The blues of winter affect not only us two-legged creatures, but also the furry four-footed critters we share our lives with. For me, winter produces a confining sense of tiredness, irritation and grumpiness. I force myself out of the house each morning as I repeat, “I love these animals, and they are worth the effort.” Like our valiant postal folks mantra, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds,” I trudge forward. After the needed rounds and back safe in the warmth of the house, I spend a few minutes peeling off my pink nightmare Carhart snowsuit. The splatter of ice crystals and horse poop pieces on my wood floor only adds to my disdain for the season. Now I’m even grumpier as I have to clean up after the barn animals inside the house too!
One encouragement that helps break up the dreary winter days comes in the form of our warm blooded 80-pound pit-lab mix Biscuit. He seems to be oblivious to the penetrating cold or malaise of winter as he will joyfully run through snow drifts, poop-filled pastures, through doors whether open or not, and up over the gate so he can run, run, run! Usually, the goats will run alongside him, not out of playfulness, but out of annoyance trying to butt him away.
My large animals comprised of llamas, a donkey, mini-horse and alpaca spend 90 percent of their day inside the barn. They act like bratty siblings with each other. Though plenty of tasty grain or hay is available, their table manners are atrocious with a little push here, a shove there, a nip, a grunt and kick or two to get first dibs on the meal at hand. They refuse to go outside because of the snow or blowing wind, which leaves huddling and picking on each other as the entertainment.
Most days, I have to settle a dispute between Dunkay the donkey and alpaca Lincoln, who rarely lives up to his namesake for being wise or benevolent. I lecture them on the benefits of being respectful to each other and the consequences of being naughty, like no grain for the day or threatened time out in the frozen back pasture where the snow is the deepest. They are so grumpy in the winter that I’ve thought about renting them out until spring to an optimist who needs a challenge. I reason, there must be better things to do than settling barnyard disputes and pushing apart nipping animals that outweigh me by hundreds of pounds.
I need everybody to chill and be on their best behavior until the robins come back. I desire the peace, joy and warmth most usually associated with the harmony of farm life and contented critters. Are there any interested optimists or critter whisperers out there looking for a bit of fun this winter?