Scooter took one look at the snow and zipped around the yard in gleeful circles. That little dog is fast! Lily ran big loops around the coops and behind the vegetable garden. Candy hopped patterns into the snow and then planted herself in it, satisfied. They were each expressing JOY in their own ways. Am I reading into their behavior emotions that only humans know? Am I guilty of anthropomorphism? I don’t think so. A growing body of research shows that animals have emotions – you can document it in their brain chemistry.
It is wrong, though, to apply human traits to our animals. Jean Donaldson’s book, Culture Clash, cites the many cases where dog owners attribute thought that isn’t there to behaviors (for example, like believing that a dog has shredded your blanket in spite.) There are thoughts going on in the dogs brain, of course, just not what the owner wishes to believe! Don’t apply your own emotional baggage to explain the behavior of your animals. They have a life unto themselves. And sometimes, watching them express it, like seeing my dogs have joyful zoomies. helps to set aside your own problems.
Relationships with chickens aren’t as fraught with expectations and desires. They are birds of modest brains, after all, not, “man’s best friend.” And yet, what good company they are! Charming, often silly, busy, productive and inquisitive. Even better, what brings a chicken joy is very simple – a nice bug, a bit of corn, a shiny drop of water. These joyful moments happen frequently. Maybe that’s why it’s so nice to sit in the coop with the girls. A little of that joy rubs off on us.
Wishing you many moments of joy in the coming year.