Saturday, April 2, 2011

strange behavior

Friday when I was running outside on some country roads, I was dismayed by the fact so many people allow their dogs to roam free. I know I have three dogs, so you would think it would follow that I like dogs, but the truth is that I don't. I like my dogs, but not so much other people's dogs. And I am terrified of dogs chasing me when I run. I know dogs sense fear, and I know my fear only makes it worse, but none the less, it's a feeling I haven't been able to change. After more than one dog scare on my run on country roads, I decided to cut through the woods to get home. I knew the woods and I've never run into a dog in the woods. I wasn't having such luck on the roads. I know the paths in the woods well enough that I wouldn't get lost. And while I knew there was still some snow and ice on those paths, I decided I'd rather risk falling on the ice than dealing with another dog on the run.

So I left our house for my run out our front door to the main road. I came back through the woods, out behind the alpaca's pasture. When I came out of the woods all of the alpacas were on alert, staring at me. I know this is their safety mechanism, this is how the herd functions. But I am always amazed how long they stay on alert. Even after I talked to them and let them know it was me, they were still staring. Even after I got into the house, and looked out at the back yard, they were still in a group, staring.

I was reminded about an excellent speech I heard in Janauary by Dr. Temple Grandin. She is an amazing woman who not only has autism, but has become a voice explaining what it's like to cope with autism. She also has done tremendous work with animals (building chutes for cattle and such). She gave me insight not only into children with autism, but also into animal behavior. So much of what she said about cattle fit for alpacas too.

Animals expect the same routine. And I know this is especially true for alpacas. When I do my daily farm chores, if I make any change or adjustment to what I do, it throws them all off. There have been times I put grain out in a different order and it threw them off so much none of them could cooperate with me. I've literally had to pick up all the grain bowls, walk back into the garage, and start over. J and I have found that if we feed them differently, that it messes it up for each other. There were times that J would feed them differently once, and it would take me three feedings to get them back into the routine. We've learned how to keep things as similar as possible.

I think when I came back from a run from behind them, when they never saw me leave, was really strange behavior to them. They didn't know what to make of it. I also know it's been at least since last fall that I was back in the woods, so it's been months since they have seen me over there.

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