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You’ll never know what puts you on the path to finding something beautiful. Though 2017 was a tough year for me, each step along the way brought me closer to a sunflower field in Northford, Connecticut. And, eventually, those sunflowers led me to a very special friend.

Last July, foot surgery literally kept me off my feet for most of the summer–and eventually tried to drive me out of my mind! But on the way to the surgical center in Branford, we took the back roads. I’d forgotten all about the pleasant scenic route we used to take years ago and looked forward to revisiting it when I head in that direction–which is often!

Toward the end of August, tired of having to ask for help or a ride, I hobbled to my car, determined to drive to Branford. On my way, several cars had pulled over along Route 22 to admire a seemingly endless field of sunflowers. I made my way downhill slowly and carefully (with a cane!) to check them out. I don’t think I had ever seen so many sunflowers! It was a sight to behold.

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Fast forward to October. Once again, I was (for the most part) footloose and fancy-free and regularly taking the scenic route through Durham and Northford, then over the fabulously twisty Totoket Road down to Branford. I found interesting farm stands and garden centers–one with goats (!) and a freestanding holder I needed to hang my Corinthian Bells on the deck. But I drive a coupe and there was no way to fit it in my car. And their last day of the season was the next day! I asked my mom if she’d take her car to pick it up. I mentioned there was a second patch of sunflowers I could show her en route.

Near the sunflower field, we found a tiny farm stand, really just a patio table with an umbrella. As we were picking out a few items, I heard a distinct sound.
“Ma, I heard a donkey!”
“I don’t hear anything!”
“No, it’s a donkey and we need to find it!”

So we headed in the general direction of the sound, down someone’s driveway and THERE HE WAS, in a small pen with a tree, next to a shed. I was standing there saying hello when his owner came by. “His name is Balashi. He’s named after an Aruban beer. Be careful, he bites!”

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“Balashi and the Scary Movie” HAW HAW!

So began a new friendship. Since that drive was already part of my weekly routine, I decided I’d add some time to stop and visit this donkey. And I’d bring snacks–apples, carrots or pears. He’d greet me as if I were the most important person in the whole world and I became very attached. Over time, people would even ask about “my donkey.”

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But the more I got to know him, the more I became concerned for his well-being. It didn’t look as though anyone ever cleaned his pen, his hooves were horribly overgrown and his little three-sided shelter didn’t offer him much protection from the rain and snow. Whenever we had storms, I’d worry. Eventually, he was having trouble walking. I had to help him, but how? I live in a townhouse and, as much as I’d joke about having him sleep over and making waffles, I couldn’t keep him in my basement.

I started looking for stables where I could board him. The sticker shock of paying more per month than I ever shelled out for a car payment in my life set me back for a while.  Then I appealed to our farm friends. As soon as they understood the donkey’s health was in danger, they offered him a place to live. Next, I approached his owner, “You know I love your donkey, don’t you?” I explained our friends could give him more space and we’d provide veterinary care (he went without that for at least six  years!) and a farrier to help with his hooves. Plus, there are mini horses and an assortment of other animals on the farm, so he wouldn’t be alone anymore. “I have to ask my wife,” he said. I waited. And waited. I went to our family’s plot and cried to my grandfather. I always said if Poppy were here, that donkey would already be with us. Then I got the call–the donkey was mine. I couldn’t believe it!

The donkey formerly known as Balashi, and previously known as Jack (c’mon now!), came home July 5th, a day I’ll think of as Donkey Independence Day from now on. And now, a few words from THE DONKEY (sciccareddu in Sicilian) himself!

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A SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT FROM ENZO ANTONIO, SCICCAREDDU!
NOW HEAR THIS! I have a beautiful new life, new home, new family, new start and now a new name befitting both my Sicilian heritage and mom’s ancestry.

My name is Enzo (from “The Art of Racing In the Rain” as well as Enzo Ferrari). It means “ruler of the house/estate.” It also is a variation of Henry (Goodfellas, HAW HAW, Mama’s favorite movie). My middle name is Antonio for Poppy’s father—it means “priceless one.” And not to brag, but my mama tells me I am!

I’m a happy ass with lots to say. I hope we’ll have lots to share with you as I travel the path back to good health. Thank you for being my friend.

Love,
Enzo

P.S. We’d both like to remind you to take time to smell the flowers (or to eat them). And to take the long way home. You never know what treasures you’ll find along the way!

P.P.S. I made special oatmeal carrot cake cookies to celebrate Enzo’s homecoming. I’ll tell you about them in my next post, when we return to our regularly scheduled programming here in Katty’s Kitchen. Till then, ciao!

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Enzo Antonio, donkey of my heart

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