Archive for the ‘animal relationships’ category

Hens in peril

February 26, 2009

I was outside this afternoon, brushing my collie (colley?) Principessa with a currycomb, as she’s been looking winter-ratty. I’m planning a makeover for her in the spring, complete with a bath, trim and furstyling. It should be a Great Event: she’s 8 years old and has never experienced anything of the sort. She seems to enjoy the currycombing, as long as I don’t pull on the tangles.

In general she’s a very, very good dog. Nowhere near a Lassie standard of intelligence, but maybe that’s a lack of training on my part. She’s a responsive and trustworthy dog with no aggressive tendencies toward other dogs – and yet she won’t be intimidated. Her approach to humans is 100% friendliness.
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Cats: not so much. Even the cats who have befriended her still have to watch their backs, and are advised to walk away slowly, never, ever run.

But you can see where I’m going with this: it’s the chickens that bring out the worst in her, and that’s only relatively recently. It was only last spring that she decided to sample chicken, and she started small: one banty hen. At the time, I figured she mistook it for a pigeon, and forgave her. But then she reduced a young rooster to a pile of fluffy white feathers, and there is of course the unexplained sudden disappearance of the gentle Polish rooster. Then there were the systematic attacks on hens who we saved just before she finished them off. I had to make the difficult choice last summer: it was either the chickens or Principessa. Who would run free, that is. I tried a few days of alternating between the two: one day of freedom for Principessa, the next she remained tethered and the hens roamed free. (Technically, both freedoms are discouraged in municipal law or federal poultry guidelines, but I’ve disregarded both as unnecessary and harmful to animal welfare.) Finally, I came to a different compromise, siding heavily with the hens: they would be free from sunrise till sunset, and then Principessa could be off her tether without supervision. Once the snows came, the hens stayed inside everyday, and Principessa was once again free as a…bird.

So as I was combing her today, I noticed a small pile of brown feathers in the snow. Upon closer inspection, it was in fact the head of one of my six (now five) hens, who must’ve slipped out while I was feeding them. Principessa must have taken note of that and returned when I went into the house.

The warm season dilemma of dog versus hens is going to come again in a few months, and I’d love to find a way to stop the poultricide. If anyone has any suggestions, please tell.

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Bella and Tara, a very odd couple

February 15, 2009

I’ve watched this video several times, trying to imagine what Bella and Tara did to make themselves more likeable to the other, and why either one would’ve wanted to like or be liked by the other in the first place. Very curious. It would’ve been interesting too see how their friendship started, though I wonder if the very start was recognisable.

It reminds me a bit of the way young children start friendships among themselves, or with an animal; it’s hard to say what makes them click at first, and what makes it stick.

Interspecies friendships that don’t involve humans happen relatively often in the artificial and controlled settings of homes and refuges. I’d bet that most animal lovers who keep more than one species can name an odd relationship between individuals of two different species. I hear about them often when people come to consult at the veterinary clinic, but they’re almost always between cats and dogs.

I had a rabbit a while ago who became smitten with my old nanny goat, but unfortunately it was a case of unrequited love. The friendly male lop-eared rabbit, Gontrand, whom I had adopted as a stray in the middle of winter, fell in love – or more likely, lust – with Clopinette, and showed it by following her around everywhere, trying to climb her legs and face, and laying down beside her every time she settled down to rest. In return, she gave him head butts and hoof stomps. It was kind of disturbing, and to top it all off, I didn’t notice that Gontrand wasn’t eating normally until he went completely off his feed and started dying – by the time we started hand feeding him it was too late. He went rather quickly in fact. Clopinette didn’t show any remorse for not loving Gontrand in return. I guess she found him irritating more than anything else.

This youtube video shows a rat who obviously loves his cat friend, though the cat looks bored and mildly annoyed.

I’ve always enjoyed being liked by animals. That’s why we give them a home, good food, treats and toys, and sometimes even let them sleep in our beds. Why else would we do it, if they didn’t like us in return?

What else do you do to make your animals (or any animal) like you? One thing I do as a vet to make them dislike me less is to give injections with the smallest possible needle gauge. Sometimes the liquid I have to inject is thick and viscous, which means I have to use a larger gauge than I’d like, but with vaccinations I use very small ones, 24 gauge. Most of the time, they don’t even notice I’m poking them with a needle in the back of the neck – except for the very sensitive ones of course. It makes for a slightly slower injection, but if I had to be injected myself, that’s what I’d prefer.