Love is definitely in the air at the farm, especially between Gus (guardian dog) and my darling Clementine (cow) who have decided they are smitten with each other. Clem perks up anytime Gus strolls into her pasture and then she proceeds to lick him all over as a small, canine grin spreads across his face. It’s impossible to peg which animals will fall for each other, and I’ve been surprised many times. Boss (buck) and Rodeo Queen (cow) are definitely going steady. Simon (cat) can often be found curled in the middle of a group of snoozing hens. And Winnie (cow) and Hugo (micro-dog) are drawn mysteriously to each other, although their friendship has never gone beyond just long and awkward stares.
In the vein of love, there is some news to share that I’ve debated sharing because it is a sad story. Are you sick of the sad stories? Because I am. But the purpose of this little blog since the beginning, aside from helping us bookmark important events during our ridiculous farming adventure, was to tell the whole truth about the lifestyle. The whole truth is that life with animals – life with other life – means living with the reality of death. The more creatures we invite in, the more we are exposed to loss. That is the math of love.
There is no other way to work the equation.
So here it is: Daisy, Bruce and Betty’s puppy that we decided to keep, died last night. In fact, she was the last of a litter that apparently was born with congenital issues, something we could not have foreseen, nor did we ever (EVER) expect since both parents have been incredibly healthy for the two years we’ve had them. I never set out to breed dogs. In fact I am fundamentally, vehemently opposed to dog breeding because of the enormous over-population of dogs (and cats). Our difficulty locating Great Pyrenees to protect the goats, and subsequent success with Bruce and Betty, convinced us to try one litter for sale to other farmers. It ended up this way. We will never do this again.
I’m sharing this here, not to ruin your Valentine’s Day (promise), but because it is part of the honest story. And, honestly, it’s really rooted in the spirit of the day, strange as that connection may seem. When we first moved here, and I began collecting animals, I felt extremely possessive: “my goats, my cows, MY CHICKENS!” Over time, and through lessons like yesterday’s, I have learned to loosen the tight-fisted grasp I tried to maintain around the multitude of little souls scampering, fluttering, trotting, galloping across the property. They are not mine. I am just a lucky steward for as long as time, health, and circumstance allows. I do my best, but sometimes fate wins. Last year, after experiencing a particularly difficult loss, my longtime mentor, Kimberly from Star Creek Country, told me to hug the animals and then find my favorite spot on the property. And cry. Just get it out, then open your eyes and look around at the view, at the place where you’re curled up crying, at the creatures still blinking up at you through the pasture fence. Straighten yourself out, get back to work.
This recent string of death comes just before our most tenuous season, the chance of loss is more likely now then ever. I’m shaky. The best advice I can give (and I’m talking to myself now, too) is to be brave. Hold close what you can understanding that – in time – you must prepare to let go.