Sad news today from Marion, North Carolina: Pedro the donkey passed away yesterday. He was an old donkey; he was a miniature donkey, and it was a warm day, but it was neither age nor size nor temperature that did him in: it was grief, pure and simple. Grief at the loss of his favorite goat.
Pedro lived on the family farm of one of my co-workers. Ever since we’ve worked together, I’ve been aware of Pedro’s existence, his pastoral life among a flock of goats, and his occasional odd behavior–like the time he went missing, and we feared the worst. Pedro was lucky that time; he wasn’t really missing, he was just out of sight in the back pasture.
So, Pedro has always lived among a flock of goats. He’s bigger than they are, but not by much. Pedro and his goats spend (spent!) days grazing in a field in Marion. Pretty good life for a miniature donkey and some goats. Goats tend to multiply, however, and eventually some had to be sold off (how many goats does one farm need?).
Unfortunately, Pedro had developed special friends among the goats. When the flock was thinned out by a sale several years ago, Pedro’s goat friends left the farm for other pastures. Pedro moped at their loss, if you can imagine such a thing, and went into a general depression. A burro with a furrowed brow, if you will.
My co-worker tells me that for weeks, “Pedro was a real-life Eeyore. He was completely depressed and moping around without his goat friends.”
Eventually, Pedro’s depression lifted and he was able to enjoy life in the pasture again. Over time, however, the ranks of the goat herd began to build up, and once more, Pedro developed a noticeable fondness for one particular goat. Picture it: an elderly burro and a young goat, hanging out by the fence, nibbling new spring grass, maybe kicking up their heels together.
Enter the goat-buyer. The family had a surplus of goats; a local entrepreneur wanted new, unpetted stock for his petting zoo; a deal was struck. Nine goats were chosen from the herd…including Pedro’s goat. The family had misgivings: was it right to sell Pedro’s friend and render a little-old-burro goatless once more?
The decision was made, however, and the bargain struck. Half the herd, including Pedro’s friend, went away with the goat man to join his petting zoo. They’ll be living a pretty cushy life with plenty to eat, including any snacks they can nab from unsuspecting toddlers. (Don’t ever give a kid an ice cream cone at a petting zoo–it’s too much temptation for your average goat!)
Yesterday, Pedro was discovered dead in the pasture, having apparently expired from his goat-loss grief. His exodus may have been hastened by his age and the heat, of course, but the family is pretty sure he just couldn’t face the recent loss of another goat-friend. Under most circumstances, the family would receive visitors who wanted to pay their respects to the deceased, but in this case, Pedro’s friends are mostly behind bars, and efforts to liberate them have “stalled.” (Puns definitely intended, I’m sorry to say.)
I’ve seen bored burros draped in shoddy serapes and sombreros, waiting to be photographed with tequila-laden tourists in Tiajuana. I’ve seen stubborn little beasts of burden toting huge loads (or sometimes, a huge backside) up dusty streets in quaint towns. I’ve even witnessed an alarming display of rolling eyes and stretching neck and snapping yellow teeth as someone tried to force a donkey to do something against its better judgement. This is the first time, though, that I’ve heard of a donkey that grieved itself into the grave. Rest in peace, Pedro, and maybe you’ll make new friends complete with hooves, horns and halos.