I arrived home from work last night to find Rubi standing chewing a piece of nylon string. I leapt out of the car and ran into the field to grab it from her before she could swallow it. Bales of straw, alfalfa and forage always come tied with nylon string. I am usually very vigilant and never leave any of this in the donkeys’ field, but this three foot length of string had been left on the ground. As I prised her mouth open to retrieve the string, I saw to my horror that her two incisors were dangling by their roots! Her lower mouth was full of blood.
My first thought was that she had been kicked in the mouth by Matilde. I couldn’t think of any other way she would have lost her front teeth. I phoned the vet immediately and explained the situation, but no visit was possible before 10 o’clock on Saturday. I made Rubi comfortable in the stable and separated the others from her with electric fencing. I washed her mouth and comforted her with cuddles. I restricted my judgment of Matilde to simply saying, “If you have blighted my Rubi’s life, I’ll be speaking to you later!” That made light of how I felt. To be honest, I was very upset. I did not sleep much last night. I lay awake wondering how Rubi could browse the grass in a pasture without front teeth for another thirty years of her life… The demons of the night played on my mind and I woke up depressed, the weekend ruined.
Mid-morning, friends Cait and Andrea arrived for some Saturday morning donkey walking. Regarding Rubi and waiting for the vet’s arrival, we had all begun to think about the possibility of milk teeth now, hoping for the best. I had not considered it before. Then the equine vet, Alicia, arrived. There was one surviving incisor tooth dangling in Rubi’s mouth, which Alicia removed. Then she cleaned up the gums and showed me the new teeth coming through. Rubi had simply shed her milk teeth and was growing her new adult incisors. What a relief!
Alicia the vet drove away and Cait, Andrea and I took the donkeys for their Saturday walk, wity the foals doing their usual circus act, more leaping than walking. But all the way, I was looking back at Rubi in relief. A sleepless night of worry had now resolved into a bright warm day of normality in the life cycle of an animal I love. It was simply a stage in her life. Rubi is nearly three and her milk teeth are being shed at the same time she should begin to wean her foal, Morris. Lively little 6-month old Morris who is now experimenting with his sexual apparatus and mounting Matilde… The time-scale of developmental stages with donkeys is quite confusing! I have to pay for a vet’s visit and the tooth fairy as well, but now all i feel is relief that the lovely gentle animal is unharmed.
Meanwhile, as I end the day in relief that my lovely Rubi donkey has not lost her teeth, I have heard about a different donkey crisis. Please look at the following link, about the plight of hundreds of abandoned donkeys in the USA, victims of the economic situation caused by drought. It is so sad.