Wednesday, August 25, 2021

You Know It's Our Fault, Right?

It's the arguments that drive me nuts. People justifying the existance or way of maintaining certain breeds of animals in their life because they grew up with one that acted just like Lassie, or was every bit as smart as Trigger. 

The argument intensifies when we slather our humanity all over these animals. We might have our "heart" horses or insist dogs bred for generations to bite, maul and kill are really "nanny dogs" waiting to return love in equal amounts of the love given - but that's how we feel, it makes no allowances for the reality of the animal.

Then, if none of those heart felt loaded arguments work we fall back on our rights. Maybe this is an American thing, but it certainly seems to be the go to when facts start overcoming emotion. "It's my right to own this dog breed, it's my right to keep my horse in a box and ride it on asphalt, don't tread on me while I'm stomping all over these creatures."

I understand the emotion, and I also understand a need  to justify molding animals into the shapes we want. It's just that I think animals have rights too. The right to breathe and the right to move come to mind.

Instead, we change their size, their jaw width, even their ability to breathe, all to fit our personal needs. 

We expect our domesticated animals to tolerate our ape-like grasp, our need to be the boss, our need to be loved in spite of crawling all over them, putting bits in their mouths or muzzles on their faces. The crazy thing is, they do. If that's what we want, our animals will accomidate the best they can, within their genetic limits.We humans of course, can't be content with that, and dip our fingers in their gene pools like muddy feet in a basin of holy water. 

I'm not saying our experiments are good or bad, I'm just saying we need to accept responsibility for our mutant Frankensteins. 

The first thing I'd like people to understand is that when we modify one gene for behavior it can rise up in the physical too. We aren't quite good enough at creation to anticipate how our yin will get along with our yang. 

I randomly looked up best couch potato breeds. Bulldog, St. Bernard, Basset Hound, French Bulldog, Pekinese, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chow, Pug, Great Dane all topped the list. Fighting dogs, life savers, royal dogs, hunting dogs, all kinds of sizes and coats, there was quite the diversity. 

At least until I looked up their chronic, breed related ailments. Shortened sinuses, popping eye, joints that don't join, skin that doesn't fit, legs that can't run, noses that can't scent and hearts so small that all their love can't stop them from bursting and killing them in their first decade.

You know who did that? We, the human race did. We've got a nice list of couch potatoes though.

It's not just our ignorance of the damage caused by genetic tampering that gets to me. There's the things we do to our domestic animals for our personal convenience, and then scream from the roof tops, "But he like it this way!!" 

My example here is an awful, heartbreaking injury/infection mess that too many horseowners deal with. Its called cellulitis, a diffuse or widespread swelling of the skin and subcutaneous tissues (that area directly below the surface layer of the skin) caused by inflammation usually associated with bacterial infection. Some of these horses will exhibit mild signs with cool to warm swelling, minimal pain and no lameness. Other more extreme cases of cellulitis will show impressive leg swelling (two to three times the normal size), warm to hot skin that is often painful to the touch, an elevated temperature (102 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit) and notable severe lameness.

The lymphatic system is supposed to clean up those bits of bacteria as blood flows through the the body . When circulation is compromised the toxins aren't flushed properly and can become trapped. Then, those bacteria can get their party started and bring on the cellulitis.

 Healthy lymph flow back into the circulation is encouraged by activity and muscular contraction. Horses in the wild cover long distances at walk each day while stalled horses, and horses in small pastures have long periods of inactivity. In addition, horses have no muscle to contract below the knee, making their legs especially vulnerable.

 You know what prevents this? Strolling for miles, grazing choice bits here and there, front legs pulling, sagging backs and almost continuous movement. It's how horses are made, and what it takes to keep them healthy.

We, us, people, are the ones who keep them in boxes, covered in blankets, sheets, leg wraps, neck sweats and all of these things inhibit movement. We do it for our convenience. We do it because we don't have the room to meet their needs. We do it because a horse's mind is so malleable we can convince them this is what they need.

Cellulitis is our fault, created by forcing a horse to adapt to a confinement that they can't physiologically sustain. 

I'm not pointing fingers. I am however, saying we have to keep our animals real needs in the forefront of our thoughts if we choose to tend them. We have fallen in the habit of treating the results of our manipulation as the problem. It's not. 

I don't have the answers, I have ideas, which I'll certainly share. I can't see the value of treating a symptom without understanding the cause. When we discover we created the mess, I'd like to admit it and start to mop it up.

1 comment:

  1. My desire to create a good life for my horse is one thing that stopped me from bringing her to a boarding facility in the heart of my city. My current solution isn't perfect for me or for her - but it's affordable, manageable and gives her quality time outside and inside with a companion in her field and those adjascent, and a way to interact with horses in adjoining stalls. What's truly amazing about horses is their ability to adapt and survive in the most unnatural and adverse of circumstances we create for them.