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Friday, December 28, 2012

Strange Animal Behaviour

I think there is some truth to the idea that the bigger an animal is, the more nervous and cowardly it is. Look at the elephant and the mouse. Misty, our big Belgian horse, is a case in point.

The Farmer was planning to practice his coyote aim so he got some old metal barrel lids and propped them up in the pasture. The horse and donkey came out of the barn, stopped as they always did to survey their kingdom and…what the heck is that?! As soon as they spotted the barrel lids they got nervous. Those weren’t there when they went into the barn last night. What could they be?

The Farmer and I heard the snorting and hoof beats from the house. Donkey and Misty were alternating between running in circles and stopping short to stare in the direction of the threatening barrel lids. They both snorted as if to dare the lids to make a move.

“Your Donkey is an idiot,” said the Farmer.

“Well your horse is a big chicken,” I responded. I spent the next few minutes talking to the animals, telling them the lids wouldn’t hurt them. They decided it would be safer to go back into the barn for a while. Give the lids a chance to retreat.

A few hours later I looked out the kitchen window to see Donkey tentatively sniffing the lid and jumping when his nose made contact with the cold metal. Misty watched in fear from the hedgerow. My brave, beautiful beasts.

The barn kittens come into the house every morning and go straight down to the basement to eat and drink. Then they come upstairs and wind around my legs while I’m trying to do yoga. This is a learned behavior, called ‘be as annoying as possible and she will give you a cat treat before kicking you back outside’. I don’t want the cats chasing each other all over the house, crashing into things, and the only way you can get them back outside is to lure them by shaking the bag of Temptations cat treats. So we go through this routine every morning.

At least the kittens are braver than the horse. I’m pretty sure there are claw marks in the hardwood where Junior kitten dug in to stop himself when he was tearing through the living room and suddenly came upon the lit Christmas tree. But it only took him about ten seconds for curiosity to overcome fear. He sniffed the tree, stuck his paw in the water pail, batted two of the ornaments onto the floor and now he is asleep underneath it. Wilderness in the house. The best of both worlds.

Ginger had her calf a couple of weeks ago. Since then I have been going out to visit, trying to get safely between mama and calf so I can lay hands on the young one and get her used to my smell. It’s much easier to care for a cow if you start when they are young. Ginger will have nothing of it. She has eyes in the back of her head. Every time I take a step in the direction of her young one, she reels around and tosses her head threateningly at me. I saw how she tried to crush the Farmer against the wall last year so I’m taking her threat seriously. But I’m not giving up either. Maybe in a few weeks I can introduce the little one to sweet feed.

Mocha, my tame cow, had her calf yesterday. She allows me to pet and scratch her little one, while she calmly stands beside us and eats. She even let me feel her udder, which I think is a little hard. We will have to watch to ensure the little one is suckling. I’m heading out to the barn later with some apples for the new mother. They are her favourite food.

Cody has been trying to tell me something lately. At 14 years of age, it could be any number of things. He gets glucosamine for his aching joints but I think it’s stomach related. For some reason he thinks this ailment means he should lie on the couch. He has never attempted this before. I keep putting him back on the floor on his fleece and when I turn around, there he is again, on the couch.

I really do wish the animals could talk and understand, some days. It would make life much easier.

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