Bob and Phyllis learn burros can cry

Bob and Phyllis learn burros can cry by Bob Karolevitz Molly, Phyllis's burro, is in mourning.

The reason: Buff, the Shetland, is dead. They'd been together as a Mutt-and-Jeff combination for something like 14 years, and that's a long, long time for two horse-types to share the same pasture.

Judging from the way they kept their distance when they were grazing, I thought they didn't like each other. But I was wrong.

Molly's woeful braying is a sure sign that she misses him terrible. Despite their differences in size, shape and color, there was a bond between them which had nothing to do with the fact that they were so totally unlike.

We don't know how old Buff really was. He was probably already an adult when the kids gave him to Phyllis as a Christmas present some 15 years ago.

(I can still see him standing so docily on the porch, suffering in silence the indignity of being a Yuletide gift with red ribbon attached.)

At that time Molly was a "guard dog" for my wife's sheep, so the burro had work to do so she couldn't be bothered with a Shetland pony. His reddish coat glistened then; and his white tail and flowing mane were a sight to behold as he clippity-clopped around our yard with nothing to do.

I groused to Phyllis that the animal was worthless. "All he does is eat, eat, eat," I said. "And because of his poor conformation, he isn't any good for stud fees either."

However, little by little my attitude changed. No doubt it was because of old age � his and mine! � but some sort of acceptance took place. After all, I could agree with his problems.

He foundered more than once on springtime grasses, and his front hooves looked like small skis until they were trimmed. Then his teeth went bad, and he lost a lot of weight because eating became a chore.

During apple season I threw bucketsful of windfalls to him and Molly, but even then it was hard for him to chew. It got worse as he grew older.

His winter coat hid his shrunken body, and � needless to say � Phyllis knew something was wrong. It became more and more obvious in his last days.

We talked about calling the vet to put him down, but the decision was a difficult one.

For all the while Buff was with us, Phyllis was unable to get near him, and this was pretty hard for us to understand. Possibly a previous owner was mean to him, so he always shied away when she got too close.

Then, as though he knew he was soon going away, he came up to her for a final petting. Not long afterwards he went off to that Great Feed Bunk in the Sky.

Phyllis shed a tear or two as I knew she would, and even I � who had little to do with him � would miss that tiny steed about whom I had once said some very unkind things.

But it was Molly who grieved the most. She had lost her long-time companion; and if burrows could cry, she did!

© 2004 Robert F. Karolevitz

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