As many of you know, Norma Jean is my 30 year-old Jenny. For most of her life, she has been a gracious, quiet, honest, peaceful and happy donkey who loved her two Shetlands, Dodger and Slick.
And as most of you know, Dodger and Slick have both passed in the last few years… much to the utter devastation of Norma Jean.
Just like a heart-crushed human, Norma turned grey almost overnight after Dodger passed. I think that although Slick was her true best friend, when Slick passed, she still had Dodger. But when Dodger passed, Norma was dying of loneliness. I’m sure of it.
Norma had spent 28 of her 30 years in the company of two particular ponies.
Now she was alone. On a ranch full of equines, Norma was still alone.
HER BROKEN HEART
After Dodger’s passing, I tried everything I could to raise Norma’s spirits. Nothing worked. Norma was almost catatonic. I mean, she would eat, but that was it. She no longer used her voice, she hardly moved and she didn’t even try to buddy up with any other equines. I even adopted two more donkeys and another pony.
It didn’t matter…
Norma was turning feeble almost overnight. She certainly wasn’t herself anymore.
I felt she was giving up.
THE MOVE BACK TO GRASS VALLEY
I hoped the move back to Grass Valley might help.
But it didn’t.
Norma continued to go downhill. There wasn’t anything medically wrong with her, but she looked terrible.
And then she choked – twice.
As most of you know, choke on an older equine is a very bad sign – often the beginning of the end.
I just couldn’t bear it.
MOVING INTO THE BARN SUITE
The barn suites were open.
And although Norma hated being in the barn and didn’t need to be in the barn, I figured she might have less opportunity to choke if I controlled everything that she ingested. And I thought maybe I could draw her out of her sadness. Maybe I could sweet talk her.
So, I made the decision to take away her freedom and move her into the barn.
Norma came into the barn, kicking and screaming. Literally… I had to drag her.
THE BARN ISN’T SO BAD…ESPECIALLY WHEN GOING BALD.
After a few weeks, Norma decided that she kinda liked her new digs. Although not outwardly happy, she didn’t try to rush the gates or bite me anymore. The food was good and constant, she got lots of extra kisses, she had her own personal fan, and she could eat in peace – no choke.
Norma was resigned, but she wasn’t happy.
In fact, she was going bald.
THE VETS AND I MADE DECISIONS TO TREAT NO MATTER…
The vets came out and no tests proved anything conclusive. Ugh.
I asked the vets what harm would it be to treat her for a few things like IR, allergies, pain since what harm could it really do for a very depressed 30 year old donkey who had choked twice.
They all agreed to try several helping medications to see if she could feel better.
Even the vets could see that Norma was fading…
Well, there is something to be said for constant attention… whether that is love and tenderness mixed with medications… whatever it is… Norma is coming back!
For the last few weeks, she has started to come alive! Norma has an opinion, likes to engage, follows me around and has taken to strolls around the ranch!
In fact, I’ve come to trust her to come and go as she pleases. I leave the barn gate open. Her normal path has her visit all of the other horses from a safe distance, nibble wherever she can and rub on her favorite trees.
AND SHE BRAYS AGAIN!
I never thought I would miss a bray… but I have missed Norma’s bray. The silence only added to my fear that she was leaving us.
But today, our girl brayed and ran to the barn when she saw me. She demanded food, brushing and fly spray.
Thank you, donkgods.
I know that she is an elderly donkey. I know that her life will probably not be longer than mine. But at least, now, she seems to actually be enjoying her life – which is wonderful!
From now on, Norma owns the barn… just like Gwen and MT before her.
The barn is where my favorite, old girlfriends reside.