Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Quality of Life

After reading Temple's book I've spent quite a few hours pondering my animal's quality of life.  The sheep I'm not worried.  In exchange for a little bit of chasing they get a pretty good life.  They have good food, water, shelter and companionship.  The horses are also doing quite well.  They don't live in boxes, isolated from their peers.  They also have plenty of forage, space to roam, shelters and companionship.  When Roxy goes back to Jason's place I may consider getting a companion for Whiskey.  She has the sheep but it's not the same.  

Bella also has a pretty good life.  Many people believe that Guardians should live in isolation with their stock.  I'm not one of those people.  If you think about it, historically, the Maremma lived with a flock, and it's shepherd.  They had human guidance and support, as well as some companionship.  Bella, while expected to do her job, gets some love and attention.  Or as some people may say - is spoiled.

Tessa, with her aging body, still gets ample play.  The one animal I own that I worry the most about is Reba.  With her living in the house, I want her to be able to meet her play and seeking drives.  According to Temple's book, seeking is "the basic impulse to search, investigate, and make sense of the environment."  Other "Blue Ribbon Emotions" are rage, fear, panic, lust, care and play.  A mild form of rage is frustration, and care refers to maternal love and caretaking.  In order to prevent the negative emotions you need to provide for the positive ones.  

The biggest problem is Reba doesn't really play with me.  She LOVES to work the sheep, she enjoys playing chase with Bella, and will play fetch with a select few balls - outside.  She also likes going for walks (off leash) and runs (on leash) with me, but with the daylight issue, those are limited right now.  I've thought about attempting to teach her tricks, but when I do things she often looks at me like I'm crazy.  She's food motivated but not strongly enough to do anything for it.  Tessa, in contrast, will bark (on command), give me ten, sit pretty, and play hide and seek with me and her toys.  She also loves to play tug and will wrestle.  

When I've tried to get Reba to interact by being silly with her she gets excited, whines, but won't really engage.  If I go forward and rub her sides, and then retreat she doesn't follow.  When I take a toy and move it around, she usually won't do anything.  Last night, with a box full of dog toys, I looked over to see my dog chewing on a piece of wood.  Is this because of her upbringing?  Or just part of her temperament?  Most days, Reba seems happiest sitting with her head on my lap - she's always on the floor - I've yet to see her attempt the furniture to come up to me.  But does this meet her needs?  If you asked any of the old school dog guys they'd say she's dominating me by putting her head in my lap wanting pets.  Something I've thought about a lot is how Temple questioned whether or not dogs need to dominated, or if they just need good "parents" who provided clear, consistent guidelines?

Something to think about anyhow.


Jennifer said...

Interesting question...quality of life? If animals could talk, hey? Or if humans really listened? I had a long day at the vet today....I wonder, how do you think the rigors and strains of cutting affect the quality of life for a cutting horse...

Your animals are very lucky to have someone like you who truly cares for them! :D

Country Girl said...

When I think about cutting I do consider quality of life. I think it's awful that many horses will be "done" at 7 or 8 years old. For that reason my horse's soundness, and body take priority. I also was pretty picky as to who I would send my horses out to.

If she gave any indication she didn't love her job - she would be doing something else. And because she seems pretty darn keen to cut - that's what she gets to do.