Margaret Winslow, author of “Smart Ass: How a Donkey Challenged Me to Accept His True Nature and Rediscover My Own”

by | Dec 12, 2018

Margaret Winslow—professor emerita of earth sciences at the City College of New York and author, most recently, of “Smart Ass: How a Donkey Challenged Me to Accept His True Nature and Rediscover My Own”—recounts her experiences with animals growing up, where the family had dogs, cats were forbidden by her father, and she was one of those horse-crazy young girls. As for a childhood interest in donkeys, Winslow recalls this was sparked in an unusual setting: the Sears catalog, which she says included a section displaying live farm animals until the mid 1960s. Still, that interest remained largely dormant for many years, activated a bit while conducting research in the Dominican Republic, where she observed donkeys and felt intrigued. Some years later, while busily working away teaching classes and executing the other duties of a professor, and with her oceanographer husband often at sea for long stretches, she experienced something she characterizes as at least akin to a midlife crisis—and decides the solution is to get a donkey. Enter Caleb, a 700-pound white Andalusian donkey. Echoing some of what’s detailed in the book, Winslow chronicles her adventures and misadventures with Caleb, including the efforts to train him—she allows that the professionals who undertook training the donkey employed methods that were harsh and probably counter-productive. She also notes that she was often in a bad mood because of problems and changes implemented at the college, and was typically hurried and harried when seeing Caleb, and that this was reflected back in his rough behavior, culminating in the day he tramples Winslow, injuring her. Now retired, she’s still with Caleb—she’s had him 16 years—and all is well with Winslow and her donkey. (

ALSO: I spoke with Lucy Monette, of the Humane Society of Pinellas, about its “Animal Art Series,” which continues this Saturday, Dec. 15, with a class in which kids, ages 7-14, will make Holiday ornaments and dog toys, and interact with some of the dogs at the shelter.  (



COMEDY CORNER:  Jason Rouse’s “Pet Donkey” (portion)  (

MUSIC: Rebekah Pulley’s “Talking Animals Theme,” instrumentals

NAME THAT ANIMAL TUNE: We didn’t play “Name That Animal Tune” today.


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