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Animals Who Love Their Jobs

Animals Who Love Their Jobs

By Shereen Motarjemi

Some of us like our jobs, but how many of us can say we are eager to go to work? This is the first part of a series about four remarkable animals -- a rat, a cat, and two dogs -- that are actually enthusiastic for their jobs. They show us that when we are driven to serve, work is joy!

Betty the rat works as the “bait” in a dog sport called Barn Hunt. Her job is to nestle undercover while the dog searches with its nose. You might assume this would be a stressful job for a rat, but Betty’s demeanor is relaxed as she willingly takes her place.  She is a pro and knows from experience that she comes to no harm in this sport.

The game of Barn Hunt is played in an arena containing a maze of bales, tunnels, and loose straw. The object is for the dog to find the rat by using scent discernment and then to alert the human. The rat is placed inside a plastic tube (with air holes) and hidden under the straw. Betty must know the tube is tough because she crawls into it of her own volition. She is not merely unafraid to go in but actually seems eager. Perhaps it is similar to the way a squirrel, safe in a tree, seems to delight in teasing an excited dog. Whatever her motivation, it’s all good; she gets treats and breaks and after practice is a beloved family pet.

Betty is owned by Laurie Cowhig of Redwood Ratters in Fairfield.  As a team, Betty and Laurie teach dogs and their humans how to play this new sport.  All are welcome, and most dogs quickly become enthusiastic for the game since it taps into a basic instinct.

You might expect that Betty was bred for her job, and you’d be right. But when Laurie was asked what traits she breeds for, her answer may come as a surprise: cuteness. Cuteness? “If I have to look at a rat’s face every day,” says Laurie with a smile, “I want to see cute!”