Sunday, February 16, 2014

On Animals and Emotions: The Difference Between Pups & Peeps


           I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that animals feel. I’ve watched a mama goat roam the yard bleating for a baby lost at birth. I know Rosey knew (for a day at least) “I had 11. Where are the others?”
          But unlike us, critters seem to process grief faster than we do. They get in sync with the present sooner….accept what is, rather than obsess over what is not, in a way we humans could probably learn from.
          Another place I think we differ is anticipating, much less worrying about the future. Oh, I’ve seen a goat stress when being loaded in the back end of a truck, and I’ve often wondered what those cows must be thinking when I pass them on the interstate, me in my Jeep, them in the back end of some tractor trailer rig. (I mean, they seem calm enough. But don’t they know they’re going to market?) And how come Minsky can always tell the difference when our tires hit the vet’s parking lot vs. any of the other parking lots we drive onto on any given day? I mean, it’s not like she can see the building, much less read the sign from her vantage point. Whasupwithat?
          These thoughts rolled round and round in my head as I made may way home tonight for the pups last dinner together as a group. Starting this week, they’ll be leaving one by one (or two by twos as is the case for some). It’s that week I’ve been dreading for awhile.
          As I pulled in the drive, Rosey comes bounding around from her perch near the door of the garage room where the puppies sleep. For the past week and a half, Rosey’s been outside on the porch or inside with me come bedtime. Some days she prefers being with TJ. Others, she’d rather be with Minsky. Anymore, Rosey gets what Rosey wants, after all, time is limited for her in this mothering role. Soon she’ll be back tending goats.
            I open the garage door to let the puppies romp (read: pee and poo) while I whip up some dinner. Rosey waits patiently beside them, allowing a nip of milk here, a lick of a head there. She’s dutifully on guard against critters of the night (after all, coyotes are a very real threat here in the country, though I too am keeping a keen eye from my window as I make their dinner of minced meat mixed with dry food and gravy).
            Do I tell her they’re leaving this week? Do I insist she savor every last night? As I watch them fight over their bowls, pushing each other this way and that, then lick each other clean once all three bowls are licked clean, I wonder, “Will anyone miss anyone when someone’s gone tomorrow?”
            I’m not certain they’ll care in the least. Pups pretty much love whatever loves them next (which is, after all, why we love dogs). But I care. They may not be sentimental. Heck, I doubt they can even count to seven (if they know to count themselves), but I know.

            And because I know, I pull out my camera. I find them all their favorite toys. I spend an extra 20 minutes fluffing their favorite tattered blanket in the dryer, so they can do their cute little pile up thing one last time. I nuzzled each and every one, reminding them again they are loved and they are special (even though they pretty much look exactly alike, even still). And for good measure ( just so I’d sleep better), I leave Rosey in, with her favorite music playing and extra treats in her corner. After all, tomorrow’s a big day...this week, a big week.
            And knowing Rosey, and knowing me…
Well, Rosey's gonna be fine.
Cause in the end, I think one other big reason we love dogs so, is they have this uncanny ability to live in the present. (And I for one admire that.)

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