Monday, March 11, 2013

Speak Softly, Spring

Every day the zealous approach of spring is apparent. Soon the snow will be just a memory and the melodic song of the mountain bluebird will return to our highland mountains. Spring on our ranch usually means baby animals - adorable calves, cuddly puppies, bouncing bunnies, and fluffy chicks. This spring we will add lambs to that list! It’s truly awe-inspiring to watch the miracle of birth and listen in whilst mother and offspring communicate in their own gentle language. 

Our animals are raised as naturally as possible – fed a biologically appropriate diet for each species, enjoy lots of sunshine and fresh air, clean water, and no medications or chemicals. In keeping with the fifth naturopathic Law of Health, TEMPERANCE, we also choose not to interfere with life processes such as birthing unless absolutely necessary.

Temperance isn’t a word we hear very often these days. It is an old Middle English word meaning moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc. Humans in their well-meaning way tend to involve themselves in animal birth too much. We prefer to temper our actions, standing by attentively as the mother’s natural instincts kick in; helping only if needed. If you worry as I do, at times this takes a great deal of self-restraint!

Most dog breeders cut the umbilical cord, dry the puppy, and even place it in position for its first meal. We never want to deny the Dam of fulfilling her role as mother. In regard to care of a puppy’s umbilical cord, how satisfying it is to see the mother instinctively trim it just right with the perfect instrument, her teeth, and then clean and protect it with the anti-bacterial properties in her saliva. Granted an overzealous, inexperienced Dam can cause damage, so being close at hand is necessary just in case. Keeping the whelping box tidy with non-toxic cleaners is very important too.

When one stops to think about it, no one is on hand to place a wolf pup at its mothers’ teat yet they find the milk source admirably. This seemingly innocent act takes from the dog breeder an important assessment tool called Biotinus (Latin for vigor of life).  Observing how quickly or slowly a puppy finds its first meal begins the selection process and getting to know each puppy individually. This test is valuable in helping to determine which puppies may be breeding/show stock candidates, able to pass on natural health and strength to future generations. The Dam’s reaction too is part of what her offspring will inherit from her.

Then take the simple trimming of fur on the expectant Dam’s belly. Again, their wild cousins need no such grooming. In fact, fur in that area naturally thins out on its own. Watching puppies suckle it is interesting to note that their little paws complete with teeny tiny nails, move around the nipple quite a lot, pushing and kneading. If that fur was clipped short this would quickly become a very uncomfortable time for mother dog! Fur protects her delicate flesh while nurturing and bonding with her offspring. As the wee ones grow so do their sharp nails, so we do step in to trim them regularly.

So you see, there is a lot more to Temperance than first thought allows! Displaying Temperance is something we could all do a bit more of, even within our human relationships.   

For more information about the Biotinus test mentioned, read the article “Selecting for Vigor” by Suzanne Clothier.