Animals – What we learn from animals

Much has been written of the benefit of animal-human interactions and I always remember reading Dale Carnegie’s reference to how if one wants to be liked, then we should imitate a Labrador dog’s behaviour by be overwhelmingly happy to see every person, whenever we meet.

When helping provide palliative care for an aged female goat called Alice, the client shared with me the fact that she wanted to provide the best care for her that she could, because Alice had taught her how to look after goats. This got me thinking about the idea and I would like to share some of these experiences.

One of our dairy cattle clients believes that animals will show you how they want to be treated, if you let them. This is a common theme. There are many recommendations and beliefs around looking after animals and I frequently remember the advice “there is only the wrong way” to do anything.

I always find it entertaining to learn how dairy farmers refer to their animals. Almost all have individual names for at least some of their pet cows. When I ask them how they came by these names and why they name them, they almost universally state that these animals stick out and have friendly behavioural traits. Most dairy herds will have the “anti-woke” names Snowflake, Ginger and Doris. A little chihuahua x papillon puppy I gave a six-week physical examination and vaccination to was called Cashew. He was the son of Peanut.

I grew up on a pedigree Friesian dairy farm and all the cows had three names. The first was Novie, our family stud name. The second was the sire or father’s name. The last was their real name and, in our case, this always began with the same letter as their mother’s. Mum got very inventive around one large family whose matriarch was call Moondust.

When we discuss naming of animals with colleagues, there is universal agreement that often the clients who you least expect, have some of the most affectionate names for their animals.

Over my time working as a veterinarian, my specific advice to young farm staff is that the older I get the slower and smoother I try to move (though my body may have other ideas!). When I was young there was often the need to “force my personality and speed of interaction” to suit me. Frequently trying to move stock aggressively actually slows the job. Taking your time and allowing for animals “personal body space” often gives the best results.

They say good things take time and the same can be said for getting to know your animals – pets or livestock. I enjoy the human-animal interaction and taking some time to ponder what I am actually seeing and experiencing, I have found is time well spent.

Animals - Wellsford Vet Clinic