By Dick Wagner, Guest Blog
As you might remember, Huck and Puck, AWHC’s wild burro ambassadors, were pulled from their range in Nevada in one of the BLM’s helicopter roundups, adopted through the Adoption Incentive Program, and flipped at an infamous kill pen in Oklahoma soon afterward. From there their luck changed, however, and they were saved by a rescue and fostered in Wyoming. Then it was on to our home in Worthington, Massachusetts.
My wife Mary, a staff member with AWHC, and I find the burro boys entertaining, largely due to the “policies” Huck and Puck have adopted over the last 12 months or so. Some are abundantly obvious, but others took us some time to discover, being the simple human beings that we are. I thought you might enjoy hearing about a few.
Barn Use: The burros have different policies on this. Our barn is set up so that they have free in and out access to their stall. Even so, Huck believes that once you’re in the stall you stay there – you’re either in or out, period. But Puck being Puck is more laissez-faire. He sees nothing wrong with wandering around, poking about to see if, for example, there’s any cat food within reach or a few scraps of dropped hay. We’re not sure if Huck has ever addressed Puck about his lack of discipline. At some point, we suspect he might.
Sticks and Stick Use: Huck and Puck maintain a large inventory of variously sized sticks with which to amuse themselves. They evidence no interest in the stuffed animals, balls, or other expensive toys purchased by us – save for their occasional attention to the six-foot hose “snake” they like to secretly move around at night. Each day includes at least one rousing game of stick. After choosing one for the day – sometimes it’s only six inches long – they each hold an end in their mouths and parade around their paddock like a pair of yoked oxen for 5 or 10 minutes and sometimes even longer. The purpose of this activity remains a mystery to us: however, it’s obviously a very serious matter to Huck and Puck.
Perimeter Control: Each morning after getting their buckets (extruded feed, alfalfa cubes, and a “cookie”), it’s time to patrol the perimeter of their paddock. This is Huck’s job – Puck not wanting to be distracted from the hay. For about five minutes, he methodically checks out all the fencing and who knows what else. Only after being satisfied that all is safe and unchanged – burros hate change! – will he return to the hay. Huck does this every day regardless of the weather – we suspect he keeps notes somewhere, but we have yet to find them.
Breakfast: The rule about this is very clear cut – the appropriate breakfast time is as soon as it gets light. Some patience for we sleeping people being warranted, Huck and Puck usually offer a 20- or 30-minute grace period. After that, all bets are off. There will be a loud round of braying audible up and down our road. (We’re fortunate that our neighbors are all early risers!) The burros will then wait for 20 minutes or so before repeating the second cycle, and then 10 minutes before a third cycle. We have never attempted to wait out a fourth cycle. It’s not worth it.
Midnight Snack: It didn’t take Puck long to realize that the corollary to darkness was no more food for the day. But once again Puck being Puck, he started to think: If he got hay when it was light, maybe just maybe there was a way to speed up the process. So, he learned to reach over and turn on the lights at night. As much as we love the burros, we can truthfully say we don’t appreciate the 2AM braying, the sudden return of the barn lights, and Puck braying and waiting – nose out the door opening – for his hay.
Powdering Up: Patting Huck and Puck anywhere on their bodies will immediately result in a cloud of dust. It makes no difference on how often they are brushed and little difference even if they are modestly wet. I’m always reminded of Pigpen in the Peanuts comic strip, yet the burros, by all appearances, are clean and well-maintained. As it turns out, this takes work! Each morning, the burro boys take a vigorous roll in their paddock. And I mean vigorous. This is not your once over and back roll, but rather a multi-back-and-forth event. Both Huck and Puck will do this for a couple of minutes, shake,
and then repeat later at nap time. I’ve learned it’s great fly control – that “powdering up” along with the swishing of their tails in the sand when lying down, which raises even more dust, is clearly intentional.
Humans: To our amazement, and despite all their past experiences and traumas, Huck and Puck adamantly maintain that human beings are good. They immediately greet all visitors, adults and children alike, gently looking for attention and, of course, a carrot or two. Huck in particular seems to understand cameras and always wants his picture taken. Last fall, our state representative and state senator, who are interested in the wild horse and burro issue, came to visit. Twenty minutes later, both were official burro lovers. The boys are truly ambassadors!
We tend to look at animals as groups, forgetting they are individuals with unique personalities and beings. Although Huck and Puck are deeply bonded to each other, as is true for all best burro buddies, they’re very different from each other. Huck is the reserved and careful burro who is wary of anything new, and Puck is the more adventurous and curious guy. While sad that they are not where they should have been left in Nevada, we’re so grateful that they are part of our family now.
Dick Wagner is smitten with Huck and Puck – and all things wild burros.