We have considered the topic of human-animal relations, but the subject is not exhausted. It may never be.
How do you account for the understanding of a dog for a child playing in an area with an oncoming car about to enter the area? How do they know, during the night, it is time to rouse the family when a pot on the stove has burned dry and is getting dangerously hot? How do they know when a lost child needs to be kept warm and lies down with him (or her)?
There also are those who simply like to be with a human and sort of “take over” care of the child.
I recall a picture in a magazine of a large cat that had taken over supervision of the family baby and was pictured lying beside the child on the bed, with the family reporting that no matter how the child, not yet walking, mauled him, the cat never struck back.
I recall a former Chronicle employee telling me one day when her abusive husband began to beat her, the dog intervened.
I think many families with pets have such stories to tell.
And it happens between animals, too.
There was a female cat our family had, in my younger years, complete with kittens. When an interfering dog entered the yard, Mama Cat leaped onto his back and rode him (loudly, as she vigorously clawed) out of the yard.
Out on the reservation one day, I got a picture of a cow with her calf. The youngster was standing just under his mother’s chin, where he patently felt safe and looked at ease.
But the fierce look on the cow’s face said plainly, “You’re not going to mess with my child.”
And cowboy lore is filled with stories of man and beast serving each other under difficult circumstances.
Coming out of Conconully one evening, I came upon a group of cattle being moved down the highway. A rider was behind them, giving signals to a dog who was keeping the cattle in line.
Once the dog grabbed a cow’s tail and swung from it for a moment, just ahead of the vicious kick that would have landed him in the next county.
A working dog that knew his craft, he and the rider made a perfect functioning pair.
So many good stories – books full of them.
There is another story which does not fall into any category above, but it’s too good to leave out.
A group of young people were riding horses just below the rim of the South Half one day. Suddenly, a placid old mare bucked and threw her rider.
The astonished girl did a complete mid-air flip and came down, hard, in a sitting position.
The other riders gathered around her and lifted her to her feet. Then they found the reason for the behavior of the horse, who was known to be mild-mannered and gentle. They found a well-flattened rattlesnake.
An effective way of killing snakes, they concluded, although there probably were easier ones.
Elizabeth Widel is a columnist for
The Chronicle. This is the 2,882th column in a series. She may be reached at 509-826-1110.