Tuesdays at SALI’s Farm

Apr 6, 2011

Jasmine and Mercedes come from the same family. Jasmine is a bit stand-offish; Mercedes loves attention. She gets jealous if Jasmine gets any attention. Jasmine is older and is less trustful of adults. She hogs food and treats from Mercedes and I say “Hey, you should share with Mercedes.” I think she is being rude and she should be more polite. But then I watched as the doctor came to give Mercedes a shot and Jasmine became worried for her and got mad at the doctor. “She really cares for Mercedes,” I think to myself. “She’s feeling protective of her.” That makes me like her more; she isn’t selfish, she’s caring when it really matters.

Morgan and Pudding are friends. They’ve grown up together. Morgan is large and a bit sloppy. Her hair is long and always tangled with dirt stuck in it. Pudding is shy. His hair is shorter and always combed. When the two of them are together, Morgan is bossy. She always wants what Pudding has. If he is eating something, she will push him away and eat what he was eating. He lets her. He is patient. He is getting skinny. I like Morgan because she comes up to say “hi” and seems more friendly. Pudding runs away when I try to talk to him. That makes me feel that he doesn’t like me. So I spend time with Morgan; she’ll go on walks with me and I try to comb her hair and get the tangles out. But it’s nasty because she stinks! She becomes impatient sometimes and wants to go back to play with Pudding. When we are walking back, I hear Pudding call her name. I realize that he really likes her and misses her when she is gone. She calls back “I’m on my way..”

Jasmine and Mercedes are donkeys. Jasmine is Mercede’s mother. Miss Morgan (Morgan) and Pudding are horses. All four live a happy life at SALI’s demonstration farm. I am a city girl with not much experience with animals, especially large farm animals. But I do know about children and people. I am a Registered Clinical Counselor with training in how animals can help people to confront and deal with their deep emotional problems. I have committed the remainder of my career to the psychological work that can take place when a human comes in contact with an animal. Animals are in the present, as you may have heard Caesar Milan say about dogs. People are different. People have regrets of the past, feelings of guilt and shame; worries about the future. People interpret the meaning of behaviour and place judgements on it. Our judgements are often reflective of our experience. The intro to this blog reflects the interpretations I put on the behaviours of the animals I am working with. Children may have the same or they may have completely different interpretations. The power of the work is that there WILL be interpretations. Example: SALI will be working with the Surrey school system to have a group of children from a Social Development Program come to the farm. The teacher of the class wanted to visit first and over Spring break he brought his daughter, a 6-year-old. When we were in the donkey pen and had greeted Jasmine and Mercedes, we moved to their stall to clean it. Mercedes followed close behind the little girl. She says “I think she likes me.” That was her interpretation of the behaviour of the donkey. Perhaps the donkey was really saying “I wonder if this little girl has a carrot in her pocket.”

But what the donkey is REALLY saying is not what’s important here. The fact that she felt that she made a connection with this donkey and this donkey felt she was special IS what’s important here. That is the power of our work with animals.

I decided it would help my work if I spent some time with these animals and they with me. I’m sure they are thinking I’m some wierdo human who keeps talking to them and seems a bit unskilled at what I do… but we are forming a relationship…. and relationships are the key.

I will keep you updated on my activities at the farm and my very human interpretations of their very non-human behaviours. This blog will be entitled “Tuesdays at the Farm”.

Thanks for listening.

Posted by Christine