Monday, 13 August 2012

Trust Without Boundaries

Trust?  What does it mean?  How do you gain it?  What happens when it’s broken?

FH and Dragon have building up their trust in each other.  I have been watching and it has been reminding me about the long process that FH and I had to go through.  Dragon is gaining FHs trust so quickly, much quicker than I did but then I think I started out with a few more muley issuesL

I’ve often heard you humans say that respect is not given it is earnt and trust is the same.  Both go hoof in hoof.  So let me tell you a little bit about how FH and I overcame our issues.

When I first arrived at Muleteer HQ I was very worried, I had been born at a children’s visitor attraction.  I didn’t really understand what everyone wanted me to do, my ears were pulled, I was made to stand in front of cameras and I just didn’t understand what headcollars, instructions and good behavior all meant.  The only way I could think of to tell people that I wasn’t happy was to be the naughty kid in the class.  Whenever the humans at my old home tried to catch me they wanted to do something bad, stick a needle in my neck, stick a tube down my throat, flash a camera in my face or the worst - trim my toenails!  So I got naughtier and naughtier, I ran away, I boxed with my feet, I kicked, I bit and each time my punishment got worse….  And there was something that I noticed too, all of the humans were scared too.  The more scared I got and tried to tell them that I didn’t understand the more they shouted and pushed and restrained and called me bad.  I was only trying to tell them…

The day FH came for interview, I tried so hard to look mean!
They did the right thing though Muleteers, they started to look for a new home for me, one that might understand me, eventually after many failed 'interviews' of potential humans along came FH.  I think that this was fate (as does FH!).  She wanted a mini pal and I needed a mule friendly home, FH has a soft spot for long ears.  When she came to see me there was a discussion about her picking up my feet, my handler was very scared, I could smell her fear, she was expecting me to be bad. 

But FH made her drop the rope and walk away and she asked quietly and in a way I could understand and I picked up my foot for her as a polite mule should.  That was it, I was invited to go HOME with her.....little did I know!

FH and I took many months to learn to trust each other, there are lots of boring things in life that have to be done!  Like having my toenails trimmed, being groomed, being given yucky drugs, meeting the mule doctor, meeting other strangers, having rugs put on and all those other things us muleteers do to keep our humans happy - sigh!  FH taught me to do all of these things in small steps and by giving me encouragement at every step.  We did it this way:

Small Steps
My rug is now my favourite thing!
FH never does the ‘whole thing’ at once; she always does everything in small chunks so that I can understand what she means.  When she taught me to wear a rug she started with a towel hung in the stable, then over many days the towel gradually got closer to me until it laid on my back without biting me.  Then the towel changed to be my fly rug and again it took time but the rug started to scratch and groom me and somehow it was on me and I was wearing it!  It was fine once I knew it wouldn’t hurt me but it took a while!

Positive Reinforcement

I'll do anything for a banana peel
FH understands that to tell a mule to do something ‘because they should’ is not a good idea.  I may do it for a while but unless I can see a point to doing it I am likely to have my own ideas the next time you ask me.  However…. If you show me something is to my advantage I will happily follow.  FH realized that I REALLY do not like having my toe nails trimmed so for many months we played with the nail files and I had my teatime treat off the surface of one, then I progressed to having one placed on my foot while I ate a tasty carrot, then I got a carrot whilst FH filed my nails and finally progressed to having carrots whilst Hoof Man filed my nails and FH fed me carroty treats - yum.  Much nicer than ‘making’ me do this and then telling me off when I don’t understand what’s in it for me? Now Hoof Man = Nice Things!

Unconditional Love

FH and I have a ‘thing’.  Whatever happens we are don't hold a grudge.  From the moment I arrived I could never offend FH, I tried and tried to make her see that I was a monster with long ears but this just made her love me all the more.  The secret to our relationship is that FH has never wanted anything from me but companionship.  I cannot carry her to glory  but we have always been happy to just hang out.  Time with no expectations made me realize that humans can just want to be with you to share the breeze, to look at the view or to have a good snuffle!  After a while I stopped being suspicious of what people wanted and started to understand that sometimes they want 'nothing'

No Boundaries

Roller can leave when he wants to.

I noticed something strange when I came to Muleteer HQ.  There are no mini head height tie rings.  When I was being a 'naughty' mule I was constantly tied to things.  Can you imagine how you'd feel if you were tied to the dentist's chair?  We would all want to run away but how much more would you want to run if you were tied in?  It would make you so scared.... So FH never ever ties me up to do anything.  If she can't explain to me what's needed and let me decide to partake without running away she won't do it.  FH says a happy mule should let you pick it's feet out, file it's nails, groom it's tickly bits and put it's rug on without headcollars and ties.  This is the true test of partnership.  Until we get there without restraint FH doesn't think that we're finished.  She has been working with Dragon to clean and preen her cut leg without ever having to tie her up. Sometimes if you tie us mules up we feel trapped and can't concentrate so please.... don't fence me in!


Mules like humans with manners.  If I walked in to your house, grabbed you by your foot, made you stand on one leg, slapped you on the bottom and then attempted to spray you with the worst perfume in the world would you be my best friend?  No?  Really?

My manners are impeccable, why aren't yours?
Manners are very important muleteers.  I like a little bit of small talk, a scratch on the neck, a how was your day? followed by a little scratch and then a polite word to lift my hoof, then some words of encouragement followed by a gentle scratch on the tail.  If I have to wear perfume for the flies benefit please make sure it doesn't go in my eyes and is not sprayed so it tickles.  Mules expect the same manners from our humans as from each other.  

A Spoon Full of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go Down

FH has learnt a few tricks of the trade to help us muleteers to not mind vets and drugs as much as we used to.  Whenever we have to have tubes of icky stuff or whenever I have to be given the sleepy drugs to make me happy for the mule doctor FH gives us 'practices' for weeks leading up to the nasty experience with tubes of honey or peppermint tea.  Whenever we have a wormer, sedative or drug it is always immediately preceded and followed by a lovely treat of something we like, by the time I've finished licking my lips I've forgotten what the fuss was about, FH does complain that I shouldn't chew the dosing syringe though, but honey tastes so nice!

The Right Friends

Muley mates are essential!
FH is our security guard, only the right people get to come and coo over us muleteers.  As I've told you before I have interviewed and rejected a number of carers, mule doctors and pedicurists until I found the right ones.  FH listens to what I have to say and if they are at all mean to me or my fellow muleteers they are not welcome, and heaven forbid they should use the 'S' word.  The other important thing is that I really like you humans but, well, I am a mule.... I do really like having some pals of my own kind that I can play with and groom (FH gets very upset if Dragon tries to groom with teeth but I don't mind!), FH knows that being with my muleteer pals won't make my time with her any less special, in fact us muleteers teach each other and I have been letting the others know that it really is good to trust :-)

So muleteers trust is something that comes with time, understanding and thought.  From being petrified of everyone and everything I am now a well adjusted mule that will follow my FH wherever we need to go and life is no longer stressful. 

What challenge will come next?
I'm just looking forward to the next challenge.... I wonder if I could persuade FH to trust me in the house, I'd be ever so good! ;-)


  1. My dearest Mini, it makes me cry how certain humans mistreat and abuse our brothers and sisters on Earth. Such a lack of understanding, denial of respect and care, dominion above all.

    You and your beautiful FH are bound by your kind spirits. She could see through your eyes into your pure soul; you could see her compassionate heart. As challenging as it might have been, love, respect, friendship, perseverance and a lifelong commitment to loving care, both ways, reign supreme.

    Love you all ♥

    1. It is certainly sad that not all of our cousins can find themselves in such a place. FH and I have made many mistakes along the way but we got there eventually and once the bond is there it is forever, we think people just forget the secret ingredients - time and love!

      Have a good day Carmen - sending Mini snuffles across the miles!

    2. Your snuffles brightened my day, dear Mini. A sweet scratch to you.

  2. Very good! loved this post, I can see why your a happy Mule!

    1. Thanks Cheyenne! I have trained my human well, there is always room for improvement though ;-)

  3. How wonderful of you to have chosen your human wisely. Your training of them is clearly of the highest quality. Well done. My human is a work in progress, but I did take on a very green human. You are one lucky beasty to have found such a wonderful home. Makes me think of all the not so lucky ones.

  4. Oh yes, the house! There is room right? Not every person can understand how to get along with a mule... this is true!

    Trust is a wonderful thing and it makes a life long bond.