A few days ago I found the time to visit our mule Dan Patch and his buddy Whitey, a standard donkey up in Paddock Three. Dan and Whitey came from a loving home where they were respected and appreciated. When their "dad" passed away his elderly spouse couldn't care for them so after an unsuccessful attempt to find them a new home she contacted us and we gladly accepted them.
We have all of the tack and Dan's saddle so I took his bridle with me thinking that perhaps he might not mind if I were to put it on him and walk him in the paddock. When I arrived they were in their shelter, wisely avoiding the afternoon heat.
It was so good just seeing them that I hung the bridle on the chain and sat myself on the salt blocks to watch them being them. How lovely they looked in their summer coats. Dan took a few steps and sniffed the bridle. I had recently cleaned it up and I thought he was enjoying the smell of the oil I had used on the leather but it wasn't the leather he was interested in. It was the noseband, the only non-metal part of the bridle that I hadn't cleaned as it was not leather.
The noseband would hold the scent of many years of handling by his beloved human dad and I knew then that Dan Patch was remembering. It was so touching. The whole experience likely lasted less than a minute but I sincerely believe that Dan was remembering years and years of love and happiness on the trails with Art on his back. Just when I thought my heart was full enough, I knew that I loved Dan even more.
Then he and I came back to the present. He stood patiently while I put on his bridle, awkwardly pulling his lovely long ears under the crown piece. Together we completed his walk down memory lane.
These amazing creatures have such a huge capacity to love and be loved. It is no wonder that, when they have been abused, it hurts them so deeply that it takes us years to regain their trust. I am grateful to be part of the healing process.