Two nights ago a loud, screeching, otherworldly noise rang out as I was getting ready to go to bed. It sounded like a donkey. We don't have donkeys near us, so I sent John out to see if anything weird was going on outside. He checked the animals and came back in: nothing. An hour later the noise came again, and an hour later again, and so on pretty much all through the night. John got up at one point and turned off any electronic device that might have been emitting eerie braying noises. To me it still sounded like a donkey.
In the morning after waving goodbye to Alessio on the schoolbus I squinted up towards Mario's house and through the trees, still leafless, I saw a little silhouette. It was a donkey.
I grabbed some carrots and took Maxim off in that direction for his walk. In the steep, scrubby field below Mario's house a very small donkey was standing looking forlorn. I climbed the bank, dragging Maxim (who doesn't like equines), and called to the donkey. It came timidly over and I poked a bit of carrot through the wire. Obviously it wasn't used to being fed carrot, as it took a while to register that this was a nice donkey treat — give Cass a carrot and she has your hand off looking for the next one. This donkey munched the carrot and then just stood there sadly.
In the afternoon I went up with Alessio and asked Mario what he was doing with a donkey — he used to keep goats and then sheep on that field and had talked of getting geese next, to keep the scrub down. Apparently a friend has dumped this donkey on him. We went down to talk to it in the field. It's not in very good condition and is a sad little thing, with its headcollar practically welded to its face and its coat all matted; and although it didn't actually look frightened of humans it certainly didn't look used to receiving love and affection. When I've got some time I'll take an old horse brush up and clean it up a bit and try to persuade Mario to take its headcollar off and see if we can perk it up a bit. Donkeys pine if they're kept alone, so somehow we need to get it and Cassie together.
Last night it brayed less and I got a bit more sleep. This morning I drove out at about 8am and the donkey came trotting down the slope to the fence, so I stopped the car and wound down the window and Alessio and I said nice things to it, and then as I drove off slowly it followed for as long as it could till the fence ended. Who knows what was going on in its little donkey head, but it looked like it wanted to be friends.