Search This Blog


Monday, March 5, 2012

Controlling Your Space: The Freedom Not to Allow Others In

The last few days have seen me drop my normal publishing projects in order to deal with an unexpected crisis: the Missouri State legislature is planning to pass a Non-Human Primate Act that could end up making it impossible for me and Bow to stay together in our home. It is called SB 666 and it presents a clear and present danger to Project Bow as we know it.

I'm not going to rehash all of that here. This blog is where I tell about my day to day life with Bow. For instance, here's a video of Bow playing with a new toy, yesterday.

As you can see, Bow is always looking for unexpected and interesting ways to make use of objects, and he seldom feels confined to the manufacturer's original intent. Because Bow is free to think for himself, he  is never bored, even when he doesn't have a new toy. He knows how to amuse himself, and he is never alone. Well, except at night, when he seems to want everything to be taken out, and after the usual bedtime routine, he asks me to leave, too. I think he appreciates having some privacy at night.

The difference between being confined to a pen that is your home and being confined to a cage that is a prison is this: at home, you can control your space. You can invite people in. You can also ask them to go out. You can decide what things you will have in the pen with you. You can ask that some of the things you don't want anymore be removed. You can help to plan the menu. You can declare which are your favorite foods, and what food you will not eat at all, because you despise it.

Freedom is as much about controlling our space as controlling where we go. Freedom is about the right to say "No."

Freedom is not the absolute right to go anywhere. None of us can decide that we will go where we are not welcome. I can't force myself into your home, if you haven't invited me, and neither can Bow. But I can decide who I invite to my home, and who is not invited. The same is true for Bow.

Someone remarked that Bow has so few objects in with him in the pen at any given point. Usually, it's the potty that stays, while other objects come and go. But did you know that Bow's decision to accept the potty was a major breakthrough? Did you know that Bow used to have to be taken to the potty, because he didn't want to allow it to stay with him? When we first started in the pens, the potty wasn't in with Bow, because Bow wouldn't allow it. It took time before he realized it might be a good thing to allow the potty to stay.

In the same way, Bow's computer is seldom in the pen, because Bow does not want it there. Sometimes Lawrence tries to entice Bow to use the computer by bringing it inside the pen when Bow has not asked for it, but many times Bow tells him he does not want the computer and that it should be taken out at once! Lawrence and I both understand that if Bow does not want something with him, then that object must go. It is only when Bow has asked to use the computer that he behaves well with it.

Someone suggested that taking things in and out of the pens is a way to control Bow. But do you imagine that if Bow wanted to prevent something from being taken out, he would not have a very big say in the matter? Taking things in and out is one of the ways that Bow controls his space -- and his life.

Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage. What would make it a cage would be if Bow lost the right to order people out. What would make it a cage would be if others could impose themselves on Bow. It would be a cage if Bow lost control of his space.

I am hoping that we don't have to leave our pens in the Missouri, Ozarks, because these pens are our haven and our home. But if we lose control of the space, we will need to find some other space that we can control.


  1. I hope you have sent videos like this to the people responsible for passing the SB666 bill.

  2. Alan, I am now in email contact with Senator Purgason, who is the member on the Agriculture committee who represents my district. I have sent him links where he can see the video posted here, as well as many others.

    The bill has not yet gone to a vote on the senate floor and has not yet been introduced in the house, so there is still a very good chance to stop it.

  3. Well, best of luck to you in getting the bill defeated.