Thursday, November 19

Thursday Dose of Cute—And Heartbreak:
Rest in Peace, Little Donkey

Dolores and Her Baby Girl, About One Hour Old (previously posted photos here)

She's gone.

At first I thought she'd just caught a chill and then had become weak from not nursing for a couple of hours, but there was something else wrong. Something not working right in her complicated and miraculous little newborn system.

We thought Dolores had miscarried last winter because we found a large patch of blood in the snow by the barn and blood on her legs, and we were thrilled when she became so big it was obvious she was pregnant. But she could have been carrying twins and lost one. Twins in equines are almost never a good thing. The remaining fetus would have been weakend, and possibly harmed by residues that weren't flushed out during the miscarriage.

I saw Dolores pawing at her newborn baby, urging her to stand up. I've seen ewes do this before to their lambs. She meant well—and there was nothing I could do to stop her—but Dolores probably weighs 800 pounds. At one point, she put enough weight on the baby's side that I heard an audible expulsion of air. That can't have been good.

Or it could have been something else entirely.

Monday afternoon, in desperation, I tossed a bucket of treats onto the grass to distract Dolores (who is fiercely protective and could easily kill me with a single swift kick), hoisted up the baby, and carried her across the front field and up to the barn.

I then proceeded to do everything I could to save her. We spent the last five hours on the beat up old hardwood floor in the living room, next the the blazing woodstove, with Robin, Mr. Midnight, and Molly Doodlebug rallying nearby. Actually, Mr. Midnight, as cats are wont to do, kept trying to climb onto her soft, toasty body, but he finally settled for curling up on the other half of the pillow tucked under my butt.

When it became clear that nothing I could do was going to keep her from dying, I refused to simply abandon her. I wanted her to know she wasn't alone, and that during her short time here she was loved. I rested her head on my outsretched leg, folded my other leg protectively over her body, and proceeded to rub my hands gently across that oh-so-soft fur until she drifted into sleep and eventually took her last breath.

Her heart continued to beat. And then I felt mine break.

I'm no stranger to death here on the farm, and losing an animal is never easy, but losing this little donkey hurt more than most.

While we were sitting there together on the living room floor, I named her Flitta, because she flitted in and out of our lives. And also because it sounds sort of like an abbrieviation for The Flame Trees of Thika, a beloved book I've read numerous times.

When things are going badly on the farm, I often venture back to Kenya in the early 1900s, through Elspeth Huxley's Thika books about her childhood there, or by watching my all time favorite movie, Out of Africa, yet again. These women lived in a strange and beautiful and sometimes dangerous place, and the tales of their often difficult adventures always put mine into a comforting perspective.

I choose to live on this farm in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles from where I grew up. I choose to surround myself with dozens of animals who depend on me and often become very close to my heart. The high points soar straight to the heavens. The low ones can reach down to the depths of your soul.

It's been a rough several days. Our sweet Zelda became ill on Friday and died on Saturday afternoon. Not long after we'd started naming all our new animals alphabetically according to the year they were born or arrived on the farm (last year were the 'E' names, this year are the 'F' names), I pointed to a ewe and said to Joe, "This pre-alphabet sheep needs a name."



"I doubt we'll make it to the 'Z' names," he said, "and if we do, she'll already be dead by then." It suited her perfectly. Zelda's death was unexpected, but at seven years old it was understandable. Chip and Chip, at 13, are considered pretty ancient by sheep standards.

About 3 Hours Old

Then of course came Flitta. Today is the first time it hasn't been raining or drizzling since Sunday. Joe has been out of town during all this, so I've been dealing with everything on my own.

Before Donkey Doodle Dandy unexpectedly came into our lives several years ago, I'd never had any experience with donkeys—let alone pictured myself owning one. Now we have a herd of six, and I can't imagine not being surrounded by these intelligent, entertaining, and very companionable animals.

My muscles ache, my heart is broken, and my darling little donkey girl is gone. Tears are streaming down my face as I type this, and I still wake up with a heavy thud of sadness. But despite the tragic ending, I'm still very grateful I was there for her beginning. That precious, amazing experience can never be taken away.

Want a bigger farm life experience?
An Unexpected Beginning (my very first blog post)
That Outfit Could Kill You
Chocolate Chip Sheep & Chocolate Chip Cookies
When? Soon (Living on Country Time)
Whoa! Farm Visitors

Hearts and Rocks and Numbers and Thoughts
Shepherd's Nightmare
A Tiny Tail for Mother's Day (the story of baby Cary)
How to Ensure a Happy Haying Crew
And Sheeeeeeee's SAFE!
The Tail of a Donkey and His Ratty Blue Halter
Happy Hour in the Garden

Merrily, Merrily, Merrily, Life is but a Stream
Sheep Shearing Early for a Change
Snowstorms and Sheep Shearing
The Tail of Two Mothers—A Mother's Day Story from the Farm
6/7/07: Farewell, New Cat
(It Only Looks Like) A Picture Perfect Walk in the Woods

Handyman Special
Broccoli Soup & Recharging Your Dead Batteries (Because Setting Them on Fire Isn't an Option)
Cary, No Baby
Flood Watch
4/20/08: Chick Days Are Here Again!
A Big Sunday Feast and a Mysterious Little Owl
Putting Up Hay and Losing Electricity
The Higher and Higher Cost of Farming
Heat Cheat

1/1/09: Happy Happy, New New
1/27/09: The Stuff of Farm Life—Losing Lambs and Lottie
Baby Cary is Three Years Old Today!
A Day in the Hay
9/19/09: Bye Bye Sheep Barn! (new barn photos coming soon—no, really!)
10/9/09: A Book, Building, and Bread Bakery Update

Lambing Season 2006 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2006 Part 2
Lambing Season 2006 Part 3
Lambing Season 2007 Photos & Reports
Lambing Season 2007 Part 2
Lambing Season 2008 Part 1
Lambing Season 2008 Part 2
Lambing Season 2008 Part 3
Lambing Season 2009
Lambing Season 2009 Part 2

© Copyright 2009, the grieving (yet hopeful) foodie farm blog where it takes 12 months to make a baby donkey—and only a second to lose your heart to one.


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss, Susan. Flitta left this world too soon, but she did so enveloped in your love and in the company of caring animal friends. I'm sure her passing was easier for it.


  2. Oh Susan, I'm so sorry. From excitement and hope, to loss and heartbreak, no one said life on a farm is easy.

  3. I lost a foal this way once, and it still breaks my heart. It's surprising how fast little creatures can become so dear to us. My thoughts are with you.

  4. Susan, I am so sorry that beautiful little Flitta wasn't able to stay with you very long. My heart goes out to you.

  5. It saddens me to hear that Fritta and Zelda have passed. I'm terribly sorry for your losses. And I'd like to thank you for sharing all your photos and stories of life on the farm. May memories bring you comfort and time bring you peace :-)

  6. Susan -

    I'm so sorry for your loss. I am always so touched by how you care for dying animals on your farm (I was telling a friend today about the wonderful pictures I saw of the dark baby donkey and I came here tonight to grab the link to send her.) Little Flitta knew love in her short life and died surrounded by love and warmth. No soul can ask for more.

    My heart is broken along with yours.


  7. I'm so sorry...what a blessing to be able to be there for her and keep her warm and safe. xoxo

  8. It breaks my heart to hear that beautiful little Flitta has gone to the rainbow bridge. I'm so sorry. You gave her comfort when she really needed it. Cherish the short time you spent with her.

  9. Ohhhh...So very sorry about your loss! It is always so sad, especially when you gave it your all. She was so cute too. God bless you, I'll say a prayer for you tonight if thats ok. Living the farm life sometimes is so tough and so real...but also so wonderful. Sending you my love~Come and say hi :D

  10. Thank you for sharing this with your readers. I hope writing it down and sharing the photos provided you with some release from the sadness.

  11. Tears are streaming down my face too, as I read this. Poor poor you, I'm so sorry.

  12. I'm so sorry. I have tears in my eyes. Flitta was so cute. It's good that you were with her, to let her know she was loved.

  13. I am so sorry to read your sad news, life, nature, can be so cruel. My heart has broken a little in sympathy.

  14. What a sad tale. I feel so sorry for you, and can truly understand your love for Flitta. She was so cute on the photos, and I was looking forward to follow her life.

    Hopefully things on the farm will get better from now on.

    You could always bake a big chocolate cake. That usually brings out the smiles in our family.
    Frau Putz

  15. I'm so sorry. (((Hugs)))

    I have also held creatures as they died. I did not want them to be alone. Hard to do. Odd, you can tell the moment they go; something leaves their eyes, even if they are open.

    Praying for healing in your heart.


  16. So sorry. She was adorable and so loved. She was loved by you and all of us who saw her photos here. Poor Delores. She must feel the loss, too.

    Flitta's life was brief but she will remain in your heart forever. You surrounded her with love and caring. Sending you a hug. Thanks you for sharing her little life with us.

  17. Oh Susan that's such sad news! My heart goes out to you!
    Thank you for sharing the reality of farm life and your touching experiences. I wish we could make this all better for you.

  18. Oh no! I had read of Flitta's birth with such pleasure that her loss has left me heartbroken too.

    How is Dolores?

  19. I am so sorry, I read your blog religious but rarely comment. I was in tears at your heartbreak. But hang in there, life is good.

  20. I know just exactly how you feel. We live on a farm, and every animal is so dear to me. We lost one of my young horses earlier this year, and I thought my heart would just break. My first post on my first blog is much like yours

    I fear as I go out to feed this morning that I will have lost my beloved hen, Henny Penny. She didn't look quite right last night. She is quite old, for a chicken.

    Anyway, I mourn with you my sister on the farm. ~Liz, sister farmgirl.

  21. Dear Susan, I'm so sorry for your loss. It's been so lovely to read about your life on the farm, and it's a tough reminder that the joy comes with great difficulty.

  22. Oh Susan. It takes a strong person to care for animals from birth to death. They do work their way into your heart awfully fast. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

  23. Oh I am so sorry for your loss.

  24. What bittersweet pictures of Flitta's first hours. I'm so sorry that she didn't make it. So sad!

  25. I'm so sorry, Susan... for me there is nothing more rewarding than being the caretaker over animals, but the heartbreak I've felt from losing some of my animal family this year makes me hurt for you right now.
    Hugs to you.... and Godspeed, Flitta.

  26. I stumbled onto your blog while searching for better bread making tips, now I am crying into my morning coffee. Thank you for sharing these moments from your sometimes difficult/more often rewarding life.

  27. Susan, I'm so sorry. I cried a little in sympathy when I read your post. Those crazy little critters worm their way into our hearts so fast. I had pretty much the exact same scenario a few years ago except it was a calf by the fire, and an old motherly dog assisting rather than cats. My heart still aches remembering.

  28. I am so sorry to hear about your loss of both Flitta and Zelda. I am sitting her at my desk at work crying - I can only imagine how you feel. This is the first time I've commented on your blog - but I do want you to know how much I look forward to reading it. It's part of my morning ritual to check my emails and then look at your blog. Thank you for sharing your stories and pictures with us. Take care. Pam

  29. So sorry Susan... I cried when I read this post. I had similar experiences when we were raising goats. It is so hard.

    Take Care,

  30. I am so sorry. We are all crying with you.

    I have never met your donkeys and yet, they are my favorites. I love the pictures you post of them. They have such sweet faces.

  31. I am sitting crying at work, for you and with you, and for myself remembering all the unexpected four legged losses over the years. No one guaranteed that life is fair.

  32. I'm so sad for you Susan. I fully understand how hard it is to lose a fur child.

  33. We are very sorry about Flitta. Sending you purrs and soft woofs.

  34. So sorry to hear this, Susan. Your courage in sharing these feelings with your readers is admirable. You continue to be a source of inspiration!

  35. I'm so sorry for your losses of Flitta and Zelda. As always, thank you for sharing your stories with us, even when they break your (and ours) heart!

  36. Oh, I am so very sorry. We raise newborn kittens and have lost those precious, fragile little ones a few times. It does absolutely break your heart to do everything you could possibly do, and watch it not be enough. Blessings to you ~Leigh Ann

  37. I am so so sorry to read this sad news. I'm new to your blog, but have enjoyed what I've read so far. I look forward to happier times and posts from you soon.

  38. I am so sad for you. Flitta's story brought a tear to my eye this morning. At least she had you and the other animals in the living room with her in her last moments to know she was loved. As always, thanks for sharing.

  39. So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing her life with us. She has enriched us all even with her short time on earth. Big hugs!

  40. I came back to your webpage today to soak in some much beauty and love of your new baby donkey, Flitta, only to find that her life was so very short. I know she will always live strong in your heart. And a special prayer for Zelda also. Farm life is one of love, hard work and sadness. My heart goes out to you and all those you love and care for.

  41. My heart aches for you in this time of sorrow. I know how sad it is to lose something so sweet.
    You are in my prayers,

  42. Oh I'm so sorry, Susan. You are much stronger than I. As much as I would love to live on a farm, I am not brave when animals die. But I am so glad that you were there for her in such a wonderful way. It meant everything.

  43. You are the EXACT person who should be living such a life removed from everything you know, and surrounded by animals that depend on you. You understand what it means to touch an animal's soul, even for a brief time. Flitta was blessed to have you. I have also lost animals, whether they are with you for hours or decades, it still impacts you deeply.

  44. Susan,

    So sorry to hear about your loss of Flitta. Your story of her short life brought tears to my eyes.

    Take care...


  45. I know what you're going through - I lost a yearling when he slipped and broke his neck (long story) and his mother kept pawing him wondering why, later, he wouldn't get up. I was a young teen girl with dreams pinned on this horse who was not only a horse but a friend of mine. I cried my eyes out...

  46. I've been following your blog for a long time, but never commented. However, your sad story of Flitta brought back the memory of a recently lost donkey myself. We moved to the country from the city last year and inherited a male and two pregnant female donkeys. We were there for the birth of one who we called Zero (maybe a bad choice). A month and a half later it was like he lost his will to live. We were there with him till the end. He was very lovable and so precious. I'm sorry you had to go through this too. Janet

  47. i'm very sorry for your loss. the 4-legged in our lives give bring us so much - some joyful and bittersweet. thank you for sharing her story.

  48. Oh lord!!! I am a guy and an old guy at that. yet, I am shedding some tears with you.
    Thus goes the cycle.

  49. oh my goodness! I am sooooo sorry, my heart aches for you! she was a beautiful little donkey

  50. I have no idea how it is that you do what you do...but i know this, there's a special place in heaven for people like you...
    people who love and protect and care for animals... I think that the day you get to the pearly won't be St. Peter waiting for you there--it will be all of the animals you've loved so much, who got to heaven before you...

    much love and comfort to you, farmgirl...


  51. Susan, please accept this sincere tribute to the love and care you bestow upon your critters, and also my sadness at the passing of Flitta and Zelda. May God watch over them as they wander sunny fields full of friends, and also over you and Delores as you deal with your loss and pain. What you did for Flitta at her ending is more than some people get, she was blessed. And so are you.

  52. My heart is breaking for her and for you ... you did the very best you could. Know that she knew love ...

  53. Im so sorry to hear this. I hope you recover well.

  54. I sympathize - I just had to put down my thoroughbred mare yesterday. I'd only had her 6 weeks... She coliced and it was not resolving after 4 days of treatment. I hate it when I have to play "goddess."

    She was a lovely little one. No one will replace her, but there will be others to warm your heart.

  55. I'm so sorry. She was adorable.

  56. "The high points soar straight to the heavens. The low ones can reach down to the depths of your soul."
    Thanks, once again, for sharing so beautifully your life on a farm.

    ps. How's Dolores?

  57. I cried with you as I read your story about little Frita. I am so sorry, Susan. You tried so hard to save her.

    Sue from OR

  58. Very sorry to hear about the loss of Flitta. I thought she was so sweet looking in the pictures. It was good that you were there to comfort her in the end.

  59. We lost our 13 year old rottweiler this week to thyroid cancer (or something; she was 13). This was very touching to read from that point of view. Thanks.

  60. I'm sitting here stunned and so very sad. You are an amazing woman and I'm so sorry that you had to go through this. I'm glad that you were with her in her final moments of life.

  61. I am so so sorry! I gasped when I read the title, and teared up when you said you wouldn't let her go by herself. She was loved in her short time here.

  62. Hey Susan-came back to see how the little guy/gal was doing and now sit here crying on my keyboard for you. The pictures that you posted are just amazing. Really feeling for you-although you have leaned towards posting either cute, beautiful or funny photos of the animals, we all know that farm life is sometimes sad to the extreme, and this latest series shows that. Wonderful that you and hunky farm guy have absolutely retained your hearts in a very tough low margin business and that you care for your animals so very very much.

  63. Wow. Talk about your rough times on the farm. She was lucky to have spent her short time with you and yours. Farewell, sweet girl.

  64. I am sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing the good and bad with us-so many "fans" of yours who truly love hearing from you. My heart goes out to you. SusieAlene

  65. You are a very kind, nurturing woman. Your animals are all lucky to have such wonderful love and care. There is a reason you are where you are, doing what you do. There is a reason we all love to read about your adventures on your farm, cooking, creating, working hard to nourish and nurture your family and your community. You are passionate about the way you live, and we admire it.

    I am so sorry for your family's loss. As you can see from all of your comments, many are grieving with you.

  66. I don't think I have ever commented here (shame on me! but I get it by email and am a busy single homeschooling full-time mom working full time from home!) but I so enjoy living vicariously through your photos and posts of life on a farm - something I have alwys dreamed of. I am so sad to hear of your loss of this precious little baby. She was just beautiful and I am sorry you lost her so soon. I dream of having a little hobby farm with my daughters some day but I know this inevitable part of the cycle of nature would be difficult for us to bear, but I also know it is all worthwhile. Thinking of you and sorry also you had to deal with this alone. But a lot of us out here are grieving for you and with you! Take care!

  67. So very sorry to hear the news about the baby donkey, Flitta. Thank you for providing the lovely photos and for your blog. Kind regards, J

  68. I agree wholeheartedly and couldn't have said it better...

    "You are a very kind, nurturing woman. Your animals are all lucky to have such wonderful love and care. There is a reason you are where you are, doing what you do. There is a reason we all love to read about your adventures on your farm, cooking, creating, working hard to nourish and nurture your family and your community. You are passionate about the way you live, and we admire it."

    My thoughts are with you.

  69. I'm crying with you. I'm so sorry.

  70. Losing fur children is very hard but it seems to me that losing a new-born is the hardest. She had such great possibilities and now she is gone, in an instant. My heart goes out to you - watching it happen is hard but so necessary for the child's benefit as well as yours.


  71. Sitting here with tears streaming...I am so, so sorry for your loss and will be thinking of you and Dolores today and in the days to come.

  72. I am so sorry for your loss and your pain. I, too, have recently lost two of my baby farm chickens, and it does break your heart, as you feel so helpless.
    We must remember the fleeting joy they have given us, just like your name for her, Flitta,
    peace to you, sister farmgirl.

  73. Oh that is terribly sad. And to think you had to go through it alone. You seem like a very compassionate person.

  74. Some of us feel very close to your furry babies. We laugh at their antics and ooh and aah at thier sweetest. Today, we grieve for their loss, your loss and ours.
    I am so very sorry and send you a big hug.

  75. Hi Everybody,
    Thank you all so much! What a wonderful outpouring of heartfelt kindness and sympathy. I can't even tell you how much it means to me. Of course now you have me in tears once again—but in a good way.

    Dolores seems to be doing fine, though she didn't grieve for the loss of her baby like she should have—another sign that something was definitely wrong with Flitta. Animal mothers often know and sense so much more than we give them credit for. They truly are amazing.

    We'll try for more baby donkey girls (we can't keep the boys because there's only room for one jack on a farm—if they get near each other they'll fight to the death, and even if we got little Fernando cut, there's no guarantee Donkey Doodle Daddy wouldn't still go after him), but we won't breed Daphne and Dolores until spring, so they'll have their babies in warm weather.

    In the meantime, sheep breeding season has begun, which means lambing season—and all the cuteness that comes with it—is right around the corner! Well, it won't start until April actually, but I know it'll be here in the blink of an eye. And the miraculous circle of life continues. . .

  76. Thank you for sharing Flitta and your heart with us. Its wonderful to share in others joy. Sharing in one's sorrow is special too. To feel connected is a beautiful thing.

  77. Oh Susan, so sad. I'm so sorry for you. You are one strong lady to take care of all of these animals. You've got a big heart.

  78. Oh my goodness, I found your blog the day she was born and it was like we were right there alongside, so excited for you! To come back today and see this is so heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with you and you're obviously amazing to take such sweet care of her in her last few moments.

  79. So very sad, especially after falling in love with her through your photos and being thrilled for you that she's a girl. The reality of farm life doesn't make it easier.... I'm so sorry!

  80. A great feeling of relief has come over me reading that Delores has not really grieved. That is good,I'm glad you shared with us.

  81. So sorry, Susan.
    Good times and bad times on a farm - thank you for sharing your journey with us and reminding us all that life is fragile.

  82. I'm so sorry. This is one reason I love to support small farmers - I think the animals know when they are loved and you clearly love the creatures in your care.

  83. So sorry about Flitta. She was a beautiful girl. My heart aches for you.

  84. oh - i'm just so sorry. i too, have donkeys, and the past two winters, we lost two of our donkeys...and i was heartbroken.

    God bless sweet Flitta. she was loved.

  85. I just read about Flitta's passing and I too have a very sad and hurting heart. I was sooooo excited to see pictures of her birth. Very happy you were with her during her last hours.

  86. What a shock! So sorry for your loss. Life sure sucks sometimes.

  87. Tears leak from my eyes, too, as I read this in the library. We tend to love so easily...and loss comes very hard as a result. My thoughts are with you.

  88. Susan - So sorry about your losses. It's been a rought week for you. know how easy it is to love animals.

  89. I am so in such close contact with so many animals can be both amazing and heart breaking. But as everyone has said, she was surrounded with love while she was here and that is a very special thing. Thank you for sharing her precious moments with us.

  90. So sorry, Susan.

    How's Dolores doing? Does she think you stole her baby?

  91. Thank you for sharing Flitta with us..I smiled and laughed with you when she was born and I feel your tears now..take care..

  92. I am so sorry for your loss.

  93. CountryMidwife11/26/2009 8:29 PM

    OH, dear. Tears are streaming down my face. I am so sorry. :( Thank you for loving Flitta so much in her last, peaceful hours. And Zelda enjoyed the good life! Give momma Delores some extra love, too. Her heart breaks. :::hugs Susan:::

  94. As I sat and read your blogpost with tears in my eyes, I know how you feel. Although I have never lost an animal right after it was born, it is never easy to loose one your pets.

    After burying many farm animals on our farm with a 10 - year old standing nearby with tears streaming down his face as well as mine, I feel your pain!

    I am so very sorry for your loss!!!

  95. Finally able to come back and say how sorry I am about Flitta's death, and sending you a heartfelt hug. I know it can't be easy, and you wrote beautifully about a very difficult fact of the farming life. Take care.....


  96. Sorry for your loss, I am sitting here at work at my desk, holding back the tears because I know the pain and heartbreak of losing an animal friend.

  97. Susan,
    I am so very sorry for your loss. I will keep you and your Famiy of animals in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you so very much for sharing this with your loyal readers. You write so beautifully. Thank you.
    All the Best,


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

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