How The Hen House Turns: The Value Of Sweet Talk

California Fox on town trail. Courtesy photo
Local Squirrel. Courtesy photo
Formerly of Los Alamos
Today I saw a beautiful young fox. He was crossing the path that runs across the steep wooded hill above our local creek. The water was quiet since we have had little rain lately. The creek can be quite noisy after a rain. It drains the steep meadows that reach out to Skyline Blvd, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean four miles up hill.
The fox saw me and froze for a moment. So did I. When I reached for my camera, he started across the trail, then stopped and looked me over again. I caught a picture of him and wished him “Good luck hunting” as he continued up the hill, pausing every few feet to check me out.
Murmuring “sweet nothings” to the local animals here has been a valuable ploy. It causes them to pause as I take their picture. It even worked on our neighborhood squirrel one day as he passed overhead on the roof drain. He stopped short as I talked, looked me over, obviously puzzling over what I was trying to say. If I had shouted, he would have disappeared quickly.
The Lady of Reservoir Hill, our local deer, usually goes back to grazing after hearing my soft “good morning. Last week she was accompanied by her newborn twins, who poked curious noses through the tall grass when I said, “Good morning.” A squirrel on the Sausal Pond road stopped and looked me over as I spoke to him with similar soft tones of nonsense.
The morning that tall grass was mowed on Reservoir Hill, a blue heron came in to look for gophers. A scrub jay stayed busy trying to encourage her three young ones to find their own seeds. Luckily, she didn’t startle when I aimed the camera.
So it was with our Los Alamos Hen House birds—soft speech did much to calm them when they needed care, and a sharp command got instant results, even with the geese.
Don’s command from the window, “Shut up, Bobbie!” stopped her honking loudly at the enamored male duck, who also quieted down.
The dogs, or course, were even more sensitive to our tone of voice. I remember being frustrated with my attempts at modeling a young face on an acrylic painting one day.
When I heard a faint whine, I looked around and saw that DeeDee and Scooter were both crouching in the corner, giving me worried looks.
There are many good books out there now, about animal sentience. We all share similar emotions it seems, though we may express them in very different ways. We can’t wiggle or flatten our ears as horses do to express their feelings, but the feelings are probably quite similar inside our brains. They also spill out through our bodies, as different as they may be. With all our obviously shared traits, it still amazes me what a soft spoken word can do between humans and other critters.