Tribute to a Friend

Last night we lost a dear, dear friend. Echo managed to escape from the house without being immediately noticed, and was hit by a car on the road. When I saw her laying there on the shoulder, she was still warm and soft. It was evident that she was killed instantly, and I am grateful that she didn’t suffer.

Echo was the sweetest little dog imaginable. As Oddler aged, my children became fearful that he would die (he’s still with us), and we decided to get a pup for the kids to grow up with. Not a working dog, not a dog for Mama – just a friend for the kids to love. After reading through several different sites listing the top “family dogs”, we decided to get a beagle. Oddler is a coonhound, and we wanted one that looked like him. We visited the Humane Society first, then looked at several different litters. I gave my input, but wanted to let the kids make the choice as much as possible. In the end, they chose Echo.

Echo was so tiny when we brought her home at 10wks. Even full grown, Echo was 15lbs, about the height & length of Juno at 8wks. Echo’s only job on this farm was to be a friend, and she filled that role with gusto. She loved my children well. She snuggled with them, played with them, put up with their games and enjoyed their walks. She was dumb as a bag of bricks and never learned more than a simple “sit”, even after obedience classes and lengthy efforts at training. She never even came to recognise her own name, or respond when being called. It didn’t matter, though – Echo didn’t need to be smart. She just needed to let the kids love her, and they did.

Echo could be frustrating for me to deal with sometimes, but she was very special to all of us. We assumed she would be at the kids’ sides as they grew, a friend for all stages of childhood and adolescence, someone to snuggle with when feeling sad and to confide in. Someone to share secrets with and a cute face to brighten dark days. You know, all the things a child’s dog is good for. My children are heartbroken over Echo’s death.

The older two children helped their daddy lay Echo in a box for this morning’s funeral, and placed her little dress-up outfit inside with her. Two-yr-old Robin didn’t understand. He looked into the box at his little friend, and suddenly he knew. “Mama,” he said, “Echo broken. Not come back anymore.” We all started crying again.

This morning, a hole was dug in the gardens and Echo was laid to rest. The children helped to dig the hole, placed the box inside, and covered it over. We placed field stones around the perimeter of the little grave and will be making a special headstone to mark the place where Echo sleeps.

She was only with us for one year, but she was loved well and we gave her the best we could. I hope she is alright, wherever she is now.


Life and Death

Yesterday morning, Jae went into the chicken coop and found one of our roosters dead on the floor.  The poor guy had been having some problems – the day after Christmas he had become horribly chilled and couldn’t get himself warm again.  Jae brought him inside and warmed him up over the heat register, and soon he was back to his lively little self.  He seemed fine for a few days, but when we got another cold snap the rooster went downhill again.

The ground here is frozen solid right now, so burying the rooster was not an option.  Jae decided to take the opportunity to learn how to remove the feathers and butcher the bird.  He brought the poor roo into the garage and feathered it, much to our puppy’s delight.  Then he set to work with our sharpest knife (not nearly the right kind of knife for this job!) trying to take the rooster apart.  It was tougher than he anticipated!

I’ll save you the gory details.  The long and short of it is, Jae removed the legs and baked drumsticks in the oven with the intention of feeding one to each of the dogs. As the legs went into the oven, the children and I said a blessing on the rooster, honouring his life and the short time he spent here with us.  We thanked him for the food he was providing to nourish other farm creatures and we talked a bit about the circle of life.

We have been vegetarian for over a decade, and though we have contemplated the idea of eating our own birds, it hasn’t happened.  When Jae pulled the drumsticks out of the oven, he decided they were too good to throw to the dogs.  So he ate them himself!  Wow, was I surprised – and the kids were delighted.  They thought that it was just the funniest thing to ever have happened, Daddy eating a dead chicken.  Though when they were asked if they would like to have some, there were squeals and shouts of “No way!” all around.

I must admit, I was so squeamish when Jae first came in to announce the rooster’s death.  Then, when I knew he was out in the garage taking the thing apart, I was nearly beside myself.  But by the time Jae had the drumsticks in the oven, I had gotten a hold of myself and was in a more rational frame of mind.  The whole experience was a blessing, a chance for us to talk about life and death with our children and a chance for me to face my extreme uneasiness with dead things.  It was also an opportunity for me to see how my children really felt about eating animals when confronted with the possibility of doing so.  They opted out and both expressed a desire to remain vegetarian, but we talked about the possibility of eating animals in the future when we live in a more secluded, rugged, off-the-grid place than where we are now – when we won’t necessarily have the convenience of a grocery store ten minutes away.

I learned a lot yesterday with the death of our rooster.  I am so grateful for our chickens and the relationship our family has with them, so grateful for everything they have taught me, and so grateful to be a part of this great web of life.