The mysterious empathy of donkeys

I will not mention here the long and complicated family history which led to one of the most devastating weeks of my life, but suffice to say that this week I was stabbed in the back from beyond the grave. I reminded the living that there was another family voice beyond the grave who deserved hearing, but nobody cared about her. That was the woman who was my mother.

Exhausted by events, and after concentrating on my teaching job through this week in order to not lose sight of the need to survive, I passed up the invitation from friends to eat out this evening. I came home after a brief end-of-the-week Estrella Galicia in Finestrat with my friend Carl, and I sat down in the field with my donkeys.

I reached a moment of great peace – sitting down in the field with them – when I finally realised it was best to never have any more contact with my family. I cannot imagine any circumstances that I would want to see my brothers and sisters again. And at that moment, the donkeys gathered around. Morris licked my nose. Aitana rubbed her cheek against mine. Matilde rested her chin on my head. (Rubí simply turned her bottom towards me and wanted it scratched, but that’s Rubí for you!) I was very touched, for these animals can pick up your feelings and respond with enormous empathy, even when the people who you grew up with treat you with disdain. I know who I want to spend my remaining days with.

My family

My family

Sunset on the past. Now the future is just with donkeys.

Sunset on the past. Now the future is just with donkeys.

Postscript Sunday 9th February

I started this blog post by saying I would not mention the “long and complicated family history…”

That is about to change.  A well-trusted friend – and I only trust friends now – suggested I write up the whole story and make it public.  That would provide the closure.  Since the central player in this story, Barry Thomas, was a script editor for well-known BBC television drama series over many decades, finishing his career on East Enders, it may be interesting for people to know something of the 1950s drama he successfully hid from everyone until he died: the unintended suicide of his wife, my mother. In that domestic drama, he did what he always did best at the BBC.  He cleverly changed the script, so her cry-for-help gesture had a surprise ending for her.  A fatal one.  And he married his young BBC secretary shortly after.

I am putting it all down in writing now, but I do not want the shabby little secret of this man to clutter up my donkey blog, so I shall be looking for offers from the Sunday newspapers.

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About Gareth Thomas

A fairly mixed career starting as an aircraft technician and later Franciscan friar eventually led into secondary school teaching. I settled in Spain where I teach Geography part-time and spend the rest of my time looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I have three blogs: a geography blog and a donkey blog begun in 2015, plus an old donkey blog which ran from 2010 to 2015.
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5 Responses to The mysterious empathy of donkeys

  1. It is a great strength to be able to leave things behind when you need to. Thank goodness for your donkeys. Ours is of the Rubi mould!

  2. Frere Rabit says:

    That is surprising. I didn’t see Ambrogio as a ‘bottom in your face’ sort of donkey… Oh well, life is full of surprises. I didn’t even know my own family.

  3. Interestingly, this afternoon a friend’s dog chased one of our chickens and once I had managed to abstract the chicken I went into Ambrogio’s field to escape the dog. Quaking chicken in arms I stood as Ambrogio came over and very gently smelt her and stood with his head close, absolutely calm…empathetic. I admit I was surprised as usually he chases them…but it did make me think of you!

  4. I am very sorry for your pain and turmoil. I had to make a similar decision about my own family many years ago, I understand both the pain and relief. My animals and the friends I choose are a much stronger family than any I was born to and I never have regrets. I hope that you, with the help of your lovely donkeys, find the same.

  5. Very sad to read this, Frere – glad to know you have your donkeys with you. God Bless.

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