Back in 2006, Hansl was in big trouble. The miniature donkey had broken out of his Fayette County, Texas, pasture once too often. His owner, who already had given the scallywag several second chances, was out of patience. Hansl had to go.
‘Go where?’ Hansl must have wondered. Few people had places in their hearts for a feisty miniature donkey. Even fewer had enough acreage with stout fences for a creature like Hansl to live out his days.
After all, a miniature donkey is primarily a pet. Just like adopting a “free” kitten, accepting Hansl required a carefully considered long-term commitment. He needed a home where he could depend on adequate food and care. Hoping that the adoption might blossom into love and attention was too much to ask for.
And there was Hansl’s pesky reputation to overcome. Although standing only 36 inches tall, he had proven quite capable of putting his strong little neck under the bottom strand of a barbed-wire fence. If the fence was the least bit weak when he raised his head, staples popped, wires sagged and Hansl was on the county road again.
You rascal, Hansl!
The first attempt to relocate Hansl didn’t pan out. Shortly after the miniature donkey’s arrival, Hansl’s new owner discovered the fence down and his heifers, along with the miniature donkey, on the county road. It was bye-bye Hansl!
He must have thought the decision was very unfair and didn’t want to go. Hansel led the two cowboys who came to haul him away in a cattle trailer on a merry chase. It involved a lariat and much tugging and pushing, plus some colorful cowboy commentary.
Fortunately, Hansl’s luck was about to change. An animal lover and landowner with stout fences, Christa Howells, agreed to adopt Hansl despite his faults. The rest, as they say, is history. Fourteen years later, Hansl and Christa remain on the best of terms.
“I call him Hansl Honey because of his sweet temperament,” Christa says.
Hansl has front pasture privileges on Christa’s farm. He is protective of the rotating herds of heifers and their first calves. He dislikes stray dogs, but Reggie, Christa’s 12-year-old chocolate Labrador, is his pal. They vie for treats such as carrots and cattle candy called cottonseed range cubes. Hansl ignores Thomas the tomcat and Christa’s other feline friends.
Christa has followed through on her vow to look after the miniature donkey. This care sometimes extends to calling a veterinarian if he’s sick or a farrier to trim his hooves.
“Both the vet and the farrier appreciate Hansl’s cooperation. However, getting Hansl in a trailer is another story. He can be stubborn. The vet and the farrier have to come to the farm to see him,” she says.
Hansl is no fool. From experience, he knows nothing good comes from being loaded in a cattle trailer that takes him rocking down another county road. Hansl has made up his mind that Christa’s farm is the last stop on all the relocations he’s braved on his life journey.
Despite Hansl’s dislike of trailers, he isn’t timid about letting Christa know if he is feeling unwell.
“I can tell something is wrong by his behavior and then he retreats to the small cattle pen. Hansl waits there patiently for me to call the vet out to examine him,” she adds.
“When people ask me how old Hansl is I tell them I don’t know. Today he looks very much like he did when he arrived 16 years ago. He could be 25 or 30 years of age or perhaps older. Miniature donkeys can live a long time.”
Hansl enjoys the adoration of Christa’s visitors, both young and old. Even little girls with loud, high-pitched voices delivering bear hugs don’t rumple his composure. Somewhat of a local celebrity, Hansl’s portrait won an impressive ribbon at the county fair several years ago. He has been photographed by local visitors and international guests from Austria, Canada and Germany, all of whom offered him treats and admiration.
His owner has never regretted her decision to adopt the old miniature donkey. When Christa makes her daily morning rounds on the farm, she automatically checks on his well-being.
“Hansl is a great friend,” Christa says. If Hansl could speak, he would say the same about Christa.
P.S. Hansl was later found not guilty in the incident involving the broken fence prior to his arrival at Christa’s place. After Hansl had been hauled away, the heifers again got out on the road. The owner realized they must have torn down the fence in fright when threatened by some stray dogs. It’s a good thing that Hansl doesn’t hold grudges.
So, readers, do you have a message for Hansl and/or Christa?