Friday, June 24th, 2016
Note: I’m going to spend a portion of this essay talking about bathrooms, so quite a few of you over the age of 8 may want to skip to the next page.
Of late I have noticed a great brouhaha in the news about who can use what bathroom and under what circumstance. I’ve been frankly stymied at the vast array of options and decision points that one must consider before being allowed to pee. This is not something that troubles our animals here on the farm. Oddly enough, the fact that they are bothered by neither modesty nor convention always agitates the youngest visitors at the farm: “Ewww, he’s pooping!” (This statement is often accompanies by a little foot-stomping and face squinting).
Pointing out to these young critics that they, perhaps, occasionally may do the same thing has no effect on their opinion. Now let me be clear that I do not intend to make any statement whatsoever about who may/should/will be using the stall next to me in a public toilet; however, I will note that when one Needs To Go, the sign on the door becomes somewhat irrelevant. This is a course of action that, I believe, Mr. Newman Goat would adhere to under any circumstance and what he says, goes –so to speak. I will be the first to say that I cannot pretend to understand why anyone would want to use a women’s rest room – the lines are terrible. But in my perusal of some of the issues at hand, I have discovered such diversity in means of self-identification. Plumbing has, often, little to do with it.
Well, this is nothing new to the animal kingdom.
My farm is on a relatively small property. Sometimes I separate out species or groups into paddocks for management, vaccination, or feeding purposes, but most of the time the whole lot of them interact with each other. I believe this cross-species, cross-breed interaction raises their IQ – I do. For example, the simple politics of a sheep herd (“he’s bigger than me”) are a distant memory for our guys. Figuring out where to sleep where the pig will not get upset and mess up the entire bedding structure, having chickens walk on your back while you’re trying to chew your cud, avoiding goat horns, and putting up with the occasional invasion of a 2000 pound black cow sweeping up hay from under your noses means you have got to be on the ball. Is it stressful? If the question is, are the sheep allowed to settle into a dullard stupor because there is no mental or physical stimulation in their lives, then – sure. From where I stand, though, it looks to me like they are having a really good time. And they’re smart. Too smart, if you ask me.
Moreover, they are completely unselfconscious about their relationships. Of course we have the run-of-the-mill chicken gang affiliations and the sheepie besties – but there are also, what we unenlightened humans might call, “unexpected relationships”. Some are situational: Sam the dog and Brandy the cow have demonstrated several times now that when one of the animals is ailing and/or dying, that they take on the role of hospice caregiver. It makes no difference what kind of animal is in distress. Brandy will follow the animal around and lick him, and Sam will lay by him and ultimately guard the body when death has taken him away. Some are inexplicable: Jean-Claude the llama has had a yen for equines since the time that he arrived at this farm many years ago as a baby. His first love was Louie the Morgan horse. He then moved on to wooing Dee Dee Donkey, and now is in pursuit of Mehitabel the donkey. And some are psychedelic: Mr. Pickles (“Rico”) the rooster shows no interest in being with other chickens, but he loves to ride around on the backs of various animals (lately Dee Dee and Waldo are his favorite taxi services), he routinely tries to mate with the ducks, and his favorite partner in all the world is a rubber squeaky toy in the shape of a pig that grunts when he, ah, does his thing.
The thing is, Mr. Pickles came to us from DC Animal Control along with Mrs. Pickles. But upon his arrival, he immediately divorced her and moved to the upper barn. She, it turns out, is also a rooster with kind of a bad attitude, so I can’t blame Mr. Pickles for moving out. You just can’t make these things up.
Squeaky toys aside, we all feel good seeing animals being tender with one another: bonded bunnies who groom each other and lay side by side in contentment; cats who swoosh their tail back and forth along the face of their trusted dog friend; goats who rest their heads on the backs of their companions in quiet comfort. Love is love. What a gift of acceptance these animals give us!
Now go forth and pee where ye may.
Till next time,