Friday, June 5, 2015

Siblings of Sorts

by Pa Rock
Dog and Cat Person

Much of this spring has been like the one that preceded it last year.  I am struggling to keep up with mowing and pulling weeds, and young poultry is scampering about the yard learning to chase down bugs while avoiding predators.    The activities and behaviors of the little chickens and turkeys are completely instinctual, having been bred into their psyches over eons of time.   They don’t need to observe the older fowl to know that when a chicken hawk comes floating overhead it is time to run for the safety of a bush or a building.   Their genetic coding which has been passed down through thousands generations of survivors says “head for cover!”

One big change here at the little farm in the past year has been the arrival of my three farm pets.  Rosie, the little Chihuahua, came to The Roost last September 1st, and we had the fall and winter to get to know each other.  She is a resident of the house and has slowly learned not to tear things up or relieve herself indoors.  Her “training” has not been easy on either of us.

Thor, the Great Pyrenees pup, arrived about three weeks ago.   He is an outdoor dog, though he does look wistfully at the back door whenever it is opened.  He probably regards Rosie as special because she basically goes in and out at will and spends all of her nights inside with the farmer.

Annie came about a week after Thor.   She is a tiny calico kitten who eats her weight in canned cat food and milk daily.  The first several days she was here I kept her in the open chicken coop during the day and in the closed garage at night.   Then, after she started becoming acclimated to the farm, I quit putting her up at nights.  Now she basically lives on the back deck and goes out to the chicken coop once or twice a day to check on her friends.  Annie, being quick as a cat, does manage to slip in the back door on occasion, but I am always equally quick to snatch her up and toss her back out.

The interesting thing is how well the three very distinct pets have begun getting along together - almost like playful siblings.    Rosie was basically scared and then incensed when Thor showed up.  She began warming up to him when she figured out that she could run rings around him – and the big dog, while somewhat of a nuisance, posed no physical threat to her whatsoever.  Now they fight over toys and play together for hours on-end.   

Rosie, by virtue of her seniority and natural bossiness, tries to maintain a dominance over Thor.  Yesterday while I was working in the front yard, Thor roamed out into the road and just stood there taking in the scenery.  I yelled at him to come back, but he ignored me.  It was at that point that Rosie interceded.    She growled and yapped a few times, and he promptly marched back into the yard.

Both dogs were fascinated by little Annie when she came along.   Thor began playing with her by plopping his big feet down at will on either side of the little kitten.  But Annie showed no fear of the big lummox.  Thor would occasionally pick her up with his mouth and carry her around, and although Annie would fuss regarding the indignity of the unwanted ride, she still showed no fear of him.    Rosie, too, likes to play with the kitten, but she is rougher than Thor, causing Annie to occasionally swipe at the nuisance Chihuahua with her little claws – or run for cover beneath the deck.

Thor and Annie both seem to headquarter on the back deck.  I feed them there, which is probably a mistake, but the setting offers a table for feeding Annie that the dogs can’t get to, and Thor’s dry food is in a bowl under the table where the rain can’t soak and ruin it.

I don’t keep a water bowl on the deck, however, forcing both outdoor residents to walk out near the coop to a big water bowl that sits beneath the sassafras trees.  I want them both out in the yard helping to guard against predators.

One recent afternoon I stepped out the back door and found Annie securely wrapped around the lower portion of Thor’s back leg, trying to hobble him like some ambitious wrestler who had bitten off more than she could chew!  I don't know if Thor did something to instigate the incident or not, but he was certainly having trouble shaking loose from his attacker.

The cutest thing between the two outdoor pets, however, is how they sleep.  Thor always lays against the outside of the back door so that Rosie and I can’t slip out that way without him knowing it.   And Annie, recognizing a soft bed when she sees it, climbs up on his stomach, brushes his fur with her claws until it is nice and fluffy, and then settles down for the night.

That behavior probably isn’t genetic, but the kitten is smart and appears to be a survivor.  A thousand generations from now, all cats may sleep that way!

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