It was very cold and crisp out today with a brilliant blue sky and bright sunshine – my very favourite kind of day – so perhaps that influenced my outlook on life as I did the barn chores and walked the dogs and spent time with all my critters. But it was most likely just the animals themselves, each with their own personality, their own quirks, their own way of displaying affection and appreciation for the human who looks after them and the home that gives them shelter, that brought that wonderful sense of contentment to my soul.
I arrived home from work about 2:30 – one of my shorter days – which left me lots of time to enjoy the afternoon outdoors. As I stepped through the barn door, I was greeted with a cacophony of piggy squeals and squeaks and oinks and oofs and grunts, as they struggled out of the bed of straw and blankets and raced to the other stall where they customarily are fed.
“Piggies! It’s much too early for dinner – it’s only 2:30! I’ve come to open the barn door to your yard because it was much too dark and cold when I left for work this morning.”
“But Foster Mama, you fed us breakfast soooooo early today. We are starving; please please please please please!”
Swizzle has the biggest eyes of any little piglet – it is almost like he has white saucers surrounding those sweet blue sparklers. And he holds his eyes W I D E open. It always takes me aback, as most pigs have quite small eyes sunk well into their dark little faces. Looking at those big eyes looking at me, I caved. And so I opened the fruit bin and fetched out a dozen or more apples and took them outside, followed by my little herd of piglets – a Pied Piper with a different tune for a different procession. The babies have learned to take apples nicely from my hand now, but their little mouths are not quite big enough to handle a whole one and I hadn’t taken the time to cut them in half. And so there I stood, surrounded by 10 hungry piglets and two equally hungry adult pigs, trying to help each piglet to get its sharp little teeth into an apple deep enough to get a bite.
Tom, Fizz and Lizzie were smart little piggies . When one of her siblings took a bite, severing it from the rest of the apple, Lizzie grabbed up the fallen apple and raced to the bottom of the field with it, Fizz in hot pursuit with a second fallen apple. Tom thought of another way to avoid sharing with his sibs – he nudged one from the basket while I was busy handing them out and with one quick shove of the snout rolled it down the hill where he could consume the whole thing uninterrupted. What little characters they are!
Then it was Martin’s turn. Martin was up the top of the pasture, where he had been visiting over the fence with the llamas next door. I wanted him back in his pen so I could walk the dogs in the pasture without worrying that one of them would get an undeserved kick in the head. Martin kicks HARD.
I got his food and called him, and watched in delight as he galloped down the path towards me, coming to a screeching halt (I swear he would have laid rubber if he was a car and the path was pavement) less than two feet away. And then he sauntered into his pen but instead of going to his feed bucket he reached out and nudged my hand, expecting to see his container of grain still there. He started himself when he realized he had actually touched a human and did a quick hop back, but then slowly reached out again for the proffered apple I had pulled from my pocket.
So with Martin safely in the pen, the three dogs and I headed up to the end of the pasture. Belle and Charley get to run off leash as Belle stays right beside me and Charley has reliable recall. But obsessive, determined, long-legged Caleb with very selective hearing is usually kept on leash so he will neither slip under the barbed wire fence in pursuit of a coyote, nor fill his belly with the piles of alpaca poop so generously deposited by Martin.
Today, however, I took a bag of high value treats (dried liver) in my pocket, undid the leash, and kept calling him back to me. Except for one mouthful of alpaca poop (for which he got scolded) he stayed close by and decided that trying to trip me was just as much fun as dragging me on the end of the leash – especially when he was getting rewarded for it.
The best moment of the walk was when we reached the top of the hill and I sat down on the little bench I’ve placed there, soaking in the sunshine and enjoying the snow-dusted mountains, the thin layer of ice on the creek, the prairie-yellow of the winter grasses in stark contrast to the brown tree trunks, all three dogs sitting at my feet, side by side, watching me intently for more treats and nudging my hand for that prize scritch behind the ears. How lucky I am to have such great friends, such wonderful companions in my life.
And just to make the day complete, after our return home I sat hemming some pants and watching a video when Allie came over to curl up on my lap. Caleb hasn’t quite got used to seeing this as it has taken many months for Allie to relax around my obsessive prey-driven lummox of a dog. But today they were friends. Caleb came and nosed at her back end, nudging her and licking her and making little tiny nibbles with his lips. Allie just buried deeper into my lap. Caleb went around to the other side and stuck his nose in her face, his version of kisses. Allie put both paws around Caleb’s nose, gently, and meowed at him. And then they played – Allie rolling over and grasping his face with her paws, Caleb nibbling and not being too sure what to make of this. Eventually he decided she was getting a little too rough and backed off.
At that point I was beginning to nod off, Allie still in my lap. I stroked her head but my hand went limp….and gently I feel her paw reach up and pat me on the face a few times. I stroked her again…then stopped again…..up came her paw to pat me a few more times. Very softly, very light little cat paw taps on my cheek, she reminded me that she, too, needed her lovings.
Each animal, letting me know their needs in their own way, communicating and showing affection and bringing smiles to my face.
Life doesn’t get much better than this.