An­i­mal Tales

This res­cued don­key was afraid of strangers –un­til he met my grand­son.


A sweet boy teaches a skit­tish don­key to trust again.

My ranch in the Bit­ter­root Val­ley is home to an as­sort­ment of farm an­i­mals. At present, there are three horses, two dogs and two don­keys.

In 2009, I res­cued one of those don­keys, Bo. De­spite a suc­cess­ful re­hab, he re­mained skit­tish around strangers un­less I es­corted them. But the walls came down when Bo met my grand­son, Dy­lan.

Just shy of 4 years old, Dy­lan came with his mom and dad, Stacy and Aaron, to spend the Fourth of July with me in 2015. They were on their way to Canada for a va­ca­tion.

While keep­ing his dis­tance from other fam­ily mem­bers, Bo dis­played an un­usual fas­ci­na­tion with Dy­lan. Per­haps he had never seen such a tiny per­son close up. We de­cided to in­tro­duce them.

As Dy­lan’s par­ents stood nearby, I led the way, telling Dy­lan, “move slowly, keep your arms down, be quiet and stoop down some­times.” He cau­tiously ap­proached Bo, hold­ing a soft rub­ber cur­rycomb.

Step by step Dy­lan moved closer, and Bo held his ground. He seemed in­trigued by this lit­tle vis­i­tor. Dy­lan softly rubbed Bo’s shoul­ders and neck, re­mov­ing some rem­nants of a thick win­ter coat.

It’s hard for a 4-year-old to stay still for long, and im­pulse over­came re­straint. Dy­lan made one quick move, send­ing Bo scam­per­ing off.

Not an aus­pi­cious start, but Bo and Dy­lan were not ready to give up. To wit­ness a preschooler learn to con­trol him­self in such a short time was amaz­ing. He ap­proached Bo again and be­gan cur­ry­ing.

Dy­lan’s par­ents and I watched as true love de­vel­oped be­tween this once-un­trust­ful don­key and gen­tle boy. There was no fear or thought that Bo would be hurt in any way.

Over the next few days, Bo let Dy­lan throw his arms around his neck, pet his legs, hold his head in his hands and even pat his cheeks. And Dy­lan felt free to sit at Bo’s feet while Bo care­fully nib­bled his shirt col­lar and hair and rubbed Dy­lan’s back with his bristly chin.

Just as Dy­lan was calm, earn­ing Bo’s trust, Bo showed in­cred­i­ble re­straint in all his move­ments with Dy­lan. He hugged Dy­lan (yes, a don­key can hug) with­out knock­ing him off bal­ance.

They met again one week later as the fam­ily passed through on their re­turn trip. It was al­most dark, but Dy­lan and his dad trekked to the far reaches of the pas­ture. Bo came en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to meet them.

Since this en­counter, Bo has been a changed don­key, trust­ing peo­ple un­less they make quick moves. Bo’s far­rier says she can’t be­lieve it and that Dy­lan is a mir­a­cle worker.

Bo’s skit­tish na­ture van­ished when he bonded with his young friend, Dy­lan.

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