Monday, October 24, 2011

The Thin Veneer of Civilization

My house is not located far from civilization. I live only minutes away from the nearest Walmart, after all. Duke the dog and Ginger the horse do not always take into account that they are domesticated animals and now live in a civilized human world. The week was off to a good start Monday morning when I stepped outdoors to find the severed head of some unfortunate creature reeking on the front steps. Using a shovel, and holding my breath, I slung the grisly thing far out into the timber. This is the number one reason why Duke is never allowed to breathe on me or lick my hands or face. I can only imagine the horrible things he may have been recently savoring in his role as a heartily indiscriminate omnivore.

I never have to worry about anything as gruesome with the resident herbivore, Ginger the Reigning Equine. She never drags stinking mammal parts up to the gate for me to enjoy. She expresses her disdain for primates in other ways. She expects weak and slow human beings to do her bidding. The farrier arrived Friday evening cheerful and friendly, and left forty-five minutes later sweating and a bit cranky after wrestling with Ginger for control of her right hind hoof.

Ginger seems to greatly enjoy getting her hooves trimmed. She almost falls asleep while her front hooves are being tended but she only tolerates this human interference for a given amount of time. Then, whether the farrier is finished or not, Ginger no longer agrees that her cooperation is needed. Oh, she eventually allows that last hoof to be trimmed but she makes us pay by insisting on putting her foot down - by shoving me around with her nose - by rubbing her big horse head on my shoulder - by wrestling her hoof out of Terrie's grip. After getting slapped by two cranky and irritated women, Ginger lowers her head and exhales her irritation, then usually cooperates, maybe throwing in one or two minor impatient horse maneuvers, just to keep things even amongst the females.

The problem, if there is one, is that I do not actually feel as if my dog or my horse need to live in abject servitude to me. I expect them to not harm me or other human beings because I treat them with respect and kindness. To me, they are beings in their own right. In return, they are careful to cooperate. They do not always obey me instantly, or do my every bidding the way some people expect their animals to behave. My animals cooperate with me because they want to, not because they have to. Sometimes there is an area of disagreement when I think they should cooperate more immediately and more fully, but they think otherwise. It is quite human of them, actually.

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