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Is Anthropomorphism a Dirty Word?

The short answer is no, not always. As a matter of fact, our ability to attribute human characteristics to non-human animals is an impressive ability that we should be proud of. In addition, it can make us better dog owners. Lest you think I've lost my mind, let me explain, this time with a longer answer. Go back to about 40,000 years ago, when people began creating figures that combined features of humans and animals. We don't know their purpose, but we do know that our tendency to combine human and non-human characteristics is ancient. Archeologist Steven Mithen argues that anthropomorphic art suggests that hunters were attempting to identify empathetically with hunted animals to Read More

Happy Maggie

Meet Maggie

Yup, Redstart Farm has a new member of the family. Maggie, a 15-month old female Border Collie from Idaho, has stolen the hearts of us all, Willie especially. He is gobsmacked. In love. Head over heels. Watching the two of them play has become one of my greatest joys in life. Those of you who have been following the farm for awhile know that finding the right dog for Willie hasn't been easy. He started life as a puppy pathologically afraid of unfamiliar dogs. He grew into an adolescent torn between fear and the desire to control everything, the kind of dog I call an "alpha wanna be." He has always loved to play with dogs who also loved to run together outside, but became tense and a Read More

Nellie 3-2014 Igloo

Feral versus Fearful Cats

Our resident cats, Nellie and her daughter Polly, arrived almost two years ago thanks to friends who found a starving, half-dead adolescent cat in their yard. They took her in and nursed her back to health--which included discovering that she was pregnant, helping her raise five kittens and finding them all wonderful homes. No one ever wondered if Nellie had been a feral cat: She walked up to the first person she saw and began rubbing and purring, behavior that she continues to this day. If you came to visit the farm she would behave as if you are the most wonderful thing that has happened to her all week. Nellie, the feline Labrador. That same summer, as some of you may remember, I also Read More