Some of you have been with us from the beginning. From Photographers that were there in the early days to other vendors that have worked alongside us all with the goal of producing memorable events. Those of you on the inside have seen the good and the bad. You know that each burro brings a different set of skills to the table. Mija – unending patients, Diego – loud in your face look at me show stopper, Dinero – so handsome and a huge presence that comes through in the photos, and then there is Burrito – and it’s complicated.
Burrito is arguably our best and worst donkey. On the one hand, you will not find a better “selfie” partner, on the other hand, you need to always have one eye on him because you have no idea what he will do next. He doesn’t always cooperate, but thanks to the talented photographers that always manage to make the people and the donkey look great you won’t see it in the public record. That is why, when we are out in public, at different events and weddings and burrito is in attendance I often can’t help scoffing when guest remark on his excellent behavior. I always respond by saying “actually he is the worst of all our donkeys”.
Recently the mystery of Burrito’s past has been revealed and I wanted to share the story. Before the latest development, I have always labeled Burrito as a rescue donkey like Mija. Deniro and Diego were both purchased and we actively pursued ownership and told their previous owners exactly what we planned to use them for. Burrito was a result of a phone call from a man that had been given a donkey and a horse from a homeowner that had sold their horse property in McCormick Ranch. He was very happy with his new acquisition until he tried to ride the horse out away from the Donkey. The horse and donkey would not be separated, and when he would try to ride the horse away from the donkey the donkey would bray and call out to his horse. The braying stopped the horse from doing anything but wanting to get back to the donkey’s side, and essentially in the mind of his new owner, this made the horse unrideable. That donkey was Burrito, and the horse was Cowboy. The man decided to solve this situation by calling “the donkey lady”. He knew since he had previously lived near her that she took in donkeys that needed to be rehabilitated and would find a good donkey a new home.
That is where I came in. When Cipri called me I was not really in the mood to take on another rescue. I had just finished rehoming a donkey that had some particularly difficult behavioral problems and I was ready for a break. Cipri was a good salesperson and pleaded with me by touting this donkey’s attributes. He said the donkey was healthy and kind, you could catch him and handle him no problem. When I pushed back and said that there had to be something wrong with him because like humans no animal is perfect and I wanted to know what I was getting into, Cipri commented that well he might be a “little overweight”. So at that point, I told Cipri that I would come and pick him up if he walked into the trailer, but if not he was on his own.
This is where things got weird. I arrived at the property and no one was around, which was fine, I knew that would be the case. Of course, he was the only donkey there and I had brought a halter. What I found in that pen was a very fat donkey. He had a cheerful look to him and walked right up to me, so far so good. I haltered him and took him over to the trailer and he followed me right in. I tied him to the front corner and scooted out the back and just as I was closing the gate all hell broke loose! He reared, threw himself against the wall and started pounding the floor of the trailer. All I could do is jump in the pickup and drive away, but before I did, I told Burrito that he would be ok, we only had a short ride ahead of us. When I pulled into my yard and opened the trailer what I found was one pissed off donkey. I couldn’t reconcile the animal that I had haltered in the pen a short time ago with this lunatic!
Fast forward a few weeks, letting him settle in with the rest of the herd, it was time to figure him out and set off on a plan to rehome him. People love donkeys, there is always a person who is looking to add a donkey to their family. What folks are not looking for is a bad donkey, no one wants a bad donkey. Finding a donkey, a loving home is easy if that donkey is friendly, corporative and trained. So in evaluating this donkey I decided that his number one problem was that he was extremely overweight and because of this his health was at risk. I knew that donkeys are susceptible to hyperlipaemia and that changes to their diet especially cutting their feed could be deadly.
This means that unlike a horse you can’t simply restrict their calories to make them lose weight but instead exercise was going to be key to getting the weight off. I had a friend that owned a special horse hot walker. I asked her to allow the donkey to live with her for several months to start the weight loss process, she was using the walker daily so I hoped she could simply add him to her normal routine. I wasn’t exactly completely honest with her about the donkey being user-friendly. I didn’t mention the fact that he was somewhat hard to live with. By this time, I had found out that he was an escape artist and that unless you had a carabiner and chain around any and all gates he would escape. Not only was he into escaping but he would also open the doors to his fellow prisoners. Once he was on the loose knocking over anything and everything was the name of the game. The other little issue he had was that he would not allow you to touch his feet. If a person would try to pick up his feet he somehow was able to kick that person and bite them simultaneously. The friend is and was at the time an equine expert and I knew she would not tolerate having an equine on her property that displayed this kind of behavior. I also knew she would fix this particular nasty habit the right way with kindness and perseverance. So, when I received an exasperated call from her a few days after he took up residence there I, of course, was not surprised. Burrito benefited from his time there on the walker, during this period of weight loss and training he received his name. It was funny because her husband was a restaurateur and he took it upon himself to give him the name “Burrito” which fit him all levels.
So, at this point, the next step was to find him a home. He had a name; you could handle him, and after many short rides around town he lost his distaste for the trailer. Then one day I went out to the yard to find Mija had come down with a hoof abscess. I had an important corporate job scheduled at the JW Desert Ridge Marriott where the planner had specifically reserved two beer burros. I had a choice, either make the call to the planner and let her know I was only showing up with one donkey, Dinero, or find another beer burro. Finding a different company or a different beer burro was not an option, this was back in 2011. As I went out to check on Mija to see if by some miracle she was better I looked at Burrito and a light went on. I brought him up to the crossties and put Mija’s saddle on him. Then I loaded the panniers with bottled water and ice and walked him forward. He was the definition of non-plussed. I couldn’t believe it, he acted like he had been packing his entire life, he didn’t bat an eye. That was the start of Burritos beer burro vocation but for me a nagging mystery of his origin that would not necessarily keep me up at night but certainly left me with an unsettled feeling. I would often wonder after a job because guest would typically ask about his past, where did this donkey come from? It was clear from his behavior, Buritto once had a family, someone had cared for him with love and concern. Why else did he genuinely like children? How could he appear to so brave and unconcerned about most obstacles seemingly with a breadth of life experiences and trust in me but at the same time given the opportunity he would injure the farrier? Why would he not question following me into the trailer but then a moment later seemed terrified?
Tune in to part two for the answers and the story of his reunification with his original owners.