Sunday, August 27, 2006

Being the Alpha

Katie's post about the lost dog is right on in a lot of ways. (Minus the convincing me I need a dog.) :-)

In the horse world, it can be hard to balance your love of this animal and their spirit with the fact that you need to be the alpha in the herd. The same is true with cats, dogs, rats, and any other pet one might care to mention.

It's not that I think you need to dominate your pet to the extent that you squash their personality, but keep their biology, their hard-wired instincts, in mind. It's not just responsibility to them as beings, but responsibility to respect them as they are. In other words, don't make them a substitute for whatever else you're lacking in your life. It's not healthy for them, and it's certainly not healthy for you.

Oh, getting a little preachy, aren't I?

I know a lot of people who over-emphasize their pets' role in their lives. It goes beyond anthropomorphizing into a scary realm where an animal has to fill an emotional need beyond companion.

Don't get me wrong, I know how scary it is out there, how very lonely life can be. But your cat can't fill that void for you and it's not fair to ask them to do that.

Katie is a great example of someone who loves her animals and at the same time expects to be the alpha. One night, after a trail ride, she let Huck out of the truck and he came right up to Lena's legs. Lena danced a little, but Katie was right there and with a hand motion and two words, had Huck under control and safe. Why? Because she is the boss and it's a good thing for Huck that she is. Lena's got big feet!

Lena is 1,200 pounds of wants-to-be-the-alpha-mare, but no matter how cute she is or how much I love her, I can't let that happen. A bad-mannered cat is one thing, but 1,200 pounds of bad-mannered muscle is dangerous. I love her too much to let her be a dangerous, never-ridden spotty horse. :-)

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