— by Susan Eirich, Ph.D. —
Adrianna the goat wasn’t feeling well in the evening. She refused to get up. She had diarrhea. Worried, we called the vet. “Was she wormed? Was she vaccinated? Take her temperature and call us in the morning.”
Easier said than done. Taking the temperature of a feisty goat regardless of her not feeling well was not a simple process. She didn’t agree to it. It took two of us, and she refused to be distracted. The first time she resisted and complained about the indignity so vehemently that Jean took the thermometer out too soon and we had to do it again. Would she ever speak to us again? We had never had to manhandle her before.
After all that fuss, her temperature was normal, she got treats, and we were frazzled. In the morning she was fine. Our best diagnosis—she had eaten too much broccoli, her favorite…We have soft-hearted volunteers.
As an aside—not one of our animals is happy about having their temperature taken. Really, it’s only a minute or even less with the new thermometers, and it doesn’t hurt. But they all, goat, wolf, cats, respond with outrage, or a most pathetic droopiness. It seems the indignity of it runs across all species.
Finally: After finding every tree and shrub on the property delicious and pruning them accordingly, I found something Adrianna the goat didn’t like. Mustard greens.
I then tried the chickens. Apparently they agreed.
Companionship; Awakening into Consciousness: Late in the evening I walked to my writing trailer way out on the edge of the pasture to spend the night. I had never slept in the trailer before—it was an experiment to see if it helped discipline me to write first thing in the morning, away from distractions. I woke up to a gorgeous early summer morning; birds, scents, gentle breezes—and the emphatic expressive grunts of two bison directly below my window—Bluebell and her follower Nima. Their massive bodies right there. Out of 20 acres, right there. They wanted attention. My accessibility was new—they were inches from my open window. If it weren’t for the screen, I could have reached out and scratched their ears.
The fence creaked as Bluebell vigorously scratched herself on the post. They stayed a while, grazing. I listened to their rhythmic breathing, thoroughly enjoying their presence. Eventually they moved away as they followed the best morsels of grass. It made me wonder. They seemingly materialized out of nowhere, just as my consciousness awakened from sleep. This was not a part of the pasture they frequented. The trailer had been there for over a year so it was not new. I got the impression that somehow they sensed my presence as it came back into this world, and were attracted by that shift. I said they wanted attention, but I don’t think that is accurate. I think it was something deeper. I think they came for companionship.
Life Can Be Difficult for a Plump Ground Squirrel (Don’t worry—happy ending): Life can be difficult, even for a spoiled ground squirrel. A family has taken up residence beneath the office porch for several years now. It is ideal. All they have to do is run across the way for the apparently super-delicious organic chicken food. They are plump and lazy. (There isn’t much we can do about it—everyone seems to raid the chicken food no matter how we distribute it.) But even in this cushy life there is danger. We give Adrianna the goat water in a tub with walls just high enough, apparently, that a ground squirrel can clamber up on it to reach down for a drink. Oops…
Jean found one swimming frantically, exhausted, unable to get out. Perhaps if it hadn’t been a bit overweight…
He lifted it out of the water, put the dripping little body down, and it scampered away. A near tragedy averted. Drama everywhere.
Ground squirrels, local relatives of the prairie dog, are intensely social and bonded to their family. They would have been bereft. I wonder if the squirrel who had been rescued somehow communicated danger to the rest of its family. According to researcher Con Slobodchikoff , they have a communication system so complex it can qualify as language (careful careful – man with red shirt—danger danger danger!). Not just drama everywhere: also unexpected wonder and intelligence everywhere…ground squirrels with a language (see A Ground Squirrel Spring).
In any case, we removed the danger by filling the tub just enough that they could clamber back out and also left flat dishes of water in the vicinity. It hasn’t even been that dry—there is water they could have found elsewhere. It was just that the tub was right there…
Dr. Susan Eirich is the Founder and Executive Director of Earthfire Institute Wildlife Sanctuary and Retreat Center. A licensed psychologist, biologist and educator, her goal is to widen the circle of conversation about conservation to include the voices of all living beings.