For several years, each summer, we raised a few dozen broilers. It was our way of filling our freezer with chickens that had been raised under humane conditions without hormones and antibiotics in the feed. You could call it urban farming with a purpose.
We had bought our broilers as cute fluffy yellow day old chicks. We had placed them in the coop with a heat lamp so they would be able to withstand the shock of the change in environment.
The first morning when I went to check on them to make sure they had enough feed and water, our faithful border collie Bandit wanted to come into the coop with me. In my attempt to protect the young chicks I decided to leave him sitting outside.
He refuse to patiently sit outside the door. Instead he put up a ruckus and made it clear to me that he was eager to get inside the coop with the young chicks. By the third morning I relented and figured I would risk letting him into the coop, not really knowing the intent of his eagerness to get in. If he harmed one or two I could quickly lift him up and get him out of there.
When I let Bandit into the coop he made his trip around the perimeter of the coop with the young chicks scattering respectfully giving him space. Satisfied, he walked to the door and waited to be let out. Each morning he followed the same routine. Once the chicks became used to him they no longer scattered. When a chick did not move he would nudge the reluctant chick with his muzzle. The chick would then amble aside and let the dog pass.
One morning as Bandit made his way around the coop nudging the occasional chick, one of them did not respond. He nudged it a second time. He realized the chick was dead. Using his muzzle Bandit gathered up some of the bedding material and covering the dead chick. Once the chick was covered Bandit proceeded to finish his inspection of the flock. That action confirmed for me that he made the rounds as an inspector to ensure all the chick were well and accounted for.
I had started off wanting to protect the chicks from Bandit. In the end it was Bandit who took it upon himself to check on the well-being of each member of his flock, for indeed he had proudly adopted each one of the 5 dozen chicks.
How does a dog not only develop an appreciation for another species but make it their job to ensure their well-being?
18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a young woman.