Archive for the ‘human-animal bond’ category

Animal hoarding and other abnormal human behaviour

February 27, 2009

Animal hoarding , according to wiki, is the official term describing the abnormal human behaviour of keeping many animals while being unable to properly care for them. Rather than being deliberate cruelty toward animals, it’s more of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The wiki entry also provides a lot of excellent information on this condition, and sources on how to recognise it and address it legally.

I have decided that my neighbour down the road, J-C, is not exactly an animal hoarder. Now that the weather has become milder, I walk to school in the morning with my younger son instead of having him take the bus. I’ve known J-C for 9 years now, and he is getting close to 60 now. When I moved here, he had a small herd of cattle, a few Percheron horses, some sheep and goats, rabbits, cats, and a fairly large flock of poultry and geese, none of which are ever “retired”. Over those 9 years, he’s called on my vet services at various times, and 3 out of 4 visits were to administer a remedy to a dying animal with a mystery ailment. If he had the money to investigate, we’d likely have found a combination of high egg counts in the feces (intestinal parasites), borderline nutritional deficiencies, and pneumonia or some other opportunistic organ disease that came in to finish off the poor creature. But in general, J-C means well, his animals are always fed more or less appropriately, occasionnally dewormed; they always have access to water, and social contact (maybe too much) with other animals. There is no deliberate cruelty here, in fact, there is certainly much less than what exists in the industrial system that nearly all of us participate in, in some way.

I’ve assisted one police raid in a situation where there was definite criminal neglect, and prepared the report that resulted in a conviction and confiscation. J-C is most certainly not in that category. He is also nothing like the animal hoarder I once knew. That was a woman who had over 70 dogs and was in the process of transferring them, a few at a time, from this rural area to an even more remote region in another province. During one of her trips, she had a fatal car accident. The dogs were discovered a few days later and the case made national news fleetingly as one of those spectacular cases of neglect and squalor. She was fleeing a legal process that would have removed the dogs from her property; this had happened to her before, but she just started over from scratch, as it were. Hers was a classic case of animal hoarding, because she firmly believed she was doing what was best for the animals, in spite of the graphic and smelly evidence. She had even been known to spend several hundreds of dollars on specialised vet care for dogs with conditions such as von Willebrand disease. One time, a few months before her accident, I had to convince her that the dog she brought in was on death’s doorstep, that no, I would not take X-rays or take a blood sample, and that it was more than likely her dog had parvovirus. The dog died a minute or so after I convinced her to sign the authorisation; I had just begun to fill the syringe with euthansol. I was shaken by the experience, because she was genuinely pissed off at me for not using the veterinary diagnostics at my disposal: I was unfeeling and incompetent like most vets. She did not even sound unhinged, her assessments were almost rational.

Back to my morning walk and J-C. I think I would classify him as an animal collector rather than a hoarder. Over the past few years, he has quietly reduced his herd of ruminants and workhorses, and with the participation of his new girlfriend he’s building up a collection of dogs. He’s always had a few dogs in and around the house and farm, but he seems to be going into full-dog mode lately. Besides the old-timers Mickey (a squat black dog who must be 13 by now), Belle (a boxer), Moustique (the unfortunate brother of my Principessa), Moose (a husky), and one unnamed German shepherd, in the past few weeks at various times I’ve met or seen:
– one or two beagles (not sure – one of them wears a bow, maybe it’s the same one)
– one pug
– one Esquimau-like dog
– one bulldog
– one small lab cross, possibly cocker-Lab?
– one small terrier
– one Saint-Bernard
– one Malamute

Most of them are running free around the yard, a few in the barn and some are in the house, I’m sure. The large ones are tethered. The four gigantic inflatable Christmas ornaments lie deflated in the snow; they probably met with enthusiatic dog claws at some point just before Christmas.

I’m rather worried about where these animals are coming from. For one thing, with the recession, I’m not seeing breeders at the clinic very often anymore for vaccines. Demand is obviously down, and J-C has a big heart for unwanted animals, in his own way at least, and he is known to never refuse an animal offered to him casually – partly because he knows where it will go if he doesn’t.

J-C’s presence has always left me with a dilemma. His behaviour is not (yet) reportable, but I get a sense that I should be doing something – but what? He needs dewormers, for starters. I suppose I should get on that, as a small gesture of veterinary goodwill. On the other hand, would that constitute enabling, wouldn’t it?

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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.