I watch Maisy march to the back acre, shovel in hand and marvel at the child. My kids are no strangers to death, as it manifests itself too often in the animals that we call family. We have been lucky with the humans in our lives, having lost very few people that are close (knocking on wood) but with pets we’ve had a string of sad luck.
Last night one of Maisy’s Christmas kittens, Gus, died as she and Todd and, intermittently, his sister cat, sat with him. It was gut-wrenching, having watched what was a vibrant terror of a kitten (who, along with his sister, textured my leather couch in claw marks…*sigh*) wither before our eyes in the course of a week. FIP is an incurable virus that takes one cat in 100.
Before Gus there were a passel of chickens and three dogs: Hank, Abby and Rex. We’re not sure how Hank died; we think he died of being an over-curious heeler and got into something he shouldn’t have. Because we were on vacation it’s hard to know. Hank had a highly effective defense mechanism – we got him when he was 2 and have no idea what went on before he came to live with us but any time you got the tiniest bit grumpy with him, he’d lay on his back and pee straight at you. VERY effective in adjusting our behavior, I’ll tell you.
Abby, another overly curious Heeler mix found some coyote poison while we were hiking in Utah. It was wretched, watching her die a painful death, and just when we’d gotten her out of the naughty puppy stage. She was a great little girl.
And Rex, That Dog that holds your heart forever, The dog.
Ranchers and rancher kids have a different view of life and death amongst animals than city kids. While certain animals bring the same sadness in both, I believe that rancher kids have a very fundamental understanding of the circle of life, early in life. We fall somewhere in the middle and I’m proud of Maisy for having what seems to be a healthy dose of big-hearted love and practical understanding of it all.
Our animals somehow help make us more human, both the good human and the bad human that we all are. The bottomless forgiveness they offer up, the pure joy they have in seeing the same people that are too quick to neglect them after the tail-pulling human children come along. They are the best of us, the patient, silent, watchful creatures that keep us grounded and remind us what it is to be Good.