Labor Day is this coming Monday (always the first Monday in September) and was created as a way to celebrate and recognize the labor force that helped build our nation. Well-deserved recognition, of course, but what’s missing is the inclusion of the animals that worked alongside us. Throughout our history, people have forced (sometimes just convinced) animals to do some pretty hard and dangerous work. Here are some of the ways they have assisted us.
Beasts of Burden: In many parts of the world, oxen, donkeys, elephants, horses and other big animals are still used to haul heavy loads, pull plows and carts and otherwise enable people to do things that we aren’t strong enough to do. They are the basic ‘tools’ of most agricultural societies, helping to work the soil. We ride horses, donkeys and camels, as transportation and for sport; and we use them and llamas as pack animals. Dogs are very useful for herding sheep and cows. Every cowboy worth his salt has a dog at his side!
Assistance Animals: How many things have we trained dogs, and in some cases small primates, to do for us? They help sniff out drugs and bombs, find lost people or important evidence, guide the blind, hear for the deaf, becomes “hands” for the immobile (have you seen the monkeys that can help feed their people?), calm victims of crimes/abuse and are used extensively in therapies for the elderly and for children with autism and other disorders. Pigeons were used to carry messages – the original mail service.
Protection: In Israel, geese are used as border alarms; they also do well guarding chicken coops. You might be surprised to learn how fierce and noisy geese can be! We’ve all heard of the sacrificial "canary in the coal mine", making sure there are no noxious fumes. Dogs, of course, are commonly used as guard animals and are often used on patrols in the army and with the police. Even a small pet dog will certainly let you know if an intruder is trying to get in the house. Certain breeds of dogs are raised with sheep and guard them from predators.
Sport: We’ve trained dogs to assist with hunting – some breeds flush out birds and others are used to retrieve them. Falcons are used to bring down smaller birds. Rhodesian Ridgebacks were bred to protect against lions, Jack Russells and other terriers catch gophers, moles, and other vermin. Beagles and Fox Hounds, of course, were used to hunt foxes. We race horses and dogs, hold illegal dog and cock fights, and have even fought dogs with bears. People love competition and seeing whose animal is better at something or prettier than others. So evolved dog shows, horse shows, cat shows, obedience competitions, dressage, agility, weight pulling, tracking, herding, Frisbee catching and even Freestyle (doggie dancing).
Even the independent cat hasn’t escaped – our association began with their usefulness at catching rodents. The difference with them is that they don’t consider catching mice work – and would never admit they do it for us – ask any cat and they would say that they do it because they want to. And it’s true, you can’t force a cat to work! Here’s to some recognition of the other workers in our lives – the ones that don’t really “volunteer” for their jobs but from which we greatly benefit – the animals.
Upcoming events: Meet the Bunny, Saturday, Sept. 10, 1-5:30 p.m. Come meet adoptable rabbits and have your care questions answered by our knowledgeable volunteers. Shop our “Bunny Boutique” for food, treats, fresh hay, toys and support our shelter’s small animal program. Bring your rabbit by for a free nail trim!