If you had tried to tell my 16 year old self, or heck even my 30 or 40 year old self, that I might one day be laying on the snow, holding down a donkey (in case he came out of anesthesia suddenly) with the vet while she cut off his nuts, I would have had to argue that the future must have a case of mistaken identity.
And yet, last winter that is exactly where I found myself. I had put some plastic down over the snow outside Oliver and Sylvester’s little barn, then put a sleeping bag on top of that, hoping to make their surgery as comfy as possible. But being new to the job of donkey neutering assistant, there were at least a couple things I had not considered. For starters, you can give a donkey anesthesia, but it takes awhile for it to kick in and in the meantime, there is a good deal of drunken teetering -- fine if we are talking about helping a tipsy friend in heels down the cobblestoned Portland streets -- not so fine when your drunken friend weighs hundreds of pounds and needs help staying upright so his legs don’t go all accidentally wonky. I spent half an hour running from donkey to donkey helping to brace them against a sudden fall, talking calmly to them (all lies) about how everything was really, really fine.
The second part I had not envisioned was that predicting exactly when the donkey timber might happen and directing them to the particular clean and cozy spot I had prepared was a near impossibility. Yet after much teetering and tottering, we all landed on the snow bed and I put my face on Sylvester’s lovely, grey neck and whispered to him as the vet got her tools ready. It was about this time that she told me that I should be prepared for him to suddenly wake up at any time and that if he did, I would have to hold him as still as possible so he would not get hurt until she could get him under again or quickly wrap up the procedure. I’m not sure if this was true or if she was just trying to keep me busy, she knows from experience that I am a talker and it was clear this was the kind of operation that needed some focus. Most of the time I tried not to look, but part of me did find her exact and careful work fascinating. She lay the first testicle she removed on the snow and I tried to avoid making eye contact with it.
That morning when Chris had left or work he had said, “I really don't want to see those testicles in the freezer tonight.” I had wondered why he had said such a crazy thing. Why in God’s name would I keep them? Now looking at the first red egg, his warning seemed even more insane.
Donkey number two slept through his brother’s surgery, waiting for his turn. The third issue arose when Donkey number one, who was done with surgery began to wake up. Imagine all the drunken insanity in reverse, trying to lift his poor sweet face, falling back, trying to lift a leg and hoof to get traction on the snow….just as I was wondering how I could possibly hold down Oliver during his surgery AND help with Sylvester, Tess (like a sweet miracle) came home for lunch on senior release from high school.
“Can you help hold onto some donkeys instead of lunch Tess?” I hollered as she got out of the car. I saw her look at the surgical instruments around her donkey and consider running for the house, but instead she came over as if this was something she was meant to be doing on lunch break.
"I have Biology in half an hour though," she said as she sat down and rubbed Oliver’s sleeping head.
By the time the vet finished up the second donkey, the first was a bit wild. They love each other and hate to be apart and even though they were just a few feet away from each other, we had to keep Sylvester away from Oliver away until he was up and about and had his legs. It was a three person job for sure and before long high school biology had come and gone.
“Sorry you missed class," I said to Tess. She had a tough teacher who was not a fan of frivolous excuses and didn’t want to get in trouble.
When our vet Megan heard this, she laughed a bit, took the testicle she had just removed and put it in an extra plastic glove. “Here" she said throwing it to Tess, "you can bring this as an excuse, that oughta’ do it!” We all agreed she had probably had a bigger dose of biology than any student in school that day.
By the time both donkeys were up and about the pasture, school was almost over and we were all worn out. Tess decided, knowing I wouldn’t argue since she had saved me for the last two hours, that she should take the rest of the day off. She would talk to her biology teacher in the morning. We said goodbye to the vet and headed inside. I laughed out loud when Tess put the testicle in the fridge to keep it fresh for class the next day. Maybe Chris knows us better than we know ourselves. He was not really at all surprised to find a donkey nut wrapped in a plastic glove on the top shelf when he opened the fridge for a beer late that night!