C Lazy U remembers de facto mascot Petey the donkey
Petey the donkey, a staple presence at C Lazy U Ranch for the last 30 years, died on Dec. 15. Petey became a guest favorite over his three decades at the ranch and led a rather unique life for a donkey, according to Brady Johnson, the ranch’s director of sales and marketing.
Through his years, Petey became the ranch’s unofficial mascot, but Johnson pointed out he had another job on the ranch.
“People always see donkeys on ranches, whether it’s a guest ranch or a working ranch, and they believe, not knowing, that it’s just a novelty,” Johnson said. “They don’t truly understand that the donkeys actually have a true working purpose on the ranch.”
Petey’s job on at C Lazy U was to protect the 200 or so horses on the property, and he did a good job. Johnson compared a donkey’s job on a ranch to that of a bouncer at a nightclub — making sure “bad actors,” like coyotes and mountain lions, do not get into the club, or the herd.
Brady said horses have interesting social tendencies, comparing it to cliques in high schools, and said donkeys like Petey can fit well into the cliques and make friends with the horses.
“I think he thought he was actually a horse himself,” Johnson said. “He had a girlfriend named Pebbles, and he always had a group of friends.”
Petey was, of course, better known for his other endeavors.
Over 10 years ago, Johnson said, C Lazy U started a relationship with the Colorado Rockies that involved the club having executive retreats at the ranch and the ranch doing charity work with the team. C Lazy U would also visit Coors Field on opening day each season to set up a booth and promote their business outside the stadium. As part of the promotion, the ranch brought Petey along.
“All of a sudden it turned into this kind of fun place for people to visit with Petey and learn more about the ranch,” Johnson said. “The guests started to really enjoy it, and the guests that were longtime season ticket holders, they would look forward to this event and look forward to seeing Petey.”
As Petey’s popularity grew, he eventually got an invitation to come onto the field. At C Lazy U Day, a game where the Rockies would host the ranch’s staff at Coors Field, Petey would stand near the mound while a ranch staff member threw out the first pitch.
“He’d walk through the big garage door that opens in left field,” Johnson said. “He’d walk all the way down the first baseline to home plate. We’d take some pictures, we’d throw the opening pitch and bring him back out.”
Then Petey would go to the concourse so fans could come meet him and hear about C Lazy U during the game. On C Lazy U Day, ranch staff would brand baseballs for charity as well.
“When I say brandin’ baseballs, we have a branding iron that has the Colorado Rockies logo,” Johnson said. “We have a number of numbers, so we could brand the baseball with the Colorado Rockies logo and then your favorite player’s number.”
Johnson said Petey amassed a decent following among Rockies fans, and even one player. Carlos “Cargo” Gonzalez — a three-time all star, three-time Gold Glove winner, two-time Silver Slugger winner and 2010 National League batting champion in his nine years with the Rockies — loved when Petey would visit.
“He would always pet Petey for good luck,” Johnson said. “We used to joke around and say that for Cargo to get his Cargo power, he had a pet Petey and get his Petey power.”
Gonzalez left the Rockies in 2018 when he became a free agent and signed with Cleveland, and Petey stopped making the trip to Coors a few years ago as he got older. Tilly, a younger donkey, started making the trips to 20th and Blake streets, Johnson said.
The Rockies posted to their social media accounts about Petey when C Lazy U announced his passing, which Johnson said caught the attention of Sirius XM’s Baseball Bar-B-Cast, a national baseball podcast. They mention Petey toward the end of their Dec. 15 episode. The ranch has yet to talk to the podcast.
“We’re hesitating a bit,” Johnson said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, it could be great publicity,’ but part of us are like, ‘Well, who’s gonna do the podcast? Do we really have enough good content to tell them? What are we really talking about here? We’re talking about an animal on a ranch.’”
Petey didn’t just visit Coors Field. He also walked down 16th Street Mall in Denver and the Las Vegas Strip when the ranch went to a trade show. He spent most of his life on the ranch, though, but even there he could not escape his celebrity.
While Petey had a job in protecting the horse herd, he had time to himself when the horses were busy giving rides and doing their other jobs during the day. Johnson said Petey would wander around, eat grass, sleep and do his own thing. His independent spirit came on full display when the ranch held a Petey Paparazzi contest.
The ranch asked guests to take pictures of Petey and post them on Instagram, and the best photo of the famous donkey would win the contest.
“Well that was great, and people got a lot of good pictures of Petey, but way too many people tried to get pictures of Petey and he knew it,” Johnson said. “He became this elusive figure that was basically trying to be independent and escape the paparazzi. He wasn’t mean by any means, but he wanted to live a private life, very much like a famous Hollywood actor would.”
C Lazy U’s former general manager, David Craig, loved the story of Petey’s life on the ranch — his fame, his horse girlfriend, his personality — according to Johnson. Craig decided to share the story in the form of a children’s book, “The Story of Petey & Wolf,” which he got published and is now sold in the ranch’s store.
The ranch brought in Tilly and Wilbur, two more Sicilian donkeys, as Petey got older to eventually take his place protecting the horses. The two have big shoes to fill to replace Petey’s larger-than-life presence at C Lazy U, though.
Johnson said the ranch will memorialize Petey in some way, but it has not decided exactly how.
“I don’t know if it’d be a statue or something cool in the forest,” Johnson said. “Some sort of remembrance of Petey that we can put out there that the guests can go visit. That’ll definitely happen.”
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