Posts Tagged ‘animal sentiency’

Best Friends

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

One of the few things remaining that some people are convinced make humans different than other animals is the ability to have preferences or feelings. But, this is becoming more and more difficult to defend as there are numerous first-hand stories that refute this claim. This video from CBS News about an elephant in an elephant sanctuary and her best friend is not only delightful and heartwarming, it defies a variety of beliefs that have been previously held which make humans special. At The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, not only does Carol Buckley rescue elephants who have been abused or need a home after their retirement, she also provides a most generous and thoughtful place for them to live out their lives…including the ability to have options with whom to live. Stories like this one make it easy and even a little bit satisfying to know that there are creatures who openly express a grace and compassion for others that we are capable of expressing as well. Sometimes we just need a good example.

Photo credit CBS

Life With Exotic Birds

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

If there ever was a moment to pause before making a decision about which path to take when it comes to the animals in your home, getting a bird is one of those moments. They are so beautiful and it seems so simple – just put them in a cage and feed each day, right? Well, not exactly. What most people don’t realize is that day to day life with a bird – big or small – can be difficult. They are demanding flock creatures whose desire for round the clock attention and activity is insatiable. They are also really smart. In fact, Dr. Irene Pepperberg who has run a 30+ year seminal study of avian intelligence through the Alex Foundation, has shown us that they have the intellectual capacity of a 5-6 year old human child and the emotional capacity of a 2 year old human child. Still thinking you can have a happy bird who spends all his time in a cage? Many people are accustomed to seeing smaller birds in cages and think this is a suitable life for a curious, intelligent, feeling creature. As a result, they don’t realize the trouble the bird is having with life alone in a cage with no stimulation. Bigger birds often let you know how they feel by screaming, developing unusual behaviors or plucking out their feathers.

There was a very insightful piece on CBS Sunday Morning this week entitled Bye Bye Birdie about the aftermath of bird “ownership” which shows rescue centers overloaded with birds cast off because they were too loud, too demanding, too difficult, too destructive. I highly recommend visiting both the Alex Foundation site to find out more about exotic birds as pets as well as watching this CBS piece before making the decision to live with birds of any size. Exotic birds (little birds like parakeets included) are amazing curious creatures and ones whose intellectual and emotional capacities run so deep and who are so needy that it can be overwhelming.

I recently was at a lunch with some friends and one of the women asked if there was anyone we knew who could take in a 20 year old Cockatoo. The bird had been with her owner for all those years and one day ripped into the woman’s face – a violent act she had never even hinted at before. The vet told her to “get rid of the bird” which begs the question of what to do with her? She would live another 40-50 years and had bonded to this one woman who was her mate. Could it be more appropriate to find out what caused the outburst, addressing the problem and finding a way to keep the bird in the same home? This particular situation is not unique. Birds (and other animals) may live for years in a situation they find frustrating only to finally reach the “end of the rope” and lash out. The “owner” sees it as aberrant violent behavior. But, the animal generally has been sending out clues about their unhappiness for a long time – clues the person never understood or picked up on.

I have had the pleasure of living with small exotic birds for 20 years and can attest to the fact that it is a full time position. Fortunately I have worked at home for all the time we had birds. I am not sure what I would have done if I had to work outside the house, as the need for attention and companionship by birds surpasses anything I have ever known with other animals – even dogs. Birds are brilliant in mind and body and can be pretty mysterious. A good human companion to a bird is one who is prepared for a lifelong commitment to an unusual and complicated lifestyle. The cost can be very high to bird and human if it’s the wrong match. And apart from the ethics of “getting rid of the bird”, as indicated in this CBS piece, placing the bird somewhere else is not always an option. The best way to avoid these sad stories is to not take in a bird until you are absolutely certain you are prepared for it. And, if you are ready, then adopting one or two of the many birds already in need may be a good option for all of you.


Photo courtesy of The Alex Foundation

A Happy Family of Rescues cared for by a Greyhound

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Wait a minute…don’t greyhounds chase rabbits and small animals? Hmmm….someone needs to tell this greyhound that she needs to get with the program. Or…maybe not. She seems to be at peace with her lot in life and happy to share the gentler side of being a greyhound with everyone she comes in contact. Enjoy this wonderful story of a rescued greyhound as it appeared in the Daily Mail Online.

Perfect mum: Jasmine the greyhound with Bramble, the roe deer she is currently caring for

When Jasmine the abandoned greyhound arrived at a wildlife sanctuary shivering and desperate for food, she needed all the love in the world to nurse her back to full health.

Now it appears the kindness and patience shown to her has rubbed off – for the rescue dog has become a surrogate mother for the 50th time.

Seven-year-old Jasmine is currently caring for tiny Bramble, an 11-week-old roe deer fawn found semi-conscious in a nearby field.

She cuddles up to her to keep her warm, showers her with affection and makes sure nothing is matted in her fur.

In short, the perfect foster mum.

But then again, she has had plenty of practice, having cared for five fox cubs, four badger cubs, 15 chicks, eight guinea pigs, two stray puppies and even 15 rabbits.

Jasmine was brought to the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary by the police in 2003, having been found dumped in a garden shed.

She was cold, filthy and malnourished. It took a few weeks for her to fully trust staff at the centre but with tender loving care she was nursed back to full fitness.

Five years on, Jasmine is now the one looking after stray waifs.

Geoff Grewcock, who runs the sanctuary, said: ‘She simply dotes on the animals as if they were her on, it’s incredible to see.

‘She takes all the stress out of them and it helps them to not only feel close to her but
to settle into their new surroundings.

‘As soon as an animal is brought in, she walks over takes a sniff or two and then licks and cuddles them.

‘It is quite amazing, particularly as she is a greyhound breed and they are usually quite aggressive, That is why they are used for racing.

Jasmine with another one of her ‘babies’. She has cared for 15 rabbits in total

‘Jasmine was abused when she was younger, the police brought her to us after discovering her whimpering in a garden shed.

‘She was very nervous around us, she was caked in mud and dust and very thin. It took a while but gradually she got used to us and has been at the centre ever since.

‘Having been neglected herself, it’s a real surprise to she her show so much warmth and affection to other creatures.

‘It’s not just animals, she is great which children too, she is such a gentle, big-hearted dog.’

Bramble the fawn arrived at the centre two months ago after a dog walker came across her in a field dazed and confused.

Until she is old enough to be released back into the wild, she will continue to be cared for by Jasmine.

Geoff added: ‘They are inseparable at the moment, Bramble walks between her legs and they keep kissing each other.

Happy family: Pictured from left to right are Toby, a stray Lakeland dog; Bramble, an orphaned roe deer; Buster, a stray Jack Russell; a dumped rabbit; Sky, an injured barn owl, and Jasmine

‘They walk together round the sanctuary. It’s absolutely marvellous. It’s a real treat to see them.

‘But she is like that with all of our animals, even the rabbits which greyhounds usually chase down the track.

‘I remember we had two puppies that had been abandoned by a nearby railway line, one was a Lakeland Terrier cross and another was a Jack Russell Doberman cross.

‘They were tiny when they arrived at the centre and Jasmine approached them and grabbed one by the scruff of the neck in her mouth and put him on the settee.

‘Then she fetched the other one and sat down with them, cuddling them.

‘She has done the same with the fox and badger cubs, she licks the rabbits and guinea pigs and even lets the birds perch on the bridge of her nose.

‘It’s very touching. Her maternal instincts take over all the time.’; images: Caters News Agency Ltd


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