The next day the little prince came back.
“It would have been better to come back at the same hour,” said the horse.
“If, for example, you come at four o’clock in the afternoon,
then at three o’clock I shall begin to be happy.
I shall feel happier and happier as the hour advances.
At four o’clock, I shall already be worrying and jumping about.
I shall show you how happy I am!
But if you come at just any time,
I shall never know at what hour my heart is to be ready to greet you . . .
One must observe the proper rites . . .”
“What is a rite?” asked the little prince.
“Those also are actions too often neglected,” said the horse.
“They are what make one day different from other days,
one hour from other hours.
One must observe the proper rites . . .”
Domo and I definitely had our rites and rituals, and most of them were instigated by him. He quickly learned how to dismantle the panel fencing that made up his pen by picking up a panel, sliding it quietly out of its slots , and setting it down just far enough apart for him to slip out. This habit made me extremely nervous as the piece of land I live on is road-locked now. When my parents bought this land in the early 1950’s we were way out in the boondocks, but suburban sprawl has surrounded me all sides. When the neighbors left my gate open some years back and my other rescue Thoroughbred, Aspenite, decided to take off down the alley way to the main road, I realized just how out of place and time a 1200lb Thoroughbred galloping down Agua Fria Street at 5 pm really was. Thankfully, Aspenite did not like to run on pavement and veered off onto the verge to graze, so I was able to catch him before anything drastic happened.
I was and am not up for a redo on that experience as cars, pavement, and horses just do not mix well, so when Domo took his pen apart and went a-wandering, I wanted him to have good reason to hang around and be glad to see me. When I saw a big broad brown back slide by my window, I would head straight for the refrigerator and grab a few carrots. Then I would go stand on the front step and holler one of my greetings to Domo. If he came over, he got a carrot, and usually I would put his halter on, groom him a bit, and then let him loose to go browse some more. Pretty soon, he learned that if he came and stood by my window and huffed or snorted to catch my attention, I’d come outside with a carrot right quick and socialize for a while.
I also thought that perhaps if I took the initiative and turned Domo out to cruise the perimeter, browse, visit the neighbors , etc… on a semi-regular schedule, he would be courteous enough to wait for our agreed upon time, instead of dismantling the barn out of boredom. This worked out great once I figured out that his escapes were originally motivated by his desire to eat the coffee grounds I dumped in the compost pile. I added a handful of coffee beans to our morning ritual and all was well.
He liked to be in the pen closest to my trailer as that gave him the best vantage point to observe my activity as well as keep an eye on the rest of the property. He could hear me stir around and flush the toilet in the morning, and would be waiting expectantly for me to come out. I’d set his breakfast to soak, set my own coffee beans to grind, then oblige him by putting on his halter and opening the gate, so he could peruse his territory and browse the latest crop of weeds. Once I’d released the chickens to start their fly patrol for the day, I’d head back inside to get my own breakfast going.
Domo usually gave me enough time to get my cup of coffee made and sometimes drunk, but pretty soon I’d hear a gentle huff of breath or, if I was too slow, a snort by the front door. I’d open it, give him his handful of coffee beans, and then head to the barn to put his morning hay in his feeder. He’d go back in his box to munch on the hay until his breakfast bucket was ready. Once he was settled in and eating, I’d remove his halter and close the gate. We usually had a repeat in the late afternoon or evening, with carrots instead of coffee beans.
It was an enjoyable routine for both of us, although I sometimes questioned just who was training who. Especially when I found out that part of his patrol involved persuading the neighbors on all sides to come out to admire him, converse, and offer tribute in the form of carrots, apples, and the like. After he died, I found that he had more friends in the neighborhood than I did, as people I barely knew began to ask me where he was, what had happened, and tell me how much they missed him.