Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nonverbal communication

Chester, my donkey, is a very friendly guy. He is also extremely persistent. He has spent the last three weeks trying to convince three very haughty llamas that he should be their new friend.

While he has made some progress, it has been pretty slow going. The llamas are not quick to add a new member to their tight knit group. There have been many disagreements, shall we say, along the way. Since Dolly is the mama to the other two llamas and the self-designated leader of the trio, these interactions are mostly between her and Chester and rarely involve the other two.

They generally go something like this...

Dolly will come to the barn gate and ask to come in. She thinks she's really hungry and needs some grain. Please note her ears. They are upright and pointed forward. I've come to learn that this is a llama's at-ease, curious, and non-threatened position:

Chester approaches the barn gate certain that Dolly would like to include him in whatever she is doing. Please note the courteous distance he is trying to maintain from her and the lack of direct eye contact. This is his way of being non-aggressive and non-threatening. Dolly begs to differ and immediately flattens her ears in warning:

Chester, mistakenly thinking he was able to slip in unnoticed, lifts an ear of friendliness:

Recognizing that Chester may not have gotten the "flattened-ear" message, she quickly informs him of her intention to spit in his face. Note Dolly's pursed lips. This helps her to propel her spittle with uncanny accuracy:

The spitting is quite a nasty business and doesn't really solve anything. Please note again the ears. Dolly is still peeved and Chester now has his feelings hurt. Neither, however, budges:

At this point, you can almost hear Dolly's sigh of exasperation. "Will this guy not get the hint?". Look at Chester. He totally gets the hint. But he's still thinking the jaunty ear thing is going to work with her:

Nope. It never does. Poor Chester:

The other morning, Chester had clearly had enough of camelids and wanted some human companionship. As I was mucking out the stalls, he found that I had not latched the gate to the barn behind me. He's very smart:

In he walked, to the llamas' amazement. They couldn't believe their big brown eyes and started to follow him:

He then turned around and shut the gate right in their faces:

They haughtily turned tail and showed him their butts. He didn't care. He was in the barn and they weren't:

Who needs words?


  1. How does the role of guardian for both donkey and llama play into this relationship? Chester's ears tell interesting stories.

  2. Danni, This is a great story! The pictures tell a thousand words! This shows the true personalities of the animals! I love the happy ending for Chester!

  3. I can't believe they let you click away with your camera while their little drama played out.
    I LOVE that Chester closed the gate on Ms. Fancy Pants and her offspring.
    I vote that you at least get another donk so Chester won't be so lonely. Poor boy, getting spit on every day must get old.
    Can you tell I'm feeling a bit protective of Chester. :)

  4. LOL! Poor Chester. It's tough being the smart kid!

    And "Dolly Llama": That's priceless!

  5. Your best post ever! Welcome to the clan of "people who never get anything done in the house because they're too busy observing...and chuckling at...their animals."

  6. I loved this post! This could be a children's story and i would buy it! I want to ask you to give Chester a big old donkey hug and scratch behind the ears for me???

  7. What a wonderful picture story! That Chester is a smart boy indeed. Maybe you should consider getting him another donkey buddy, since the llama ladies are being so stuck up?

  8. What a great narrative! They have such funny personalities, both the donkey and the llamas . . . thanks for a great chuckle to start off my day!

  9. Hahahaha. This is hilarious! Poor Chester. When you do get another donkey, the two of them will probably run circles around those snooty llamas.

  10. Way to go Chester!!!! That's showing those snooty ol' llamas! You got the last laugh! Ha Ha Great post!! Gotta love those longears!

  11. Don't worry Chester. You are not alone. Ella acts just like those dumb llamas. I feel your pain.

  12. I'm for Chester. I know how it is,sometimes to be the odd one out for no real reason...and then you just get tired of trying...

  13. Hi nfmgirl - Thanks for your comment. Chester is a smarty-pants, that's for sure. It's so interesting watching him trying to communicate things to me. And then I feel so smart when I "get" it! lol

    Hey 7msn - Aw, thanks. :-) Though, it's funny - I feel like I've been part of the "clan" for a long time now. I can't say how many countless (and treasured) hours I have spent, following all my critters around, watching them, photographing them, being so entertained by them. There's no feeling like it in the world, is there?

    Hi Mare - Chester *loves* hugs, especially the kind where you just throw one arm around his neck and kind of pull him to your chest in a gruff, affectionate way. I'll give him one of those for you. :-)

    Hi Robin (seasonseatingsfarm)!! Aren't Chester's ears the most expressive things?! And he "talks" so fast with them sometimes, I have a hard time keeping up. The guardian thing is interesting, I have a number of theories about this, but too long (and possibly tedious) maybe for some in this comments section. lol. Briefly, Chester is very protective of "his" property and exhales through his nostrils in a blaring, snorty fashion if he sees/hears someone/something he hasn't identified in one of the corners of the property. The llamas, though, are extremely observant and will stand and stare for hours. They mostly just want to be left alone, while Chester craves interaction - this seems to be the biggest obstacle in their relationship currently. Regarding the guardian aspect of other animals, I'm not sure I will ever introduce any of these four as "guardians" to my chickens or goats - I believe that this role is best taught from a very early age. Right now, they just look at the smaller critters with a glittering in their eyes and an intensity that makes me uncomfortable. There you go. Extremely long-winded yet I still have so much to say.. *chuckle*

    Hi Razzberry Corner (Lynn) - Thanks! I am so fascinated, watching their interactions and behaviors - as I mentioned above, I can easily lose hours in my day just standing back and observing. :-). Chester deserves a happy end, don't you think?

    Heya CeeCee - I know, right? They all are already able to tolerate me and my camera. Just like my family and friends. *snort*
    Ohmygosh, I am so protective of Chester, too, as is Jim (which is soooo sweet). It has been the plan since the beginning to have at least two donkeys - which definitely means a buddy - hopefully sooner rather than later - for Chet. Unfortunately, it took me almost exactly a year to find my perfect match with Chester - and donkeys are very hard to come by around here. Not like, Texas! lol
    But don't worry, we really are watching out for Chester.

    Hi Lilla - Thank you and I agree about the donkey pal for Chet. See my above comment to CeeCee about this. While it would be very sweet if the llamas were somehow able to warm up to Chet, I don't really see it happening, you know?

    Hi CaliforniaGrammy - They are all so entertaining - and expressive! My goodness. The poor harddrive on my computer is being saturated with hundreds and hundreds of pictures. Remind me to invite you over for a slideshow of my animals animals and their antics (similar to a slideshow of a family vacation) some time. snort. :-)

    Hi Linda :-) - I can't wait for that moment when Chester has a new friend of his own. I have pictured it already soooo many times in my mind! I just wish I could explain to him that I'm working on it!!

    Hey Cindy (AJ-Oaks) - Isn't he awesome? I can almost hear his thoughts at times...and he frequently behaves in the same way that I think I would in the same situation! How scary is that? lol

    Hi Marigold - I'm sure Chester would take great comfort in knowing you support him from afar and understand his challenge. Maybe we should try throwing some peanuts at the llamas? ;-)

  14. Those llamas are hilarious. I must have one someday...actually I think I want an alpaca.

    And I think I want a Chester too, those ears are pure entertainment.

  15. That is hilarious, good for him! Cute, cute, cute!

  16. Those hard to get into their little circle. And really, as much as I love them....and of course that is very, very much...Dolly should know better. :-)(Altho, I can see her dilemma) Seeings how she is the mama and all...she really should be showing Toni and Kai that Chester is a great and very harmless guy. And that he just wants to be friends. But, I think she feels like she has to play the stern one all the time and protect her daughters.....
    Poor Chet. Hes such a sweet and loveable guy. And hes so darn smart. He knows that those llama ladies are a tough crowd...but dang it....hes using the "kill em with kindness approach." And it really is a very good approach to use.
    If Dolly would only loosen up a bit. Sigh. I sure miss all those critters. Give them all pats for me, please. And give Dolly the look for me, too. You know which one Im talking about, right?

  17. Interesting interaction and I love the expressive ears. Chester sure is a smart one!

  18. hehehehe....donkey and llama sign language speaks volumes!

  19. hahahahahaha!
    Chester 1
    Lamas 0

  20. Poor Chester - he tries so hard! Yes, you are right that on my blog you saw the miniature donkeys in with the llamas. There are 4 llamas (3 girls and a boy) and 2 mini donks (1 girl and 1 gelded boy) and they really don't pay that much attention to each other, but the llamas don't mind the donkeys and don't spit on them. The llamas do spit on each other from time to time. We also have a mini goat and 5 sheep in that pasture. The only spitting is generally between the llamas. The donks have each other though, so I think a pal might be a good idea for Chester. They have all been together for about 8 months now, but I don't remember any grumpiness even at the start. It was initially 2 female llamas, then the donkeys came, then the llama pair. I hope your group can work out some better dynamics with time. Llamas are always a bit aloof though. Everyone eats at the same feeder at our place, which perhaps helps?

  21. Poor Chester...odd man lonely. But he gave them a good one at the end!

  22. Danni, I saw this while looking for help in clicker-training for my daughter's rats. Made me giggle and think "Hey, Danni could do that with her llamas and donkey!"

  23. MORE MORE MORE I think we need daily Chester & the Llamas pictures. OH he's so SWEET!!!!! Give him a big {{hug}} from me.

    Chester Fan in WI

  24. I love Chester. He is adorable....especially when his one ear is up. Hilarious!

  25. I LOVE Chester!! I can't help it!! I really think you should write a children's book in your spare time that has Chester and the girls as characters. It could be all about making friends.... just a thought from your pushy friend!! :-)

  26. Oh, I LOVE Chester. He's my kind of guy and such a sweetie.


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