Solo has been on my mind for the past week. This is due in large part to a recent sojourn in Quebec City during which the pervasiveness of la belle langue francaise sparked memories and associations too seldom remembered.
When the Sanctuary was in its infancy – and I was 20+ years younger and braver – there were no second thoughts required when a call came in that 2 donkeys in north-eastern Quebec were in need of a home. Not only that, but their owners had not the means to trailer them to the DSC and so my dear friend, Virginia, and I literally hopped into her rig and drove for 15 hours to the village where the donkeys lived. The trip itself is another story but suffice to say that that is how Solo and his father, Tic Tac, came into our lives.
Solo was a strong, wilfull creature, eccentric in many ways when compared to the other donkeys, but during the decades that he lived at the Sanctuary, Solo taught me so much about the intricacies of the animal behaviour. From the beginning he refused to remain in the company of the other equines. He had been bottle-fed when a foal and had bonded much too strongly with his human caregivers. Subsequent ‘training’ at a neighbouring farm turned out to be riddled with violent actions and so for the rest of his life Solo was wary of the company of men. (I do want to pause at this point, though, and acknowledge the special, very close relationship that Solo enjoyed with Kyle, a former caregiver here at the Sanctuary.)
I will never forget Solo’s first days with us, standing alone by the fence nearest to the house and braying every time we emerged. In his way, he was stating ever so stongly that he needed another kind of daily environment. Finally, we compromised and Solo ‘lived’ in the barnyard which, over time became the residence of our older, gentler donkeys, those long past the need to play or chase or otherwise unsettle Solo’s fragile calm. As well, he made it clear from the first that too much handling would never be an option, especially if someone tried to touch his enormous, beautiful ears. But Solo enjoyed to follow staff around as they worked at chores and every now and then he would come for walks around the pond with David and me. At other times, when he could skirt through an open gate, always Solo could be found subsequently standing on our porch with his large head pressed against the kitchen window. (I do think we would have let him stay there had it not been for his habit of ‘marking’ the porch in a territorial way.)
As the years passed Solo’s need to be alone increased. On Open Days he started to walk away from visitors. Instead, he would stand by the fence to the Office Paddock, ‘telling us’ that that was where he preferred to be. Over time, regular visitors came to anticipate the sight of Solo standing in the highest part of the Paddock, gazing around in between naps, clearly content in his solitude……
Well, this walk down memory lane could go on forever. It is enough to say that I am grateful to have known this wonderful donkey. “Je te manque, beau ga'”.
Sandra Pady, Founder