noticed a change of behavior in Chippo.  He started pinning his ears and squealing at Ziggy. We had to separate them to keep Ziggy safe and to allow him time to recover from surgery.  The surgery wound healed quickly, but the relationship between Ziggy and Chippo did not return to the easy going and close friendship they once had.

We noticed an underlying irritation between the donkeys all the time, and often this tension would break out into a full-on fight. Chippo always gained the upper hand, because he is the more powerful donkey—though Ziggy had been the lead donkey before his illness.

By October problems had escalated, and Chippo was actively trying to hurt Ziggy by biting him in the neck. This resulted in open neck wounds, and it became apparent the donkeys needed to be permanently separated.

We believe the relationship between the donkeys changed because of Ziggy’s illness, and possibly because of the chemicals that were added to Ziggy’s system during chemotherapy.  Ziggy was weakened and Chippo sensed this.  Illness and weakness make prey animals more vulnerable to predation, and sometimes weaker animals are left or pushed out of the herd.  Although we don’t see any return of the cancer, and prognosis is good, it is possible Ziggy is still ill. We may never know the exact cause for this pair bond to be broken.

Several days ago, Chippo returned to the farm where he and Ziggy were born, and now Ziggy is our sole donkey. Chippo has other donkeys near him, horses, and goats—plus a home he likely remembers.  The old saying goes–donkeys never forget, and we have found this to be true in our experiences with these donkeys over the past eight years.

 Ziggy has a new friend who has come to the farm to live with him.  His name is Moses, and I will tell you more about him soon.

Chippo returns to the farm where he and Ziggy were born nine years ago.