My Donkey Committed Suicide
Baptiste, a donkey with a big heart could not bear to see me leave
This story is also available in the original French.
One fall day, a friend whom I had invited to share a meal from my vegetable garden near Paris came holding a handsome male donkey: A magnificent beast, intelligent with naughty air.
Before leaving my friend said: “The donkey is yours by the way”. This was the beginning of a 10-year love story with Baptiste.
I had a beautiful wooden stable built next to my chalet. At night I listened with joy Baptiste munching on his hay..
The arrival of Macha, a black mare from the Pyrenees mountains delighted Baptiste. They became inseparable and often joined forces to what appeared to be a game of tags with my three dogs.
One night I heard an unusual braying from Baptiste: The mare was giving birth, and Baptiste was rolling with joy. I named the mule Pollen because I had fed Macha with pollen from my beehive.
Years went by, we took hikes in the French forests, me riding the mare and Baptiste carrying the luggage. Sometimes my three dogs, and the mule followed us when we went on our regular hikes.
His thundering braying amused the children a lot when we passed through the villages to get water. A few years later, I had no choice but move to the city. Obviously, I could not take the donkey and the mare.
I gave Macha to friends who owned a vineyard and worked with horses, but I could not find a good home for Baptiste. Granted, his braying could be heard miles away.
One fall afternoon, in the midst of my packing, I approached his big ear to tell him that I loved him very much but that I had to leave without him because I was going to live in the city.
Shortly after, I went shopping. When I returned, Baptiste was dead. He had ingested yew leaves, a deadly poison for equines. He had been around this tree during all these years.
I called my friend sobbing to give him the sad news. He came right away and told me that according to French law a knacker had to come to dispose of the body and turn it into dog food.
That was not an option for me.
Where Baptiste lay we started a big fire and fed it all night long. Baptiste was a big beast! The next day we dug a large hole to deposit the ashes and I bought a weeping willow from a nursery. The man at the cash register, feeling my pain, refused to let me pay for it.
25 years after his death, my throat and heart still tighten when I think of him. Yes, animals can kill themselves for various reasons. Baptiste couldn’t stand our separation.
Since his suicide I have read scientific studies that animals have the same capacity for thinking and action as humans. They can through grief, illness, anger, depression and even consciously end their lives.
There is still a lot of controversy on this topic, but I am sure that Baptiste, who walked by this tree every day, knew what he was doing.
⚜️ Garance lives in Provence, just outside Avignon. She’s a painter and has practiced acupuncture and worked in the field of dying and hospice care for the last 30 years following the teachings of Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. You can contact her through her site, GaranceDenaux.