Here we have a lovely video of three of the farmies engaged in play. I could watch them all day long. Well, they spend most of their time just lazing and sleeping, so there is not much to watch all day long. But the mornings and evenings are a fun time.
RECAP : Lives of Farmies
If you missed our earlier blog that introduces our protagonists and want to catch up on that first, here you go.
For those of you who do not recognise the dogs here, the dog that keeps flopping on the ground and exposing her belly is Chaita. The grey dog is Elvis and the third dog is Biscuit.
A recent development has been that Chaita and Elvis have become close friends. I am not sure what brought that on and I do not dare speculate. I have not managed to figure out why people enter my life, chose to befriend me and then walk away from me. Misunderstandings happen all the time and I don’t always understand what went wrong. I have also had experiences in my life where I have not liked someone and then changed my mind to like them and even love them in one case. If you ever meet me, ask me about my love story with my late husband Uttam. It did start out with me simply not liking him. I don’t know when that changed or why. So how can I presume to know what happened between Chaita and Elvis?
I circulated this video amongst my students and asked them what they saw. One of my students, Surabhi said something very interesting. She said, “I feel so bad for that brown dog who’s watching the play from the outside? At 00:16, he tried to get into the mix but they are so busy doing their own thing, and then when he turns back at 00:47, almost like what are they even doing? Such a bubba!”. I like conversation of this nature. It does indeed seem like Biscuit wants to join in, but is being left out. Chaita and Elvis seem far too engrossed in each other. Here again, it is tempting to speculate why Biscuit is being left out, but relationships are not simple and I do not want to risk being reductionist. So I intend to continue to observe and maybe one day, the whole picture will emerge. But it is not today and not based on this single video.
While I do not want to speculate, there is still a lot I can observe. For instance, I cannot help but notice the nature of this game. When pet dogs play there is a lot of frenzied activity. I timed the duration of the “zoomies-like” frenzy here. 5 seconds! The rest of the time is spent in plenty of embodied communication. They are paying acute attention to each other’s movements at the expense of ignoring Biscuit, and responding with their own. They are busy “saying” a lot to each other, instead of just wild running. There seems to be mirth and joy. There also seem to be some rules or preferences. Something at a meta level, that keeps Biscuit out, but interested. There is complexity to this game.
I am not suggesting that pet-dog play is lacking in all of the above. Not at all. I have observed dogs in dog parks and they indeed have more going on than “rough play”. But I have also observed that there is more of frenzied activity. There is less nuance. Actually, this game between Elvis and Chaita in itself is a bit more frenzied than usually seen. Two possible reasons for it. Chaita is a very young dog, perhaps still a juvenile even. Juveniles are at just another level of frenzy! My mentor Turid used to say, “Teenagers are teenagers, no matter the species!”. So that’s Chaita’s deal, as the American’s say. Elvis…he is interesting. He is generally a dog who is slightly more hyperactive than most of the other farmies. He behaves like a juvenile dog, despite not being one. I am not going to reveal his secret yet. You are free to speculate, much like I had to before I learnt more about him. So I’ll let you try to figure this out. All I will say is that, this game caught our attention because we do not see so much frenzy in general. What can we learn from all this?
The reason I am harping on about “frenzied play” is that we are now quite aware of it’s impact on nervous system activation, adrenaline, hyperactive behaviours etc… Here at BHARCS, we have realised that when we move dogs away from lifestyles that keeps them in a constant state of frenzy, several, seemingly unrelated “problem behaviours” go away. Hyper active dogs also show poor judgement in general, frequently putting themselves in a place of “bodily harm” by moving too fast, eating rubbish, running into fights etc… Oh this topic, is a rabbit hole, as we’ve come to discover. If you want to explore this topic, let me try to pull together some resources that will start you down this rabbit hole. Enjoy exploring!
I want to come back to our protagonists – Chaita, Elvis and Biscuit. This is their story. Interesting fact to layer in – Elvis and Chaita are sterilised dogs, whose friendship blossomed rapidly after they both were sterilised. So, what is the nature of their friendship? Chaita still “lives with” her puppies, Iti and Yaya and their father, Dude. She and Elvis meet near my farm and this happens. So what is the nature of this relationship?
Dog social lives are very fascinating to me. They have so much going on. One minute they are all playing and the next there is a heated argument between two. One is trying to break this tension up, while another is running to take sides. Another may decide to run away from it all…erm…that would be Cheeru most times, who wisely returns to the car or runs up to hide behind me. I feel like I need to build a machan on my copper pod tree, get some good cameras and just watch them. Hmm…