I honestly don’t know if there’s any controversy out there about humans forcing the weaning of animals vs. Mother Nature, but I’ve had some interesting experiences concerning the subject. Just for the record I don’t have anything ‘against’ weaning animals; yet personally I enjoy offering the few animal families living with me the freedom to decide when the right time is…for them.
My mare Spiral came to me when she was 4 months old, younger than most horses are separated from their Dams. Especially when you consider she was weaned for at least a couple of weeks before I picked her up. Watching the interaction between her & her Dam was heart-breaking for me as we loaded her up & listening to their frantic conversation was even more so.
Later I promised Spiral that if I ever breed her I would never separate her from her son or daughter & would care for them their whole lives, together. It was a funny process for us, getting her pregnant. As the first year we never had an Ultrasound done to verify the pregnancy & assumed there was a baby in there. So, when she began to gain weight we kept on feeding her extra & upon his first visit our Vet had the announcement that there was no baby in there. (the original vet who did the pre-breeding exam didn't strike a chord in me, so I found one who did-with good reason!)Turns out she has a Thyroid issue, which means she gains weight really easily & she has difficulty getting pregnant. We developed a strong bond with our vet during that whole process of getting her pregnant & when the day came he could point out the little black speck that was Magik in the Ultrasound, it was with real joy.
I excitedly read about the birthing process, preparing for the big day. I was ready to camp out in the pasture in the shelter with her & everything! Of course, she decided to have her daughter while we were at work with Uncle Eli acting as Midwife. When we arrived home we thought one of the Boxers had gotten into the horse pasture. It hit us suddenly: We have 3 horses! It’s good to experience a newborn horse at least once in a lifetime! Hooves so tiny they fit in your hands & a head so tiny the smallest halter you can find (in pink!) practically falls down her neck! Friends came with carrots & champagne that night.
It was fun watching her grow…and grow they do-quickly! At some point I did ponder the idea of weaning them, but decided against it. How many horses in captivity get to live with their offspring their whole lives? I figured it was a once in a lifetime deal & they should enjoy the bond of mother/daughter. It became downright silly to watch her nursing, when daughter was almost as big as her mother! Still, Spiral showed no signs of being ‘done’ with the whole nursing thing. I figured “Well OK, it doesn’t bother her: it doesn’t bother me. Mother Nature knows better than I in these things!”
Eventually I think Magik only stopped nursing because she literally could not bend her neck down & her head up at the right angle to do it anymore. It did ‘wind down’ naturally, eventually Magik would only run to her side & nurse after I’d taken Spiral out to play & ride. Spiral seemed to enjoy it as much as Magik, this little reunion.
The other day at work I was talking with a customer who has horses, including a mare & her colt. She confided that he still nurses, even though he’s as big as his mother now. I told her about mine & she as was surprised as I was to find another person who had experienced this. It’s interesting to think about the effect we have on the natural order of things in this area & to realize maybe we assume they don’t care about being separated from family members. Personally, I think the fact that they are masters of acceptance has more influence on their reaction to being separated from family than it is they ‘don’t care’.
I’ve witnessed this bond between my horses and also in cats I’ve had. Back in the day when I was a ‘crazy cat lady’ I had at least 2 or 3 kitty families living with me over the years there. (I think people realized if they dumped their cats off I would take them in-especially if they were pregnant!) I found homes for as many as I could at first, but eventually gave up when I’d already hit up everyone I knew to take in kittens! Lucky for me the county I lived in had a superb spay/neuter program & I always fixed the whole liter. Which is why I was excited at the prospect of having Mamma Kitty & her kittens become a part of our family; I can use all the practice I can get with not only Animal Communication but with the Energy work & healing!
Because I have witnessed a few other mother kitties with a liter, I knew eventually she’d put an end to the nursing: usually when the kittens get their teeth & become aggressive with them while nursing! However, when the kittens began to eat solid food, they continued to nurse at every opportunity. We probably have some of the healthiest kittens in Colorado! Eventually the milk dried up-and the kittens continued to suckle her. We took her in to be spayed, thinking “She won’t want them nursing on her with the stitches & everything!”
Nine months after they were born, they are occasionally found falling asleep latched on…ears twitching in delight and purrs going loudly. During my weekend of HTA training, I asked Carol if she’d ever run across anything like this & she said no. A few people suggested weaning, separating them until they give it up; but I haven’t.
Again, I simply feel that it’s really none of my business. Nobody is getting hurt, Mamma enjoys the bond & so do a few of the kittens. And, most importantly, it is becoming noticeably less of a habit. I think if it continued, I may eventually have pondered if there was some underlying issue creating the strange habit. But, it’s becoming more rare, with less and less of them doing it less frequently. Maybe it made Doug uncomfortable at times, but it obviously never made Mamma or the kittens uncomfortable. My personal philosophy is that so many animals in the world today have absolutely no say about their family life, unless living in the wild. So, if I have the chance to offer some of my pets that loving bond of family-I’m going to…and without compromising their happiness for my comfort level as much as I can!
Planet Earth is a “free will” place and that doesn’t mean just us humans! Just think how lucky we are that so many animals have chosen to share our journey here, at our side! The older I get, the more I want to be a person who works for the betterment of the quality of life for our animal brethren, which starts with my own animal family: promising them the vow of life-long care. I hope people continue to open up to the realization that pets aren’t only comforting, they are amazing healers & helpers as well. They deserve the dedication we give to our human families! (And, in some cases, maybe they deserve it more!)