Home > Trip > Dispatches > Local Dispatches > Local Dispatch #63

January 6, 2012: Parallel Universes

It is so very strange. I think sometimes that Jon Katz and I live in parallel universes. His life, and as well, his insights about animals tend to be timely for me. For example, in today’s blog, he speculates about whether or not it’s possible to love a chicken. He says he very much enjoys the behavior of Meg, who is a very inquisitive bird, but no, he does not love her. He loves his wife Maria, he loves his dogs, he loves his donkeys. But no, he does not love chickens or sheep.

I have never met the man, and probably never will, but it appears to me as though he’s both thinking hierarchically, and putting limitations on his feelings. This is a matter of self-perception. If say, he professed to love a lowly fowl, he’d be thought by many to be crazy. I say, this is his loss. Okay, I draw the line at snakes, although I acknowledge and respect the fact that others might love them, for I think it’s possible for feelings to transcend form.

As I’ve often said, love and loss are the yin and yang of animal ownership. Yesterday, I experienced loss, and today I’m feeling a bit down about it. The reason is that Nimby died. Here is what happened. I kept saying that she was off—meaning, not feeling well. The day before yesterday I brought her into the house and took some photos. She sat with her feathers fluffed up, and was unusually calm. She also closed her eyes when sitting there. But I figured that she’d get better, because she had been eating.

Yesterday I picked Nimby up, and took her outside, with the intention of taking some outdoor photos. She began panting, and upchucked some yellow stuff. Then she began upchucking heavily, spewing bile everywhere. I called out to Pete, who was working on the truck. He suggested that I give her some electrolytes. I was on my way to do this when she started convulsing. Seconds later, her head dropped over, and she died. Dang, right in my arms. I put Nimby in a plastic bag, and Pete put her in the solar freezer. We’ll bury her when the ground thaws – up on the hill, next to Bootleg, Stubbi, and Catchi.

I of course feel bad about what happened. I have no idea what Nimby’s problem was, or how I might have prevented her death. If there was a way to have kept her alive, I would have done it. This is because Nimby was fortunate enough to have pet status. And by virtue of having pet status, was loved.

Pet status – I’m lucky to live in a time and place in which I don’t have to worry about egg production. The same holds true of the goats. Their future is not dependent upon their being able to produce.

I told my photography teacher and fellow students about Nimby’s dying in my arms. They were of course, properly empathetic. At the same time, they appeared to think that I was a few bubbles off plumb for even considering taking photos of a chicken. So be it. Interestingly, the course instructor said after that he had a friend, a potter, who said that his chicken was his best friend. My exact words were that I would not go that far. And so, like Katz, I have limits. Pete is my best friend. The animals (my sister Eleanor calls them dependents) are pets. All who are here give me great joy, and I reciprocate, by providing them with good care.

Life goes on. Henny Penny Palin is now all alone. So the question is, do we get another chicken or give her away? A friend, who raises chickens for meat and eggs, said she’d take her, but forewarned me that she would butcher her when her egg laying days are over. Okay. All chickens die, and given this, butchering isn’t the worst way to go. It’s quick and clean if you do it right. But I am adverse to the idea of killing pets for food consumption, for this seems to me to be a form of betrayal.

I also don’t know how HPP would do in another flock. On the other hand, our set up is not the best as far as winter quarters go. The coop gets snow blown, and the roost is small. But I’m tempted to give it a go. This friend has a black Jersey giant—and if she’s anything like Catchi, she’ll be a good bird.

We’ll see.

Next: 64. 2/8/12: Juggling Act