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December 8, 2012: Loss

There are some things that defy explanation. Or, an explanation is not readily available. I’m now dealing with the latter. In the past twelve hours both Henrietta and Snooky have died. I discovered Henrietta’s corpse in the coop last night, and discovered Snooky’s corpse in the roost this morning. (I’d moved her up there last night.)

I don’t think I need to go into any detail about this – but Henrietta had either been pecked at, or eaten in some places. Snooky had no signs of this. So perhaps Snooky was a cannibal. Don’t know, will never know.

I recently read Jon Katz’s book Going Home: Finding Peace when Pets Die. I found my mind wandering when I read it. It seemed to me to be overly simplistic. And his anecdotal evidence felt contrived, like he made up stories in order to better make his points about grieving and moving on. He also didn’t say anything

revelatory. More in-depth interviews with veterinarians and other animal health care specialists would have brought this book to life.

I do get something useful of everything I read, including classified ads. In this case, it was that many people beat themselves up dwelling on what they might have done differently, in an attempt to prolong an animal’s life. I did this when dealing with the deaths of all of our chickens, who now number seven. That’s a lot of life energy.

In the instance of Henny Penny Palin, Henrietta, and Snooky, I wondered if we were remiss in keeping the water in their water dish warm, or in not moving them into insulated roost soon enough. If only. . . . Or, perhaps if used better quality hay for bedding. Or, perhaps I should have insisted that Pete take down the wind turbine. I don’t know.

Today is overcast. For the past month we’ve had abundant sunlight. So the change is making me feel even more morose than I might otherwise be. The weather then, is lending itself to grieving.

The poet Marvin Bell wrote in one of my all-time favorite poems, Gemwood, that the heart must expand to hold the losses that are ahead of it. It was about the death of his son’s pet rat. I liked this line, but up until now didn’t fully get it. I didn’t get it up until now. Rephrased, and in less eloquent terms, the very best we mortals can do is open our hearts and in this way prepare for more significant losses. The death of a rat is supposedly insignificant. And the death of a chicken is supposedly insignificant.

(As I wrote the above paragraph, I realized that it’s senseless to write about poetry because the poem says it all, and in a far more eloquent and measured fashion than any critic might do.)

But, who’s to say what’s significant in terms of animal life, and what’s not? I think all animals and people that we interact with are significant.

Pete just told me that he examined Snooky (this, I guess would be a chicken post mortem) and she had a broken neck. So, something must have got her. This wasn’t anything that really, we could have done anything about. And given the fact that so many chickens here lived for so long, we didn’t think we had to do anything about it.

My heart continues to expand, not because I’m preparing for future loss, but because I am dealing with the loss at hand.

Next: 363. 12/10/12: I get by with a Little Help from my Friends