Wednesday, May 17, 2017


This morning while the kids were entertaining themselves, I found myself drawn back to my bed to finish waking up {the struggle is real} while I checked out the news and weather. My cat, Luther, was there on the bed. He is pretty much every morning. And night. And day. 

As I passed him, I reached out to pet him. My heart sank. He was bony skinny, and so suddenly. I swear two days ago he wasn't like that. His collar was loose, his vertebrae protruded and he was weak. The most troubling part, if you know my Luther, is that his meow was pathetic. 

Luther was born almost 13 1/2 years ago to my cat, Luna. I watched him be born in my bedroom. He was in a litter of 3. The other two were blah gray tabbies. But Luther was a dark, almost black tabby. He was huge compared to the other two. And he was LOUD. Right from the start. While the other tiny blind kittens gave pathetic "mews" Luther was alerting the neighborhood with his loud "WAAAH!!!" 

He still to this day has a loud, grumpy, whiny "WAAAH!!!!" 

Of the three kittens, I kept Luther. Gave him a fitting name, after the theologian, based on his temperament, and he's been a part of our family ever since. Never gave us a bit of trouble other than a bad attitude and demands for pets every morning. 

I called Justin and told him Luther was wasting away all of a sudden. Justin thought it was because he'd moved their food dispenser up to the counter in the basement laundry room so the dogs would stop raiding it. Maybe Luther hadn't been able to find it for a few days? Sounded reasonable enough. 

So Justin stopped home on his lunch break with fattening wet kitten food and Luther did eagerly eat some and I thought, well that's that! Poor guy was just really hungry and hasn't eaten a proper in a couple days. 

But as the day dragged on, I began to feel in my gut that something wasn't right. Calories weren't perking my Luther up. Feeling a little silly, I finally did the kids hair and loaded Lu up in his cat carrier and headed off to a new vet everyone has been recommending on Nextdoor. {Our regular wasn't returning my calls.}

I was pleased with the facility and that they take walk-ins. 

I won't beat around the bush. The vet asked the basic questions while he palpated Lu's tummy. He then told me he felt a mass in his belly about this {he held his hands up making a baseball sized circle} big and thought it'd be wise to x-ray. I agreed, x-ray away!

About 5 minutes later, the vet came back in the room and turned on the computer where an x-ray immediately filled the screen. 

"Well, first of all," the vet said. "The x-ray revealed a pellet in Luther's abdomen."

I tried to make sense of that right away, What's a pellet exactly? An owl pellet? What?

The vet went on to explain, they see this sadly too often. Luther had--at some point in his life, who knows when--been shot by a pellet gun. 

Sadness flooded me. I looked at my sweet cat, resting peacefully on the exam table. Who would do that kind of a thing to someone's pet??? Who treated "my boy" that way??? I was so sad. I started to cry. I'd never noticed any injuries on him. Luther knows how to use the dog door, but most of the time he stays inside, content to either eat or sleep on my bed. "Someone shot my cat?" "Yes, at some point. Who knows how long it has been there. Obviously it hasn't caused much trouble and is far enough away to seem unrelated to the mass, so I wouldn't worry about having it removed at this time."

But it got worse. 

The x-ray also revealed a decent sized mass in his abdomen. Near or in his small intestine. 

I mean, you have to assume cancer. Luther is around 70 years old in cat years. It was probably bound to happen some time, if he lived long enough. 

Justin showed up around this point, off of work now. We had to decide. 

Do we try and get a better idea of what it is with an ultrasound? But that was $500. 

Do we assume it is lymphoma and put him on trial drugs or see an oncologist for chemotherapy? But that is such a long shot and expensive and we don't even know exactly what the growth is, and he's 70, so how long will be really be extending his life and what quality will that life be on drugs?

We decided for the option that would give us the most answers. We felt we owed old Lu that much. He's been a part of our family since before our family was founded. Exploratory surgery tomorrow {Thursday}. It's twice the cost of the ultrasound, but still very inexpensive as this popular vet is well known for their low pricing. I've been Googling, and some people say their cat's exploratory surgery cost $3,500-$5,000! 

But we'll get more answers. The vet will either be calling me to say the growth was found and successfully removed and we could pick up Luther the next day and await biopsy results, or he'd be calling me before finishing the surgery to tell me it was impossible to remove. The latter would mean I'd be making a decision whether or not to wake Lu back up, or to let him rest in peace and avoid a drawn out death. Luther loves eating. And drawing out a death by cancer in the stomach would mean his life would be void of that one joy that is food. 

So I already know what my answer will be. 

And either way they will biopsy and test the growth so that we'll know for certain what it is. 

But still, we're praying that the vet will call after removing the growth, and that maybe Luther might still have a bit more time left to annoy me in the morning with his demands to be pet and have his chin scratched. 

I just want to leave this, though, with a thought about animal companions that has already been on my mind lately...

I was recently studying the life of David in the Bible. David was said to be a man after God's own heart. But David sinned when he took the beautiful Bathsheba for himself, and had her husband killed in battle by putting him on the front lines. 

David didn't really feel bad about this until he understood his sin through another man's loss. Just go with me on this:

2 Samuel 12:1 The Lord sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, “There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor.The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.
“Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him.”
David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”

 Anyway, David saw what he'd done, that it was just like what the rich man had done to the poor man and he felt bad about that. But that's not my point. I somehow took comfort, in light of our recent mass animal losses, in reading this and seeing that the Word of God acknowledges our possible bonds to our pets. One might think, it's a sheep in a world of starving hurting people, who cares?

But David cared. And David, remember, was a man after God's own heart. So you can be sure, when you're grieving the loss of a pet, that even though it's just a pet and not a person, God cares. I take comfort in this, yes I do. The Bible does not mock that man when it says that ewe was like a daughter to him.

I believe He made companion animals for our benefit and joy. And I'm so thankful for Luther, that he has been my annoying morning companion for so many years.

He's at the hospital and I'm missing his presence on my bed. I'll miss him in the morning. I feel bad that I used to get annoyed at his head-butting me for attention in the morning. I hope he gets to head butt me again.


P.S. The rich man who took and killed the ewe = the person who shot my Lu with a pellet gun.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

I'm not one to make a big deal of "Hallmark Holidays" {thought up by gift industries to obligate us to spend money--and that's the truth, I saw a documentary about it} plus they're not personal like birthdays or anniversaries.

But I won't lie, today as we finished up a barbecue dinner on our back covered deck, I admired the view of my beautiful kids playing in our new yard so much that I ran for the camera and snapped some photos of them at play, while feeling completely blessed to be their mom. Even if they all had dinner on their shirts and dirty feet. Watching my kids enjoy childhood and their siblings is the greatest blessing on this day.

 Happy Mother's Day. 

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

Mother's Day 2017

I love these gorgeous girls and their baby brother to the moon and back a thousand times over.
God has been good to me.

Mother's Day 2017

 {Even though it's a concocted ploy to get our monies and we should tell our moms we love them every day.}
Heather, the cynic

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

More Bad News

This hurts to write. I don't even really want to write it. I wish it were a disturbing bad dream, but no.

In my last post I detailed how a fox had taken advantage of our chicken coop not being locked down one night, after the chickens had pecked through a wire on their automatic closing coop door. We'd lost a buttercup, and Pearl was injured.

Sadly, the next morning Pearl was also found lifeless in a nesting box. The poor thing.

So there's two chickens down due to nasty Mr. Fox. Or, most likely, Mrs. Fox, and I'll explain that later.

This morning Justin woke me up with more sadness. This time it was a lot more devastating. Last week's loss was hard, but this was worse.

We're animal people. We love animals.

I know there's a lot of people out there who cannot have pets for various reasons (i.e. they rent, they have allergies, etc.) but every once in a while I'll meet a person who doesn't just not have pets, they disdain pets and animals. A "friend" actually once threatened to kick my cat because she hated cats. And dogs. That friend is no longer in my life.

People like that...I just don't trust them. Not because I want to be nasty, but because my gut tells me people who harbor contempt for animals are just off somehow. In their heart. When I meet these types, which isn't often, my gut tells me, Smile, and back away slowly.

I say that, but I'll also admit that this morning I've been fantasizing about waiting up all night on my back porch with a shotgun, and blowing a fox's head off if he dares to appear in my yard.

Last week after the fox incident, Justin fixed the coop door. Of course he did. He's also been going out every night to double check that the chickens were locked in and safe. Also, our young hatching chicks that we hatched ourselves this spring. They've been out in their own coop of sorts, the old rabbit hutch. Justin even made them a small temporary run so they've been enjoying going out in the sun during the day. Of course we locked them up at night as well. Of course we did.

In hindsight, however, we were fools to not see the vulnerabilities of the rabbit hutch coop. Our permanent cute yellow coop is raised off the ground, there's no digging into it even if a predator gets into the run {which they can, and do}. We designed the coop to be impenetrable to critters.

There's 6ft fence around the big yellow coop, and Sander dug the fence down several inches to discourage digging from both sides--including our dogs trying to dig into the chicken run and the rabbit, Peter, who lived with the chickens, from digging out. We've taken precautions, see.

But the rabbit hutch was not secured in that way. I'm sick with grief.

Simply put, last night a fox easily dug under the bottom of the rabbit hutch, and--we think--one by one took our young hatchlings. Justin got up to open up the coops and found there were no more young chickens left. Not a one.

To make our grief even worse, our rabbit Peter was also dead in the chicken coop run. He was still warm when he was found. Apparently he didn't go into the coop last night {rabbits don't do that on instinct, unlike chickens}. He was unharmed, just dead. We believe he was shocked to death, maybe chased by the evil Mrs. Fox. He'd been through so much. I've been spoiling him lately with lots of treats. I'm glad for that. I'm heartbroken he's gone.

I said no hatched chicks were found, but...

By some small miracle, Justin found one of our hatchlings--ONE!--hiding near our trash cans. How she got away and escaped the fox and her rabbit hutch coop unscathed we don't know. We're just glad one of our 9 hatching egg chicks survived this massacre.

We're pretty sure it's a hen. The kids named her Hei Hei {after the chicken from Moana}, but after this morning Justin has renamed her Lucky. We weren't sure if it was better to re-home her with the big chickens, who might bully her due to her size, or put her with the little Rainbow Dixie chicks we splurged on at the feed store a couple weeks back. They're in the garage, safe in a large dog kennel with a heat lamp. Lucky might pick on them...but there's 8 of them and we decided that was a safer place for her. Fortunately, she's not picking on the littles at all, but almost looks like their mamma hen. The chicks have all crowded around her and enjoy her feathered warmth.

Lucky and her new Rainbow Dixie babies

We got the Rainbow Dixie chicks because, honestly, chicken fatalities happen and I wanted to hedge our bets in case all our hatched chickens turned out to be roos. Now I'm glad we did, even if it felt a bit crazy at the time to bring another 8 chicks home. They were 50 cents each and when you bought 6, they threw in 2 more for free.

In the last week, we've officially lost 10 chickens. And one sweet rabbit.

That hurts to write. It's a hard pill to swallow. My emotions are still all over the place--from intense regret to anger to sadness.

Last week's loss was hard, but today's was worse. I've been crying.

A couple hours after Justin left for work, I saw my neighbor coming up our walk. I knew why she was coming. We'd gone out front to look for anymore escaped miracle chicks, but hadn't found any. My sweet neighbor was working on raking out her beautiful garden bed when she came accross a buried chicken. A bold fox to bury a chicken in broad daylight in a front yard, and the chicken hadn't stiffened with rigor mortis yet. It was my favorite, the first one to hatch. The lavender Orpington whose birth was witnessed on Facebook live. The fox had buried her for later. I'd already counted her as gone, but again this was incredibly hard to see that gorgeous friendly chicken destroyed like this.

So after Googling a bit I learned that this happens in spring. Foxes can take out whole flocks in one fell swoop this way. Most likely, it is a momma fox who has a den with kits nearby. They are emboldened during this time of life, when they have kits to feed, and are more likely to venture into danger to feed their young. Raccoons aren't known to bury kills for later, but foxes are. Who knows where else in the neighborhood my poor chickens are buried? I'm sick with grief. I feel achy.

I wish I could have reasoned with her. I wish I could have talked her into taking a duck or goose from the park, an animal no one would notice missing. I wish I could tell her that these chickens were very special to us. They were the 9 chicks that hatched from our first attempt to incubate eggs. I wish she could have understood that, like her kits, we'd been caring for them lovingly since they took their first breaths. This loss is especially hard because we hatched those chicks, and every one was a survivor, damn it.

Damn that fox.

And I've had violent thoughts about that fox all morning.

Then, I remember, she'd just doing what she was made to do. And if I blew her head off, those kits would suffer. Also, I don't have a shotgun. Yet.

We haven't told the kids yet. I'm avoiding it. It was hard enough last week when we thought we'd just lost one chicken. Eisley stamped her feet and got angry. Which I understood, because anger is a secondary emotion, usually caused by grief or fear or pain. She cursed predators and wished they didn't exist. Sensing a need to curb her inclination to be mad at God about it, I told her that her feelings were completely understandable and valid. But if God didn't allow predators to kill, we'd be overrun with mice and rodents and diseases. I hate spiders, I said, but if God hadn't made spiders we'd have no edible vegetables or fruits and wouldn't even be able to go outside for all the bugs.

Still. It stinks when the predators get your beloved pets or livestock. It just plain stinks. And I've cried a lot today over it.

And I told my husband that I cannot take another loss like this. We're declaring war on that fox. She'll have to hunt elsewhere because I cannot loose another chicken to her. And we won't be getting another bunny because we've agreed we need to be on a pet decline from here on out. But I'm going to miss seeing that sweet bunny all cute and white and plump and hoppy with his chickens.

In a strange way, I'm jealous of those animal haters. How much easier their lives must be, without the grief that comes with loving and losing pets?

But what is that famous saying...better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

The benefits of pets and animals on our wellbeing--mental and physical--are well documented.

Last week I was consoling myself after losing a chicken {later to be two chickens lost} that at least we still had our hatched chicks and Rainbow Dixies. Today I'm going to a bit more of an extreme to cope with my grief: at least our kids are alive and healthy. Always something to have gratitude about. Always. Grief is best tempered with gratitude.

Justin has ordered this to help deter foxes. We'll continue to make sure the coop is locked down each night. We're considering and researching all other possible precautions.

Fool me once, Mrs. Fox, shame on you.

Fool me twice, Mrs. Fox, shame on me.

Fool me thrice, Mrs. Fox, I'll be buying that shotgun after all. Don't even think about it. Kits or no kits.

I no longer think foxes are very cute. Vicious beasts, more like it.

The loss of my precious hatched chicks we've worked so hard on is not something I'll easily get over. I'm sad, angry, and full of regret.

I'm so sad. This is something chicken keepers have been dealing with since the beginning of time, foxes are. But still. It hurts.

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