Trust … can be taken for granted … especially between people and animals. Paco and I have a lot of trust in each other. I trust that when he takes my hand in between his teeth that he is gently holding my hand. He trusts that when I scratch his ears he can lose himself in lolling his head against my shoulder. I trust that when I’m moving around his large and heavy body that he is being careful with where I am. He trusts me to give him good butt scratches.
Other trusts had to be earned. It took a long time of daily workouts for him to let me pick up his hooves – to clean them – and then to let a farrier trim them. No sedatives needed – no fuss – no worries. After that came trusting me when he had to have his shots and his deworming medicine.
And this week we took another step in trusting. This week he has come to trust me to put insect repellent cream all over his legs, ankles and the top of his hooves. For some reason or other Paco is a magnet for bot flies. They sting – hot burny stings. And then he would end up with large open wounds on his legs for a good month. In those wounds and all over his ankles would be bot fly eggs. They hatch in a few days. They are awfully itchy and Paco would rub at his forelegs with his mouth and teeth. That lets the fly larvae get into his intestine and the whole process gets extended into the next summer.
Right from when I first met him I noticed how ravaged his legs would be in late July through to September. It broke my heart last summer to see how bad they bothered him while the jennies in our herd were comfortable and protected by the insect repellent we used. Paco would have none of that …
So it was with great relief that I found he finally trusted me enough to let me pick up each of his legs to lather insect repellent cream into his fur. We took our time and used the clicker training routine until he was ready for the next step. Tonight he actually sought me out to get some help. I have been able to use a bot fly egg knife to scrape off those areas too.
It sure has been an interesting life learning to communicate with him. I know that he is aware that I am awfully fond of him. And he looks out for me. Tonight, when all the jennies had gone back to the ‘donkey garden’ Paco stayed in the front paddock keeping an eye on me while I worked emptying the day’s manure into the compost bin. When I slowly rolled past him to drive back to the back paddock and the barns he walked along behind the Bully. He was waiting for me. It sure is great to be one of the herd!