Thursday, April 10, 2008

when animals die

Caution: This post has photos of dead animals.

Tuesday Don and I met at a restaurant to mark our 30th anniversary with a small celebration. Within a minute of arriving, not anticipating the effect it would have, he told me one of the new chicks - one of the White Crested Black Polish like the one above - had died that afternoon. I began to cry, and when the waitress came by to take my drink request, I couldn't speak or look at her. I'd had a stressful day at work, and the harsh reality of our little chicks' fragility came as a shock. Finally the waitress left so I could pull myself together. Poor Don felt terrible.

We didn't have pets in our home growing up. I think it was my dad who wasn't comfortable with animals, since Mom had dogs as a girl. As a result, I didn't have first-hand experience with the life and death cycles of pets, which would have been a good way to learn about death.

Since moving to the farm in 2003, I've had encounters with animals, such as these wild fauns that felt comfortable in our yard last summer after apparently losing their mother, probably hit by a car. One year the barn cat we inherited with the farm was hit by a car and killed (Rudy, not Bishop). How kind our neighbor Bill was to respectfully pull Rudy off the road into our yard before we got home.

On my 35-minute drive on country roads to work, I see a lot of road kill. Since the Department of Natural Resources doesn't remove animal carcasses from the roads any more, we get to watch the process of decomposure.

This deer was a mile from our house when I drove to work Wednesday. She's lying there right in the triangular spot at the middle of an intersection, a strange sort of cautionary traffic sign. It looks as though someone was planning to drag her off, with that blue rope around her neck. They gave up, I guess, and Thursday morning the deer was still there, but the rope was gone.

We see crows and buzzards picking at the flesh of the animal carcasses. At first I was disgusted by the sight. But after a few years, I'm grateful to watch the food chain at work and to know that the flesh of animals killed by human drivers will be eaten by other animals. By the way, if you hit a deer and kill it with your car, you are welcome to take the deer home, which many do for the meat.

Recently Don taught his 3rd graders about decomposers. If, for example, Thomas Jefferson's dog had not been decomposed by those organisms, it could still be lying visible in Virginia today.

I'm sorry if these pictures bother you. I must be becoming more of a farmer than I thought, because I'm getting used to such sights. I know that the deer population would grow completely out of control if we drivers didn't kill some of them and hunters didn't take their share. (I've hit two deer while driving. Both of them ran off, so I don't know if they died soon after that or not.)

I don't like seeing any animal die these violent deaths. But it is even harder for me to see the newest life forms die so quickly, like the quail chicks and chicken chicks Don is raising, even though I know a certain percentage of them will die in the natural order of things, even as babies. It's especially difficult when I've held them in my hands.


Sandy said...

I know what you mean...and even knowing its' the natural order of things (except for car accidents and such) it is always sad to see an animal die.

The pics didn't bother me at all and I found your post interesting.

Hope the rest of the little chicks make it.


Don said...

I see so many road kills! A lansing MI man had a deer jump right through his window yesterday and hit him in the head!

Interesting post, makes me think about the survival of the fittest and the food chain!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Sandy. We're watching these 40 chicks and 17 quail closely, and even so, some more will die. Don is doing everything he can to safeguard them when they move to the coop, but we know predators might get in. It's the way of nature.

* * *

Don, oh! Is the man ok? The deer? I always see animals - squirrels, rabbits, deer, possum, raccoons - start across the road, hear the car, stop and go back and forth for a while, and I just want them to cross!

mystic rose said...

I'm sorry to hear that as well. I once cared for a baby bird that was injured, and it died. And so I can imagine just how you feel. I think because they are so innocent and helpless, we cannot be indifferent espcecially when men are the cause. They are entitled to living their own life as well. but death is part of our life. I think some of the older cutlures had more respect for them, the native Americans for instance, they recognised the spirit that wasin the animals too. And in India, if you are at all familiar with the philosophy of Hinduism, the spirit is wished well on to its next evolutionary state.

Ruth said...

Mystic, you're right, it's a mistake if we think there should be no pain in life. There is pain. I wish I'd experienced it more as a child, because as a child you acquire knowledge into yourself more wholly, I think, helping you cope later in life. The Native American tradition of being part of the spirit of all things in nature, connected, is a great model that I long to understand better, within myself.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Ruth you tell a very honest, sad and real life story. so well documented. have you written any books? you certainly could.and the photographs... they really touch deep inside...

yes when I was just looking at Don's little chicks the thought entered my mind of the losses we used to have when we raised chicks... We always lost several and most of the time we didn't know why. maybe some are just a bit weak...
once when we had ducks the father duck was very jealous of the ducklings and he started drowning them. luckily we got to them before he did them all in.. he picked one up at a time and held them down in the water dish... couldn't believe our eyes... needless to say that duck was not in our good books any more.

Ruth said...

Gwen, what a chilling image of that duck father drowning his babies. Hard to fathom. Did you do him in?

No, haven't written any books. Thank you very much for that kind comment. I've observed that you write very well also. And, well, Don and I have already planned a children's book with rauf's story of Priya and your illustrations. Thought I'd let you know. Oh, and rauf doesn't know yet either.

His story is here:

Bob Johnson said...

Too bad about the chick, I remember when we first got married I bought a chick for my wife for Easter, she thought I was crazy, but she got so attached to it that when it died prematurely as well, she took it pretty hard. I never really thought about what happens to road kill, I'd imagine some government official would come to clean it up, I think that's what happens here.

freefalling said...

I told my sister I might like a couple of chooks in the backyard.
She said "no way" - I'd get too attached to them and chooks drop dead all the time for no apparent reason - she's much tougher than me.
(do you call them "chooks", too?)

Have you ever seen the movie Zed and Two Naughts (ZOO)?
A very strange film.
But one of my favourites.
It has time lapse photography of decaying animals.
(sounds great, doesn't it??!!)
But it's really quite beautiful.
You'd like it.

Speaking of movies - I saw Lars and the Real Girl.
If you read the film synopsis, it sounds really cheesy but it is beautifully executed and touching.
I thought of you while I was watching it and thought that it would be something you would like.

Ruth said...

Letitia, no, never heard of "chooks" until someone on a blog recently, probably over at Don's.

The Zed movie sounds cool, actually. I think I should queue it, and "Lars and the Real Girl" which I've heard about. Thanks for the rec. Did you see "Snow Cake"? That is also touching, about autism - Sigourney Weaver and Alan Rickman. Beautiful.

Ruth said...

Oops, Bob, sorry out of order. I'll bet your wife really appreciated your thoughtfulness, eh? Yes, our road crews used to clear away the dead deer, but not any more. However, that deer with the blue rope is now gone. I think it was a little too centrally located in that intersection. I mean, we wouldn't want to drive by it for the next year and watch quite that closely what disappears.

Ginnie said...

This is very touching to me, Ruth. Since I'm part and parcel of your own genes, I feel this with you in almost the same way. Thanks for sharing it so...realistically!

Ruth said...

Oh, thank you, Boots.