The crow first came to visit us one fresh autumn morning. It has to be said though, that autumn is not that big a deal in the Bosveld. Very few trees shed their leaves and daytime temperatures drop by only a degree or two. We have less cloudy weather than in summer and rainfall has usually dried up till spring.

The crow settled on the pole that brings power to our house. Like all electricity poles it is tall, and therefore keeps him safe from earthbound creatures. When we first noticed him, he was looking pleased with himself in the way crows usually do. The average crow thinks he’s a pretty tough guy. He flies all right, not as well as some birds, but possesses a dangerous weapon in a long, hard, sharp-pointed beak. If you have ever had it used on you will know what I mean. He must have been sitting on that pole for some time, surveying our garden in the cocky, arrogant way that crows have, suggesting he owned the place, before Charlie noticed him.

Now Charlie is a small brown dog who shares one characteristic with crows. He also behaves as if he owns the place. As soon as he saw the crow he rushed to the bottom of the pole, which was as near as he could get, and barked. The crow leaned forward and tilted his head, first to one side, then to the other, no doubt to get a clear view of the cause of the disturbance.

He waited with silent interest until Charlie stopped barking, then croaked in the way crows have, a single tuneless “Craak.” That set Charlie off on another round of barking. Again he waited till Charlie tired, then croaked again, in the same brief way. Every time he croaked, Charlie set off barking. This interesting communication lasted for a few hours until eventually the crow got bored with it or remembered a previous appointment and flew off.

We, the humans in the family, thought that was the end of it, but it was not to be. The next day the crow was back. As soon as he spotted Charlie, he again croaked at him, and as before, the rather unpleasant sound of his voice set Charlie barking. And again, every time Charlie stopped barking the crow would croak at him to get him going. For a while they provided a mildly amusing distraction, but as the days and weeks went by Charlie’s barking and crow’s croaking got be a bit wearing.

It was after about three months of this that the crow stopped visiting us. If Charlie missed him, I cannot say. He went about his usual activities as if nothing had changed.

Then, yesterday he returned, sitting for a while in silence on top of the electricity pole. But as soon as Charlie came out into the garden, he released his signature croak, that again set Charlie off, barking furiously.

“You know,” I said to Miriam. “I think Charlie thinks he owns that bird.”

“No, I don’t think so,” she said. “The crow controls their interactions. I believe he thinks he owns Charlie.”

Whatever is true in their relationship, neither seems able to ignore the other. Is that what love is about?

Who Owns Whom
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