…nor critters by kibble, hay, grain, laying mash, or fish pellets.
I spend a good deal of time administering all these things, and then cleaning up the resulting poop. But I spend just as much, if not more, time seeing to the emotional needs of the animals around here, as follows:
1. Wolfie. Wolfie has an emotional need to have fun—he\’s a young dog—and because he\’s a dog, fun and work are the same thing (dogs are lucky that way). Hence the herding lessons, and the insane circus that passes for herding practice when I\’m on my own with him and the goats.
2. Lexi. She has always been an independent soul, but every once in a while she limps up to me and pushes her gray muzzle against my knees and I know she needs more than the home-cooked meals I feed her. It\’s hard for her to move, because of her galloping arthritis, so she mostly lies around quietly and will not, if I\’m on the couch reading, come up and try to get me to play, as Wolfie does. I have to remind myself, a couple of times a day, to find her and pet her and ask how she\’s feeling.
3. The goats. They have more emotional needs than a corps de ballet. Virginia Slim, the newcomer, is settling in, but still won\’t eat her grain unless I\’m there talking to her—this is while she\’s on the milking stand and I\’ve finished milking. Meanwhile, Blossom and Alsiki, who have gobbled down their grain, are wondering why nobody is petting them, so I have to see to that. With all this goat gruntling, it takes me a long time to get back to the house with the milk.
Every few days, I give the goats a good brushing, which they love. They close their eyes and go into a trance, but they insist on being brushed all at the same time. So I go from goat to goat, brushing a hip here, a shoulder there, while my other hand scratches a head here, a neck there. By the time we\’re done, I\’m in a trance as well.
4. The chickens. Do they have emotional needs? As many as you or I. They love to be talked to in low, soothing tones. They love it if I move around them slowly. If I sit down among them they will come up and start a conversation. I haven\’t done enough sitting among chickens lately. Must remedy that.
5. The fish. My two Shubunkin gold fish don\’t have emotional needs. They have emotional problems. They\’ve been in my tub garden for what, a month now, and they still spend their time hidden behind some stones I provided for their privacy. Every day I cast a few pellets on the water, calling their names, and…nothing. Later, when they think I\’ve gone away, they emerge out of the murk and snap up the food, then disappear again. I realize that they\’re probably like this because they have unmet emotional needs, but how do you make a fish happy?