Most of you know by now that we went to Colorado with the intention of adopting one burro and ended up coming home with two.

When we arrived at the East Canon Correctional Complex on Friday morning, we discovered we were the only ones there for burro adoption. I had to stifle a guffaw when the man in charge looked directly at me and with laughing eyes said, “There’s one rule for you today. Don’t fall in love with the babies. There’s two of them down there and you can’t take them yet.” I think the look on my face in response was probably along the lines of, “What? Why are you looking at me? Is it that obvious that I want to load each and every single one of the burros you’ve got here on our trailer and hightail it out of here right this second?” 

As we walked down the hill to the burro pens, my emotions were all over the place. I willed myself not to cry. “There’s no crying in prison!”, I told myself. And then, suddenly, there they were. Two pens full of burros. What a gorgeous sight. What beautiful animals. There were indeed two babies; one born just the day before and the other born on March 31st. Oh my. It took all I had not to run right in there and put my arms around them. They were ALL ears and legs and fuzz. And jumping and bucking without a care in the world. I remember saying to Don, “That’s what Bernard must have looked like as a baby! Can you just imagine?!”

And then there was the jenny with the broken ear. And the gentle grey jenny who kept going to Don to have her head scratched. The image of their faces is etched in my mind. All the while, I kept telling myself, “Let him pick you.”

Thank goodness Don – the best husband in the world – was there to keep me focused. We walked into the pen with the jacks. As we walked around that pen, it was like ripples on a pond. As we moved, the jacks moved away from us. Except for one, who moved toward us. Burro number 2493; now known as Fergus. I remember thinking how soft and fluid his eyes were – they were so doe-like, so beautiful. He walked up to Don and lipped Don’s fingers, and then did the same to me. Don and I looked at each other in amazement.

But wait, there was another burro. While all of the other jacks continued to hang back, this guy was ever trying to summon up the courage to move closer. It was as if he wanted or needed to stay close to Fergus. He was burro number 2492; now known as Nigel.  The strong bond between them was obvious and we couldn’t stand the thought of breaking it.

Turns out that Fergus and Nigel have identical “capture data.”

Date: September 27, 2009

Location: CAOOOZ Outside Herd Area (Ft. Irwin)

City: Barstow, CA

County/State: San Bernardino/CA

This means that they’ve most likely been with each other all their lives. It’s even possible that they’re siblings. According to the BLM, Fergus is two years old and Nigel is three.

The area in which they were captured lies between Fort Irwin Army training center and Death Valley National Park. With summer high temperatures commonly running above 120 degrees F, Death Valley is one of the hottest places on earth. This explains why Fergus and Nigel have such short coats.  

As we completed a small hill of paperwork and waited for Fergus and Nigel to be loaded into our trailer, we had the opportunity to talk with and observe staff from BLM and the Wild Horse Inmate Program (both paid staff and prisoners, who were working with wild mustangs). Across the board, it was clear that all of these people have a tremendous amount of love and respect for the horses and burros that they work with every day. And their jobs are not easy or without challenge. As we were preparing to leave, I told wonderful Lona from the BLM that I had a pretty good idea that we’d be seeing her again someday.