Have you ever listened to people doing the baby-talk think with their pets?
Yeckh. When it’s not your own fur and blood, it’s saccharine: intolerable,
embarrassing. Am I right? Come on, admit it, everyone has had these
uncharitable thoughts. Thing is, it’s also irresistible. I have no idea why
I think that Tetsuro, the 300-400 pound tusked potbellied pig, whom many
refer to as my “wild boar” can understand me better if I talk in
ootsy-bootsy-cutesy high pitched talk, but there it is. Must be some weird
human genome thing.
The thing is, contrary to what your average cold scientist may say about
animals not having language, these guys talk back. Shoot, they talk all the
goddamned day. They comment on everything; unsolicited opinions are rampant
here and I’m here to tell you, if they weren’t so cute, I’d be one
ill-tempered farmer. It’s “give me this”, and “give me that”, and “for
heaven’s sake, are you ever going to bring out the oats”, and “DUDE, you
expect me to eat that wet hay? Come again?”
So I talk back. Yes I do. We all of us are just one big communicating farm
here. We’re the model 21st century family. No need for family therapy or
social services here, no sir. Of course, there are times when I’m
inadvertently teaching the neighbor kids new vocabulary words, but most of
the time we have an open exchange of ideas, and to tell you the truth, our
conversations are considerably more entertaining than prime time TV. Just
ask Mr. Newman Goat.
And speaking of heartthrobs, Valentine’s Day came and went here without even
a blip on the screen. Not to worry, every day here is lovey-dovey day. In
case it isn’t obvious, these large, intimidating eating-machines-on- hooves
have got me wrapped around their little whatevers; they get just about
everything they want, at any time that they want, no matter WHAT I want. A
typical evening finds all of them gathered together in a large herd by my
front steps, requesting handouts. Poor starving babies, all I have to do is
see their sad faces “mama, no carrots today mama?” and out I go – cold,
rain, sleet, clad in pajamas, it matters not. When there isn’t an
unpleasant skirmish, the individual gratitude more than makes up for cold
bare feet and rousing oneself during the 11 o’clock news. What’s more, more
often than not I get a burp in the face. Don’t tell me you’ve never had a
love burp! It’s the ultimate expression of devotion. The first time Mr.
Newman Goat belched in my face, I figured he was just dissing me, as usual.
But it puzzled me: it didn’t fit. There was no thrashing of horns, no high
pitched disapproving yells, no hooves hefted on the chest. No, the body
language was all wrong. Instead it was an upturned head, slanted eyes half
closed in soft comfort, offering goatie lips for kissing…. and then….
URP. I’ll be honest. I’ve been around the block a time or two, but no one
ever burped in my face before this. They do say that cross-cultural
communication requires stepping outside of your own comfort zone, and not
interpreting everything according to your own accustomed framework. But
lip-to-lip belching? I dunno.
And then it happened again. Bullwinkle, a rather passionate young black
steer with a tendency to play leapfrog, was using his long, sandpaper tongue
to lick my arm. I leaned down to his cute dish-shaped face, and…. BURP.
Now that I’ve recognized this phenomenon, it seems to happen all the time.
I lie down to read a book and Derry the dog sticks his big face into mine
and snorts. I offer my ear to Fred the lamb for a little nibble, and sure
enough, a dainty lamb belch is forthcoming. I stroke Bello the horse on his
noble nose and – LOUD nostril exhalation (he claims that horses don’t burp,
Clearly, everyone has his own means of communication. And it may be that
humans use goo-goo-speak to their pets, but we need to be very clear about
one thing: it’s not that animals don’t talk — those scientists just don’t
know how to listen.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm