When I lived in Zimbabwe in the 1980's --- I was there from 1972 until 1984 --- amongst the pets/livestock that we had probably the most dominant of all of them was my donkey, Sarah. One day I had been told about her needing a new home and so off I went to pass on the message that if we didn't give her a home then she might have to be put down. Okay, I admit that I was pushing the boundaries a little, but I only said 'might', and anyway, it worked and Sarah came to live with us.
From the outset she established herself as the boss, firstly chasing our two dogs around the garden to let them know that she had arrived and then chasing me around the garden, teeth bared! I quickly realised that capitulation and submission was the best thing if we were to live comfortably side by side, so to speak. Or at least, I determined that I'd let her think that.
I never let anyone ride upon her as I had been told that she had had a bad experience previously at the hands of an over-energetic child.
What a character she had! There are many stories of the things that she did, but two things come to mind in particular. The first is about her inseparable companion, which was a chicken called Mrs Hopitty. We kept hundreds of chickens over the years in order to supply eggs and meat in a local township, and when this chicken hatched out she had one leg which splayed to the side and was fairly useless to her. Because she was such a fighter I let her live and it was to my dismay that I later found the other leg splayed to the side following some sort of unknown altercation. However, she gamely carried on and so I ended up separating her from the others and pampering her somewhat. Once Sarah joined the family I found one day that Mrs Hopitty loved to be around her and soon this strange pairing had developed a bond of friendship that needed to be seen to be believed!
The other memorable occasion whilst Sarah was with us was when she managed to get out of the garden one day and decided to take a look around the neighbourhood. Matambo, the young chap who worked for me looking after the livestock, went after her with me. She led us a merry dance all around the neighbouring properties until, after about an hour, she allowed herself to be caught and led home. The triumphant glint in her eye said it all!
She was with us for almost four years until we found it was time to leave Zimbabwe behind and travel to fresh fields. We found Sarah a new home a couple of weeks before we left along with her companion Mrs Hoppity, but I still remember them both with much fondness. Over the years I have had many animal companions and often consider that life without them would be much the poorer. At present we have our little dog, Sam, of whom I have occasionally written, a guinea pig named Ffred, and two cats, Felix and Smokey, all four of whom improve the quality of our lives by their companionship.