March 04, 2018
It's gotta be around 8 years ago that I started to read Temple Grandin's books and learned about her research into the common traits of animals (especially cows) and autism. When Gracie and Peanut came to our farm sanctuary, I was excited to see her research in action! One thing I noticed right away was Gracie's reluctance to move from the open door of her stall into the hallway of the barn. In Animal's in Translation, Temple Grandin talks about cattle's fear of moving from darkness to light and vice-versa.
My joy working with animals comes from being able to listen to them and understand them. This comes from my early childhood of reading Dr. Doolittle books and his ability to talk to the animals. I actually would rather just hang out with an animal without any talking and observe and listen. This is something we encourage in our Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) with the children's program. And we also encourage in our volunteers.
I met with our cow vet, Dr. Eric on Tuesday and he asked me for an area where we could restrain Gracie if the need arrived for some health procedures. We had actually had an instance of Gracie's needing to be restrained in the summer and it did not go well. We tied her lead rope to a post in the horse shelter and she was so panicked, she actually pulled the post from it's footing! Gracie had never worn a halter, let along never been treated by a vet and never been restrained in all her 3 years!
I remember reading about a "squeeze machine" in Animals in Translation, so we looked around the farm to see if we could build one. The 4 posts at the Children's Garden Arbour looked like the perfect spot. I put the call out to SALI volunteers Shawn Soucy and Bill Mahony and after consultation with the vet, they had it built on Thursday! And before it was even finished Gracie decided she liked it. Our squeeze chute is a hug machine and treat dispenser - how could she not love it. And as everything we build at the farm it's not permanent, the front, sides and back can be removed and taken to our new home (when we find it).
Because of her autism, Temple Grandin resists the touch of others and doesn't like to be hugged. But she craves the feeling of being held. When she was eighteen, during a summer vacation, she saw a herd of cattle being passed through a squeeze chute (a mechanism used to keep cattle still while a veterinarian gives them their antibiotic shots). "Watching those cattle calm down, I knew I needed a squeeze chute of my own," she wrote in her book Animals in Translation. When she returned home from vacation, she recruited a teacher at her high school to help her build her own squeeze chute. "I bought my own air compressor, and I used plywood boards for the V. It worked beautifully. Whenever I put myself inside my squeeze machine, I felt calmer. I still use it today." You can now download detailed plans to build her squeeze shoot or buy one from Therafin
I highly recommend the books by Temple Grandin to help understand people and animals better. Which always leads to a kinder world.
SALI's Farm is a safe haven for at-risk children and rescued farm animals to bond, learn and heal with one another.
Keryn Denroche, Founder & Chief Bottle Washer