We were lounging in the cabin Saturday evening, arguing over whether MASH dvds were worth generator fuel, when my husband stood to stretch, glanced out the window, and bolted for the door yelling, ‘The dogs have the goats!” He supermanned off the front porch, shoeless, while I screamed at the dogs in my most commanding voice, “NO, COME HERE!” Two of the dogs trotted towards me while one, the hunter of the trio, held fast to her treat…our mama goat named Pica.
Pica, a sweet girl appropriately named for a disorder where people eat non-food items, had stuck her head through the gate fencing, as she’d done hundreds of times. And for whatever reason, the dogs thought she was offering herself, or whatever was going through their dog minds. Natural instinct, I supposed, for animals who spend their days hunting in the woods.
When we arrived at the pen seconds later, Pica laid just inside the gate. Her ear was gone, part of her scalp torn back, blood seeping into the earth beneath her narrow white face. She was still, unable to move, incoherent, unseeing…already gone. And yet she breathed. She breathed, and she bleated quietly every few moments. Involuntary movements giving the appearance of life to our sweet friend as the children looked on from across the yard. A life lesson only a farm can offer.
But I don’t think we are meant to be farmers.
Like the pigs “Haag and Dazs” we raised, and butchered, and packaged, and froze…then gave away because we just couldn’t enjoy a ham sandwich while picturing their fat faces. Or the meat chickens that sat in the bottom of the chest freezer until they were too old to even be a good nugget. A waste, I know, but I just couldn’t bring myself to fry Marguerite and Wrinkles!
I ushered the kids into the cabin while Dan fetched his 22. We cranked on the generator and drown out the sound with an episode of MASH and I watched out the window as the man who’d lovingly petted and fed her fireweed just hours before, put Pica out of her pain.
My husband is a hunter, both with rifle and with bow. He’s put food on the table many times over the years. He’s never had a problem pulling the trigger and aside from a difficult moment late one evening when he had to finish what his arrow didn’t quite do, his hunts were uneventful. But pets…sweet, big eyed, loving, trusting pets…totally different.
But as hard as it was for him to pull the trigger, it was far harder to watch her round belly rise and fall, the sweet sound of her voice, hushed in death, easing from her throat. He did what he had to do and then she was quiet.
Then Pica went into the woods and was laid to rest under the fall leaves of a swaying birch where she’ll complete the circle of life.