During these past two years at our new home in the woods our family has had time to recover from the fast-paced world, re-evaluate relationships and, through very meek insignificant beings called dogs and chickens, open our eyes to the truths God wants to reveal to us.
Everyone can find a useful place at Humility Mountain, even handicapped birds and dogs. Of the 25 feathered and furry fellows sharing our home two characters have a special place in our hearts: a Golden Polish pullet named Phyllis and a German Shepherd named Lobo. Both needed looking after since their vision is quite limited.
Phyllis' tresses puff up around her head like a Phyllis Diller wig, hence her name, but because of this top hat her vision is poor. She's a very nervous bird since she never knows when some predator or caress-maniac woman will come to git her.
I've been wanting to cut the feathers around her eyes or put product on her feathers or get a headband... I don't know, but it's exasperating to see her bump into walls, trees and doors. Often the brood, while foraging, will panic at some sound and dash for cover, but poor Phyllis doesn't see the fowls' movements toward her until seconds remain for her to move out of the way of a feather tidal wave. This is when she slams into objects.
When we feed the birds corn or bread they a mass at the laundry door as soon as they hear whistling. Poor Phyllis is never on time or able to see the flying food, only the menacing competitors launching near her for a fallen morsel. So she leaves without food, until someone takes pity, brings her in the house where lady bird gorges on bread or corn.
She doesn't sound like a normal chicken, either. She purrs and trills and perches on a willing arm like a parrot would do. Should I be blue, she'll snuggle next to me and trill a bit starting up a "conversation" worthy of any peace delegate. She has found her niche as counselor and mood changer. I place her on the coop's swing like I would other chickens and she balances with the to-and-fro movement while I clean and we talk. All others fly hysterically out of the coop, but she will not relinquish her swing or song.
Her lack of perspective prevents her from seeing how tall people are, something that makes all other birds run away. So, she sticks around us walking between the large pairs of legs and getting attention, but giving it as well. While all other chickens panic, her handicap has strengthened bonds with her new family.
Our 8-year-old dog Lobo was the runt in a litter of nine. He was made with whatever was left over after the other eight were made. So his development has been slower than his brother's. Even his eyesight developed slowly. This caused him to be a very nervous dog, but on the plus side it heightened all the other senses including perception of feelings in others.
When we bought his brother the breeder told us, take this one also for free. Free? A light lit up in my brain's cheap department. Two dogs teaching each other how to be dogs and not pampered lapdogs would be good. Right? And one free! The saying, "never look a gift horse..." sure comes to mind. So, we agreed to bring two mastodon puppies into one small city apartment temporarily until we moved to the mountain. Then, the dogs spoke.
Oh, I'm not all there, but not that far gone. I mean to say that they sounded their first... howl? Yes. Fido barked as he should have, but Lobo howled and he taught his brother to howl and the neighbor's two-year-old shepherd to howl and, later on in the mountain, the neighbor's dog across the other mountain answers the howl.
Strange. We named the dog before he howled. Lobo means wolf. Apparently that's what happens with runts: everyone takes their slow development for granted, but a wolf lies deep within. His howls seem to have kept many a bear and coyote away. It was meant for us to have two dogs and for us to give rest to the beast inside them.
One habit I have adopted with all the animals and has worked great with the "edgy ones" is that I tell them softly what I'm going to do before I do it. The chickens, amazingly, are recognizing a great many words and I approach them in the same manner as the dogs: never breaking their wills, but softening it. The dogs can recognize a larger amount of words and associate them correctly. If I'm going to touch their nose I say so and they present it willingly. If a bad mood looms in their eyes they'll turn away and "see you later" rules the hour.
Respect, I suppose, is the key. Even animals require it to feel trust and relaxation and then they obey. I suppose God has been trying this with us human beings for the longest time, taking extra care with the "edgy ones" without imposing His will. Eventually, we will be convinced to His love and finally obey and rest.