The Jealous Pickle

Do animals play? Can they smile? Do they feel emotion?

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me an e-mail with pictures that have been going around the Internet. The photos were from a page on the Speaking of Faith web site, in a slide show titled “Animals at Play”; they are pictures of a polar bear playing with sled dogs. An article on Snopes notes that the pictures are real, but the interpretation of it being play time between bear and dogs is debatable. Snopes says:

“…Animal behavioralists differ as to whether it truly constitutes play (i.e., activity engaged in purely for pleasure) or whether that description is an anthropomorphization of more instinctive, survival-based behaviors.”

I believe “playing” in animals is definitely a way that baby predators learn hunting skills. (What kind of games do prey animals play? Tag, I guess!) But to say that animals do not truly “play”, purely for pleasure, is a bunch of hooey! The only people who could say that are those who’ve never had a dog for a best friend. Or a horse.

And I do so hate it when people say that animals don’t have emotions. Isn’t jealousy an emotion?

Yesterday we had the two boys, our Thoroughbred brothers Pickle and Buster, out in the big arena. After they’d had their running time, they were mosying around the perimeter of the arena, looking for any blade of grass that dared grow within grazing reach. I was sitting under the trees on the west side, and they congregated there with me.

Tim came over, and asked me if he should attempt to walk out into the arena. I said no. So he went into the arena.

Now, if this had been Lacey turned out in the arena, there would be nothing to worry about. Although if you’ve heard the tale of the chest-high hoofprint bruise, you might disagree. But that is a blog for another day…

So anyway, Tim is standing between the two horses, and I took his picture. I told the three of them to smile and look at me. Tim and Buster did, but Pickle turned away, and walked off. He stood there with his back toward Tim and Buster. I thought that was unusual, because Pickle always focuses on Tim.

Tim started walking toward me, and Buster followed, right at his side. Pickle turned around, saw them walking together, and started following. Then he broke into a gallop. By the time he reached Buster, his teeth were bared and he threw a little lunge at him. Buster spun around and countered with a respectable kick. Fortunately Tim scrambled to safety. Both boys got thumped on the belly, but everyone seemed okay afterward.

Pickle gets along famously with Buster, but he loves Tim more than any other horse!

I’m sorry, I just anthropomorphized my horses. No, I’m not sorry! Pickle loves Tim! Pickle and Buster PLAY together! And Pickle is horribly jealous of Tim when other horses are around! So there.

I’ll post the pictures when I get home tonight.

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