Sunday, January 11, 2009

Something to Think About

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What's this got to do with crummy weather and bored horses? Absolutely nothing. This is a non-sequitor of the finest kind. This is about taking time to wonder about the relationships we've built with other species.

This, for instance, is my Goffins Cockatoo, Angel, with whom I've developed a stormy, love-hate relationship over the past 21 years-->

He would like to marry me. Sadly, marriage to a Goffins involves ear-piercing shrieks, so I'm not buying into it. Were we both living in the wild, inter-species marriage would not even be an issue. We would never have met, or if we had, it would have been in an even more adversarial situation as he would have been plundering my crops, and I would have been using something more lethal than the Slipper of Death, currently the only long-range weapon in my arsenal, to keep the amorous bird at bay.

We all know about horses and how it always surprises noobs when they discover that horses play, think, emote, and create drama to keep themselves occupied and mimic their genetic memories of life in the wild. But have we also watched them relate to other animals? If you've got a dog, cat, ferret, hippo, or other pet, have you spent time watching them relate to the horses?

I happen to have a herd of eight or so deer who hang out with the horses. They don't play together. They don't seem to care much at all about each other. They just share the space. It's a little like a bunch of wild animal species in, say, the Serengeti all marching to the water to drink, but not appearing to notice each other. I'm sure they do notice that there are other animals nearby, but there is no reason for them to interact, so they don't. My horses are used to the cats, coyotes, groundhogs and other mammals and could care less about the assortment of birds following them around picking undigested grain out of their manure.

But we humans relate to all of them whether we need to or not because we're nosy and contentious. Got deer eating your daisies? Groundhogs in the tomato patch? Sparrows (damn sparrows!) in the hay loft? A raccoon or two living under the tool shed? Notice how intensely interactive you are with them. They are competitors for your space, and you take it very personally.

That's not to say that you don't occasionally befriend an injured fawn. There's something about damaged lifeforms that speaks to humans in ways only we understand. Horses avoid injured animals. Injured animals suggest a predator is near. If it's not near right now, it will be when it sees that there's an easy mark available. Humans aren't that smart. Humans, therefore, get limbs ripped asunder by predators whose meals we are stealing when we aim to doctor up some poor, sad creature Mother Nature had already put on a predator's dinner plate. And we wind up betrothed to lonely cockatoos.

Anyway, bad weather gives ample opportunity for reflection. Spend some time just watching the world. You might be surprised by what you learn.

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