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On the Edge of Common Sense: Animal bonding

Baxter Black for Progressive Cattle Published on 24 June 2021

Today, there is an increased recognition of the bonding process between man and animals. Pets are now referred to in politically correct circles as companion animals.

Companion. By definition: an associate, a comrade. It’s not a bad choice of words in a world where families get fractionated, children leave home, neighbors don’t know each other, and people get lonely. A pet can be a good companion.

Of course, when the word “bonding” is used, they are almost always speaking of the bonding between humans and dogs or cats. Wait … maybe not cats. I’m not sure one can bond with a cat. But, be that as it may, they are never referring to livestock people and the animals in their care. Livestock bonding does occur infrequently in fiction. Babe, the sheep-herding pig, bonded with Farmer Hoggett. Mary had her little lamb. Colonel Sanders … well, that might be a bad example.

I contend that in real life, there is a bonding between stockmen and their creatures. I have got a lot of miles out of pickin’ on cowmen who keep an old cow “one more year.”

As a vet, I have stood at the squeeze chute every fall as the cows are worked. My job is to give the cow a quick “going over” for physical fitness and do a pregnancy examination. Typical deal: This ol’ mama comes stumbling in the chute at the speed of a sloth on Valium. The headgate clangs shut, never touches the cow. Run a stick down her side, sounds like a prod pole across a picket fence. Her tailhead is stickin’ up like a shark’s fin; she’s draggin’ one tit on the ground. I’m thinkin’ to myself, “Is there any point in putting on a plastic sleeve and torturing this poor beast any more?”

Then I look up to the headgate, and there is that good cowman, rubbing his chin and lookin’ at that old cow like he’s in a jewelry store. “Am I missing something here?” I ask myself, dumbfounded. I finally realized I was missing something. That good cowman and me were not looking at the same cow. See, I was looking at an economic unit. Will she have a calf, breed back and bring another one home next fall?

He, on the other hand, was looking at an animal that had taken him to the pay window for 10 years. He might know her even better than that. She might have put him over a fence, or he might have helped her through a bad calving. But he knows her and owes her. He wants to make sure she gets the benefit of the doubt.

And that’s a bond. As genuine as a cat or dog. Granted, he doesn’t think of her as an associate or a comrade, as in “Git along, little comrade” or “Let’s go to the pasture and gather our associates.” But it is a bond just the same, built on respect. end mark