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Forty Years with Birds and Dogs 

Wild Or Domestic

What does it mean to be wild, especially for a peacock? For PP (Mr. Peacock) it means leaving the pen at dusk, with its food and water and the company of assorted domestic birds, for the wilds of 14-degree nights high up in a Ponderosa or huddled under the eaves of the hen house. Anything to avoid being shut up in a dog igloo on a nice warm bed of straw.

I guess I can't blame him. He made it quite clear last night, from the safety of the hen house roof, with his quiet whining. I whined back, and the conversation continued for at least five minutes, but I couldn't convince him to come down and be shut up nice and warm. It's in the genes, I guess. Safety from coyotes is high up, not shut up.

The domestic birds get it. They've been around humans for how many(?) thousands of years, and they know that they 're supposed to do what they're told. At dusk they follow the flashlight into the hen house, where the thin oil heater keeps them at a comfortable 40-something degrees for the night. I wonder if it's the tameness genes at work, as they are in dogs and in the recent 40-year experiments in Russia. Or maybe there is a selective advantage in being fed and housed for a short and comfortable life before a sudden end. At least we owe them that, the domestic ones we don't call pets, the ones we don't dare name.

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