Friday, November 26, 2004


Death is about. There is no life without it.

In the very first hatch of chickens there was a chick with a leg that didn't work properly. I knew what a commercial hatchery or production farm would have done with her -- thrown her in the trash. And I did consider giving her to the cats to eat, I admit. But I've known birds with one leg before who did fine and I thought, she'll learn to hop and get along and be fine. Turned out not to be the case. Her entire pelvis is evidently malformed for though she hobbled on one and a half legs when she was small, when she got some size on her it was more like hobbling on half a leg. I kept her in a protected area with the smaller chicks until they grew and she was the only one still there. We considered killing her but it just isn't our way. We fed her, watered her, watched her be as much chicken as she could be. We kill animals we eat, but animals that are dying, we let make their own peace with their own death.

I remember our most beloved cat. We don't use vets much but when I saw that this cat was sick unto death I called husband on the phone and said, "Meet me at the vet's," and took him. And the vet told me what I expected to hear: "This cat is dying." The vet continued, "The only compassionate thing to do it to put him to sleep. Really. He won't ever get better. It doesn't even matter what is wrong with him, he's so far gone." I stood there stoically with my blank faced, non-moving stare him back in the eye unable to say anything but unquestionably communicating that I was not going to heed him. When that happens I'm pretty much looking just for the escape hatch. Provider husband provided, saying only, "That's not our way. We'll take him home."

So we took him home and I took photos of him with the children and made him comfortable each night in the bathroom and each morning I got up expecting to find him dead and one morning instead of being dead he was eating. And he got better from there. He was relatively old even then. He'd had many things happen to him, including a leg so badly broken that it remained forever stiff. But still he was a hunter. Being black and white he hunted in light and shadow -- that was his camoflage. Eventually he disappeared, inevitably finding his own way back to the Summerland.

A kitten also died today, the last of the four kitten litter, all dead. Something must have been wrong with them. I only hope we haven't got feline leukemia here as it wiped out all our cats when we were first married. It is a hard thing. So far though, only the smallest kittens have been affected and all others seems hearty.

And last (I hope) is a goat. He is the son of a goat not born here and she never thrived here to the point that I finally gave her to my friend Yvonne. She thrives at her place and so that is good. Living here is a little like living under the Klingon philosophy that only those that deserve to live get to live. It can be a harsh survival of the fittest. It is practical. He is dying. He is dying beside six other goats who thrive. Sometimes it is better to just let the sickly ones go.

So, we don't practice euthenasia but we also don't practice heroic medicine. Those are, I believe, also the choices I'd make for myself. I don't want, I don't think, to be "put out of my misery". There is, I believe, an inherent value in the process of dying, just as there is value inherent in the natural process of being born. It is an important transformation.

Every one of them has been loved in its own way, and all are welcome to come back in another disguise if they like. "Hither world, thither world, all worlds are one."

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