Saturday, January 7, 2012

AI (Animal Intelligence)

For those of you who were wondering, the Velvet Rooster was rather tasty.

I'd like to address animal intelligence tonight.  Lots of people say "dumb animals" and that just isn't the case.  I've had quite a bit of experience with some, and none of them has ever struck me as dumb, stupid, or whatever putdown you want to use.

My first wolfdog rescue involved a known biter, who usually went for faces.  I had my arm in the crate up to the shoulder, with my face pressed to the fence.  I talked to him the whole time, and he never once made a move towards me (even after the trauma of spending 12+ hours in a cage in a moving vehicle).  I think he understood that I was trying to help him. 

Cows, sheep, and goats aren't dumb either.  They'll protect their offspring, no matter what, and get the whole herd involved.  Yeah, I remember the story my grandpa told about trying to raise sheep.  They panicked, piled up on each other, and some got suffocated by the others.  But you just try getting past a new mama ewe.  Ain't gonna happen.  So, while they're not seen as smart, there have to be some serious brains in there somewhere.

Horses are some of the smartest critters out there.  They know you and they know what you're capable of.  If you're lucky, they'll bond with you.  I used to have a stallion that knew exactly what I was capable of.  Even though he had had more training than I had, he insisted that I tried to teach him something.  When I got lazy and didn't try hard enough, he got peevish (and that means nipping and kicking).  As long as I was extending myself, he was fine, even if he already knew what I was trying to teach.  I miss him.  He's a truly great horse, and he's learning lots with his new owners.  I couldn't afford to buy him back now.

Even chickens are smart (if you speak chickenese).  They have their own way of doing things, but it's pretty easy to understand and modify, if you so choose.  Stewie (my Rhode Island Red lead roo) is supposed to be one of the meanest chickens out there.  RIR's have a bad reputation.  But ya know, if I move slowly and talk to him quietly, he's great.  He chuckles to me and drives the other roos away from me if they get too aggressive.  Beautiful Sweet the Silkie hen actively seeks me out for protection and cuddles.  If you can speak chickenese, visiting the coop is lots of fun.

We all know that cats are smart.  If they deign to demonstrate their capacity.  That's a big IF.

There's a lot of material out there about the intelligence of dogs.  I think that some dogs are just cat-wired:  they know perfectly well what you're saying, but they don't find it relevant at that point in time.  Stanley Coren published a book on dog intelligence, but he should have called it dog trainability.  Each breed possesses the inherent capacity to be trained, if the trainer can "speak" dog, in specific breed dialect.  Some breeds are more trainable than others.  Within those breeds, there are certain individuals that may require more or less training. 

Then you get into rescue dogs.  On one hand, you get a dog (hopefully with basic manners training) that's already housebroken and past the chewing and demolishing stage.  On the other hand, you get all the emotional baggage that the previous owners put there.  Both of my dogs are rescues.  I'm babysitting my mom's dog this weekend, and he's a rescue too.  Even with previous problems, I'm sticking with rescues.  It can be a problem at times, but they're priceless.  My horses are priceless.  My chickens . . .well, I love them, but they're there to provide a service.  Eggs or meat. 

It's a fine line we draw about pets.  Yep, all my chickens have names.  Yep, there are a few on the slaughter list.  Yep, my dogs are my kids and I'll fight to keep them.  Hey, I fight for my kids too.  Family members are worth it.  I'm not quite sure where I draw the line (horses vs chickens) but I don't see the horses as expendable, whereas the chickens are livestock, meant to serve a purpose.

I'll save the rants against puppy mills for another day.  Or two.  Or three.  I'm so lucky and blessed to have the critters that I do have.  I've made the dogs and horses the promise that I'll take care of them till the day they die.  (As much as I love the chickens, well, they're expendable but I'll keep em around for as long as I can.)

So says the Fearless Farm Frau for tonight.  If you have pets, love on them extra for me, and treasure them.  Get in all the snuggles you can because you never know what tomorrow may bring.  If you think life is too short for us, imagine what it's like for them. 

Goodnight, folks.  May you and your critters be blessed.


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