Animals are much smarter than we give them credit for. There’s an “old wives’ tale” that says when cows are lying down in the fields, it is a reliable indicator of the approach of rainy weather. (I’m allowed to repeat “old wives’ tales” because I AM one.) I’m not sure how the cows know. Maybe they’re keeping charts and guages, studying cloud formations, and watching the weather channel. What else have they got to do? I guess if the entire herd lies down, there’s a 100% chance of rain. If only half the cows lie down, there’s a 50% chance of rain. Even if you allow for a margin of error of plus or minus 5% (some of the cows might be lying down because they’re lazy or because they’re practical jokers), they still at least equal the accuracy of meteorology, which is an inexact science.
I just asked Bessie, the neighbor’s cow (who was lying down), if it was going to rain, and all she said was, “Mooooo.” I realize the bovine language has many subtle nuances, but I’m quite fluent, since I once took a Berlitz course. Unfortunately, Bessie has a slight lisp and uses a regional dialect I’m unfamiliar with. However, she and her herd mates are all lying down, so I suggest you get out your umbrellas.
Cows aren’t the only critters with special skills and talents. I read an Associated Press release about three so-called educated chickens who travel the country’s state fair circuit playing tic-tac-toe against humans at 50 cents a game. The chickens have never been beaten! I’d be more impressed if they were chess experts, but still, these are chickens! Then a few weeks later, I read that the chickens had disappeared from their cages are were believed to have been stolen. I have a different theory. They probably were sick of working for chicken feed while their owner pocketed the cash. They probably picked the lock on their cage, stole the owner’s stash of quarters, and are hitchhiking to Vegas, where they’ll be playing the slot machines.
I think we’d all agree that dogs are the smartest animals of all. Our pet canines are loyal, loving, and intelligent. However, as a hiker I’ve had a few run-ins with angry, agressive stray dogs. A fellow hiker advised me, in case I’m ever attacked by a vicious dog, I should put a handful of nickels in an empty soft drink can and shake it vigorously at him.
I don’t know what a dog would want with money, but I tried it the next time I was chased by a stray dog, who was determined to bite my ankle. Shaking the can of nickels just angered the dog further. Maybe it wasn’t enough cash. I don’t know what the dog was hoping to buy, but you can’t even buy a decent rawhide bone with a handful of nickels, let alone a new dish or a rhinestone collar. I tried dimes, and then quarters, then paper money, to no avail.
The next time I saw the hiker who’d given me the advice, I complained that the angry dog had rejected all my offers of cash. Maybe he’d rather have had a gift card? She said, “No, no, It’s the rattle of the coins! It scares them off.” She didn’t add, “You moron!,” but it was implied. I’m pretty good at reading body language.
Maybe I shouldn’t have given angry Cujo that can full of twenty-dollar bills. Yesterday I saw him at the Pet Supply store, putting a downpayment on a fancy new doghouse. At least he’ll be sheltered from the weather. Bessie and her herdmates are still lying down and she says Cujo (and the rest of us) should install a storm shelter before next Thursday. If I’m translating her moos accurately, I also should put 100 bucks down on Easy Rider in the third race at the track and sell my stock in Ackerson Heavy Metals by the end of the month. As a thank you for the helpful tips, I promised her a shiny new barometer and a baton for pointing at her weather map.