Monday, November 8, 2010

Gamone evolution

My article of October 27, 2019 entitled Donkey expedition day [display] described the long walk of Sylvie Rozand and me, leading three donkeys, from Presles to Gamone. Yesterday afternoon, Sylvie returned here, with a friend from Presles, to retrieve her two adult donkeys Nina and Margot. The operation went off with no problems whatsoever. We had nevertheless had certain apprehensions: How would Fanette react to the sight of her mother Nina being led away? How would Nina feel about leaving her 6-months-old daughter behind? Would Sylvie run into problems in trying to coax her two donkeys through the road tunnel up towards the plateau at Presles? Back here at Gamone, how would my Moshé and his new friend Fanette get along together on their own?

As of yesterday evening, I was delighted to realize that not a single one of those problems had arisen. In other words, everything went off like a charm. Fanette didn't appear to be concerned by the departure of her mother and the other adult donkey. When she returned to Gamone late in the afternoon to pick up her car, Sylvie told me that Nina and Margot had strolled eagerly back up to Presles, and that they didn't seem to be bothered by the idea that little Fanette had remained with Moshé at Gamone. This morning, I took this photo of the donkeys and Fitzroy:

As usual, my two dogs get on marvelously well together. Their relationship remains asymmetrical. As I've pointed out already, Sophia spends most of her time lounging in her big wicker basket on the kitchen floor, whereas Fitzroy is a strictly outside dog, now completely accustomed to the idea of getting into his kennel from time to time.

Preventing Fitzroy from moving inside the house is not even a personal choice of mine. It's rather a survival issue, in the sense that many objects inside the house (furniture, books, clothes, tools, etc) probably wouldn't survive for long if Fitzroy were to get in physical contact with them. Fitzroy's genes are such that he likes to be bossy with recalcitrant beasts such as cattle, sheep and donkeys. So, why would he be unduly worried about tackling a lounge chair, say? Out on the lawn, Fitzroy is fascinated by a permanently running hose from the Gamone spring. He drags it all over the lawn, meaning that puddles spring up every now and again in unexpected corners. He has trouble understanding why he can't simply pick up the water jet in his mouth, as if it were a stick, and dash around with it clenched between his teeth. In attempting to fathom this philosophical mystery, Fitzroy often gets soaked… and he then moves onto the straw in his kennel to dry himself out.

The other evening, on French TV, I watched a fascinating US program on the subject of our prehistoric ancestors. Directed by Graham Townsley, its English title is Becoming Human, and it was made last year. The fact that such a show can be seen in prime time on a Saturday evening (dubbed in French) is yet another tribute to the excellence of French TV. Here's the opening episode:

Well, one of the recurrent themes in this series of documentaries was well expressed in the latest book by Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth. Here are his words:

We've been land animals for about 400 million years, and we've walked on our hind legs for only the last 1 per cent of that time. For 99 per cent of our time on land, we've had a more-or-less horizontal backbone and walked on four legs. We don't know for certain what selective advantages accrued to the individuals who first rose up and walked on their hind legs…

Not so long ago, people used to explain that bipedalism came about because we needed to get up on our hind legs so that we could use our hands for carrying things… but that's surely a case of putting the cart before the horse. We still don't know the complete answer to that question, although both Dawkins (in The Ancestor's Tale) and the Townsley documentaries propose various speculations on this subject. Getting back to my dog Fitzroy, I often have the impression that he might already be working hard, with the help of his mentor Sophia, at evolving into bipedalism.

In this tandem position, when Sophia decides to move forward, Fitzroy is perfectly capable of following her on his hind legs, like a ballet artist. I'm convinced that, soon, he won't need to lean on Sophia's back any longer. He'll simply raise his front paws in the air, as if he were praising the Almighty for the gift of bipedalism, and he'll wander off in an easy upright gait. Maybe I should get in contact with Dawkins and Townsley, to see if they're interested in writing a book or making a movie about Fitzroy. In fact, I suspected, right from the start, that Fitzroy (who'll be 4 months old next Wednesday) was a wonder dog. Maybe I should look into the idea of teaching him to read...


  1. Very happy that Fanette's weaning was uneventful.

    I really do enjoy your writing about your furry family and the French countryside :-)

  2. William

    It looks positively 'summery' in your place. Have you not felt the cold breath of winter?

  3. Annie: In the case of our furry friends, there's not much fretting when parents and their children move apart from one another. Are things "better" in the case of us humans? Hard to say. Thanks for your kind comments on the blog.

    Badger: Choranche has a microclimate due to the presence of the giant limestone cliffs that surround us. So, we inevitably have a glorious drawn-out autumn. It's no doubt the most striking season of the year at Gamone. Glad to hear that you've had a fascinating encounter with the Holy Land.