Growing up my teachers taught that animals were nothing but a bunch of instincts wrapped in a neat meat package. Anyone growing up around animals knew that they were so wrong, and now in class they teach differently. Yet many people still underestimate animal intelligence.
This is not a rant; it is an observation, an occurrence and a bit of nostalgia.
Let’s start with the nostalgia.
The first instance of cooperation and conspiracy
In the beginning, I had a dog that was an Australian shepherd/chow mix, and a Siamese (devil) cat, not to mention two young boys. I would come home and find the sliding glass door open and yell at the boys. “STOP leaving the door open. It lets the dog in and the cat out!” They would assure me that it was not them. So of course my natural response is to mock them. “Of course not, The dog did it …” I’d growl and walk away.
Well it wasn’t long before I had to eat my sarcasm (and since there is quite a lot of it, it made a full week’s worth of meals.).
I caught them in the act….
The cat would stand on my desk and push at the sliding glass door with her paws, using her slight body weight to boost her power. It would open JUST enough to let the dog get his nose in there and open it the rest of the way.
The second instance of their cooperation and conspiracy
The cat loved pizza (and cinnamon rolls) and like most dogs, mine loved people food of almost any texture, flavor or type. When the boys would order pizza, they (at first) would leave the box on the stove. In the middle of the night, the cat (who couldn’t open the box) would push the pizza box off the stove until it fell on the floor. The dogs would tear open the box and eat all but one piece.
The cat would feast on the left over piece, eating the cheese and bread to her heart’s content.
Both animals have long since passed away but I felt the need to recognize their ingenuity and ability to work together across multi-species lines.
Now for the Occurrence…
My current dog – a pitt/lab mix is not allowed to chase the chickens. She still does when she thinks no one is watching because she can’t get enough of the explosion of noise and feathers when she does. It’s like teen agers and video games – they are inexplicably drawn together. However because of the wonders of the spray bottle, She is very careful not to indulge in this forbidden activity when anyone is watching.
The other day she was sitting outside with me and just shaking… I looked where she was looking and saw a squirrel sitting in the midst of my chicken flock, daintily eating the oats and corn I threw for my chickens. I watched her for a long time and you could see the wheels turning.
Squirrel…. chickens… If I do it.. No no no.. But Squirrel… chickens… no no no…
After about 3 minutes of her trying to figure out how to get the squirrel without getting busted for the chickens I couldn’t take it anymore. I know I shouldn’t have… But I whispered “Get the ….” No sooner did I start the sentence did she bolt for that squirrel.
The squirrel thinking it was safe almost didn’t get away in time.. Afterward, quite satisfied with a bit of tail fur from the squirrel and the cackling from the chickens, the lab/pitt came and laid at my feet, tail thumping happily.
Animals are awesome creatures and don’t deserve to be lumped into a category of lesser beings that we can do what we want with them. The circle of life demands that some animals eat others and keep everything in balance, – my argument is not for veganism or vegetarianism but for the quality of life we give the animals in our care.
They should not be shoved into cages until they can only stand up or taken from their mothers and bottle-fed in small boxes, or made to fight to the death in cage-matches for our entertainment. The list goes on.
From the hamster to the horse – animals have distinct personalities as well as likes and dislikes unique to them. They should not be taken for granted.
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