When have you witnessed an animal overcoming fear or anxiety to burst into the light of self-confidence?

Facing Your Fears

We often take Leaf to the dog park.  We especially like the one that has a river running through it.  At this park Leaf runs, plays, explores, and has a great time.

On a recent November day Leaf was having a lot of fun.  I (Allen) would throw the ball into the river, making sure it didn’t float out too far. Leaf would go in after it with only a bit of hesitation as he evaluated the distance and possible challenges.

We walked the long distance to where there is an inlet of still water from the fast-moving river. The water in this inlet is dark, undisturbed, and appears to be deep. It’s unlike the river where there are all sorts of activities with dogs jumping in, small waves from the boats passing by, and people chatting and throwing sticks into the water while intermittently sipping on their Starbucks coffee.

This inlet also had a few ducks swimming nearby. But the real difference was how still the dark surface of the water was, as if there were unknowns lurking below it.

Leaf loves his black-and-white ball.  He lives to chase and find it, often running into the water and retrieving to bring back the ball for more tosses.

After we arrived at the inlet I threw Leaf’s ball into this different type of water. He hesitated.  He looked at the ball and at me. I said, “You can do this.”  It was not that far for him to swim and retrieve the ball, maybe six feet away from where he stood on his short legs with water up to his knees.

A gentleman sat on a log nearby and watched us.  I learned later that his larger dog was also a rescue. Like Leaf, the man’s dog had become a wonderful friend and companion. The man called out words of encouragement for Leaf to go and get his ball.

Leaf barked at the ball. He whined and whimpered as if pleading with it to return on its own. Since the ball wouldn’t cooperate, Leaf took one careful step after another into the water. It was clear that he did not know if he might be hurt by some unknown danger lying in wait below the surface.

Nearby, maybe three or four feet to the left of where Leaf’s ball floated, an old rather large tree branch had fallen into the inlet.  Leaf looked at the branch. He assessed the situation and worked out a strategy.

Carefully he jumped up onto the long branch and slowly walked toward where his ball floated.  He took one cautious step after another. As he drew closer, I could tell that he still felt conflicted. Should he continue on his quest or retreat to the safety of land?

Bravely he continued onward.  After arriving at the spot closest to his floating ball, Leaf had to make another decision.  Would he jump into the ominous water or retreat from a dive into the unknown?

The gentleman said that watching Leaf’s dilemma and problem-solving skills was the cutest thing he had ever seen a dog do. He commented on how smart Leaf was to find a way to retrieve his ball.  He also observed how conflicted Leaf seemed to be.

I said nothing to Leaf at this point. I knew he needed the freedom to make his own decision.  And he did.

He held tightly to the branch with his paws. He jumped into the murky, still water. His head and body dipped under the surface for a second.  He emerged from the dive, saw his ball, grabbed it in his mouth with determination, and victoriously swam back to shore.

Leaf had conquered his fear. A bright light of new confidence emanated from him.  Both the man who had been watching and I were totally enthusiastic about Leaf and his victory over fear.  He had made the decision to face the unknown, and I was so proud of him.

See Video of Leaf playing at the dog park at www.youtube.com/watch?v=eiVo_Jdt8lA

What fears lurk in the dark, still waters of your life? When have you witnessed an animal overcoming fear or anxiety to burst into the light of self-confidence?

Allen and Linda Anderson
ANGEL ANIMALS NETWORK
www.angelanimals.net

Have you had a special relationship with a chicken or other animal most people only think of as edible?

“Boots, A Chicken with Options” by Sam Griffin was first published in the Angel Animals Story of the Week Newsletter on November 7, 2009.  Visit http://archive.mail-list.com/angelanimals to read past Angel Animals newsletters.

BOOTS, A CHICKEN WITH OPINIONS
By Sam Griffin

There was a time when I would shop at the grocery store, never giving a thought to what it was I was really eating. Slowly I became aware of all the chemicals and preservatives in the food, the pesticides and irradiation used on the produce, the inhumane treatment of the animals whose meat I was eating.

I became vegetarian, started growing vegetables in my tiny backyard, stopped buying anything that had ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, and purchased a few hens to have my own eggs.

Finally, I decided it was time to leave the city behind and move somewhere I could become as self-sufficient as possible. I planned to leave materialism behind and live a simpler, more rewarding life. I moved to a small farm in rural Virginia after selling my row home just outside of Philadelphia. Quite a radical lifestyle change, but it was time to “put my money where my mouth is.”

The hens on my new farm were the biggest challenge. I had five chicks and no idea what I was doing. I read everything I could find about raising chickens. As they grew and thrived, I learned just how fun and curious chickens are. What a surprise to discover that they had personalities, different food preferences, and odd habits unique to each bird.

One lovely spring day, while I shopped at the local flea market, I was astonished to see goats, turkeys, and chickens for sale. Most of the animals were sad, sickly specimens. It broke my heart to see them. I just wanted to buy them all and give them a better life. But if I did that, I would be encouraging the owners to breed more.

In the back of the flea market lot I noticed a man whose birds looked well cared for, clean, and healthy. As I looked over the birds, proud of myself that I could identify the different breeds, an older gentleman approached the vendor and said in a booming voice, “I need a rooster!”

The vendor asked, “What breed?”

The man hollered, “I don’t care; just as long as it makes a lot of noise. I’ve got a hen in the coyote trap now, but she doesn’t make a sound, so I’m not catching any coyotes.”

Needless to say, I was stunned. Using live chickens as bait? Do people really do that?

The vendor showed the man a rooster in a cage with a hen of the same breed. The man wanted the rooster, but the vendor said he sold only in pairs. The man said he’d take the pair.

Unable to be quiet any longer, I asked, “What are you going to do with the hen?”

He said, “I’ll just turn her loose in the woods. Something will eat her.”

I said, “What about the hen in the trap?”

He replied, “I’ll just turn her out too.”

Without hesitation I asked, “Can I have both hens?” Luckily, he said yes.

Soon I was following his pickup all over twisting back roads and into a dense pine forest. We approached the trap, and there was this tiny hen, laying in inches of muck with no food or water. Choking down my anger, I took the hen and thanked the man. Somehow I managed to find my way home.

After getting the flea market hen settled in, I took the tiny trap hen out of the box and looked her over. She was in horrible condition. She stank, her comb was purple, she was sneezing, and her breathing was labored.

Her feet were completely infected. She only had one toe left on each foot. The toenails were so long she couldn’t stand. I was completely at a loss. I knew I didn’t have the skills to help her.

I put her outside in a flowerbed with food and water nearby. She stretched a wing and a leg, soaking up the warm sunshine rays. Every so often, she reached up to take a sip of water and a few pecks of food.

After a time, she dug a little hole, which took a while with those two remaining toes, and rolled around in the dirt. A look of complete bliss came over her face. I remember thinking, “Well, if she doesn’t make it, at least she’ll have one perfect day in the sun.”

After dozens of phone calls, I finally found a veterinarian who would look at her. He said she had pneumonia. He gave me antibiotics and showed me how to treat and bandage her feet. He said if the infection in her feet got into the bones, she couldn’t be saved.

I took her home. For weeks, I gave her medicine and changed her bandages, clipped her nails, and fed her treats. Slowly, she began to recover.

One morning I was awakened at six in the morning by an unbelievably loud squawking. I raced downstairs to find little Boots (named so for her bulky, bandaged feet) standing at the front of her cage and hollering her head off.

Nothing appeared to be wrong, so I went to the cabinet that contained the container of oatmeal, figuring I’d give her a treat to quiet her down. As I walked toward her with the container, she began jumping up and down excitedly.

I put a handful of oatmeal in her dish, and she immediately stopped yelling and began to eat, making little contented cooing noises. This ritual continued every morning for months until she was able to move out to the coop with the rest of the flock.

In the meantime she slowly came to rule the household. I bought her a little chicken diaper. During the day she would sit on my desk while I worked, sauntering across the keyboard, pecking at all my papers.

She began sneaking upstairs to lay eggs under my bed. She loved to fly up on top of the refrigerator and stare down at the silly mortals below. She would steal and hide shiny things and swipe food if I made the mistake of leaving anything lying around. It was time for her to be an outdoor chicken.

I put Boots with the other chickens. She rapidly moved to the top of the pecking order, attacking anyone who messed with her, even though she was the tiniest.

She seemed a little lonely. I got her a boyfriend of the same breed, a cute little guy I named Bill. She ignored him pointedly at first, rejecting his advances. Eventually, she relented.

Today Boots is the proud mom of three daughters — Shoes, Sandals, and Slippers, all carbon copies of her but with more toes. She is a fiercely protective mother. Even my huge Orpington rooster lives in terror of her.

In the winter Boots lives inside. The nerve damage to her feet makes her unable to keep them warm enough. She is one tough little girl, and I’m proud of her.

I now have forty chickens, six turkeys, and ten quail. Most are rescues; a few have disabilities. Bringing them back to health and watching their antics is one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.

Living on a farm in the middle of nowhere is hard work, but one look at Boots, and I know it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world.

See photos of Boots at www.angelanimals.net/nlimage20.html

BIO:
Sam Griffin lives near South Boston, Virginia. She has turkeys, quails, and chickens. A story about Boots was published on September 28, 2009 in PeoplePets.com. Prior to the story’s publication one of the writers for PeoplePets was on a poultry site looking for people who owned chickens in the city. She planned to do a story about urban chickens. Before Sam moved to the country, she had kept chickens in the backyard and garage of her city row home. After Sam called the writer, the woman used other people’s stories for that article, but loved Boots and ran Sam’s story in PeoplePets later. Sam does not have a website or an organization, however she seems to be gaining a reputation in the area for taking in all unwanted/broken/special needs/abandoned animals. Her friends tease her that it takes five of her chickens to make one complete bird with all functioning parts. Sam says that she writes about Boots the way some people go on about their kids.

 

SOMETHING TO THINK ABOUT:
Have you had a special relationship with a chicken or other animal most people only think of as edible?
Allen and Linda Anderson
Angel Animals Network
www.angelanimals.net

 

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