Never before has the fact been clear to me that every critter, human or animal, needs to either fulfill or get a sense of it’s purpose in order to be contented. Our dogs, who each day endear themselves more to us, have been teaching us lessons in purpose. Stevie and Peach are both young working dogs, just nearing a year of age.
They are a breed called Cane da Pastore Maremmano Abruzzese, or Maremmas as they are called here in the states. If you’ve never encountered one of these fine animals (you probably haven’t, they are pretty rare.) you understand what I mean when I talk about an animal’s purpose shaping it’s identity and quality of life. Maremmas are born with an natural inclination to protect whatever living thing they consider part of the pack. They spend all of their time with the animals they are meant to defend, and as a result, when they become separated from them, they can become depressed or anxious.
I’d learned this in theory by reading books on Livestock Guardians and perusing Jackie Church’s website for tidbits of advice in regards to training our young pups. I’ve actually witnessed the phenomenon of livestock withdrawal first hand this week after both of our gals got spayed.
After their surgery, we thought it best to keep them indoors for a couple of days to ensure they didn’t pick at their stitches. During that time, we thought the dogs would be overjoyed to be inside with us, sleeping on blankets in the warmth of the house. But instead the dogs were very fidgety and quite depressed. We’d take them for walks to visit their charges during the day and no sooner than they caught a glimpse of the outbuildings, they’d begin pulling with all of their weight, tails whipping and eyes shining. They missed their work. It became very clear to me that they were actually happier outside in the cold doing their job rather than inside, bored but cozy.
I can relate to this. I was comfortable at my old job. I had plenty of money and never really had to struggle to thrive, but I felt I had no purpose. What I was doing didn’t quite fit who I was. I was like a Maremma on the bedroom floor. Idle and out of place. It’s been two years now that I’ve been on my own, making my way on my terms. 6 months now that I’ve been on this farm, doing work that makes me feel like I belong. I’m often scared, wondering how I’ll be able to continue to afford feed and a roof over our heads… I barely can. But I’m happy. Never more so. I’ve found my Meg-shaped place in the world.
With that in mind, what sort of work makes you feel like you’ve found your place?