Most of us in our lifetimes have had to deal with someone that we love suffering from a chronic illness. My heart has always found it more difficult to cope with chronically ill pets and children. I don’t think that they can completely understand what is happening, why they feel the way they do and why we subject them to visits at the doctors.
I can remember almost immediately after I had my first baby, our family dog became ill. She was at the near the end of the expected life span of a Schnauzer. Our little “fur person” was such a part of the family. She was a wonderful dog. Yet at this time in her life, she was suffering. She began to develop sores on her body out of nowhere, her appetite declined and she lost her peppiness. As I rocked my new colicky baby in my arms, I found myself sitting on the floor by her bowls feeding soft food and water to her with a spoon. We even had to carry her outside as her legs had difficulty supporting her down the steps.
I had thought for a while that she had become diabetic. We were now new to Cape Cod and we had to find a new vet. I became so sad. I was almost certain that it was her time. We spent the next couple weeks bringing her to the vet and soon it became apparent that there was nothing more to be done. We were going to have to let go and put her to sleep. Sadly, six months before our move, our other dog was put to sleep after a stroke. All I could remember was him licking me as I held him and he went to sleep. His rough sand paper tongue was thanking me and loving me. Slowly it stopped and he was gone. Two dogs in six months were so much for my heart to bear.
With time hearts heal and chicken soon entered our lives as well as another baby. A few months ago, Tilly became ill. My heart felt that familiar sadness. Proactively, I brought her to the chicken vet just to make sure. She had a full blown case of broodiness. It lasted for months. Her comb was dull and she lost almost half her body weight. As soon as she was through with the broodiness, she went into her fall molt. I wondered how much her body could take. Broodiness and molting are two of the most difficult natural processes for hens. Her comb, an indication of how she felt, should have been bright red. Instead, it was a limp pale pink like the color of the combs that you see in factory hens. I could do nothing but be supportive, not knowing if she would pull through. We spoiled her with high protein snacks to help her gain weight and replenish her feathers, sunflower seeds, meal worm, Worms and Harvest Flakes, scrambled eggs and the like.
Yesterday, she emerged from the coop with no tail feathers. She has reached the end of her molt. She was talkative, happy and her comb stayed a brilliant deep red every time I went out to check on her. Her crop was full and almost pendulous. All the while when she was ill, I had to come to the place in my heart where I could accept losing her. I was there. I also realized that my heart, after almost nine years, is ready to have a new dog in our lives. You see, the love and happiness that pets whether chickens, mice, guinea pigs, cats and dogs is magical. It is pure and true. I imagine this is why sometimes losing them can hurt so much. Yet, it truly is better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.
Photo Credit: Tilly’s Nest
14 thoughts on “Loving Bonds”
I know anyone who loves their pets like family, has been through tough situations like this. I had a healthy, happy shiba inu (or so I thought) until we discovered he had congestive heart failure. There were little signs of a cough or hard breathing but we thought it was from the heat (he had a very heavy coat) or he ate something he shouldn't have. Then finally he just collapsed. We rushed him to the emergency vet and they found his abdomen was filled with fluid which was making it hard for him to breath. After a few days when they had stabilized him, we brought him home but he he couldn't breath out of the oxygen chamber. We had to make the choice to put him to sleep. As I held him in my arms, he looked at my husband and then liked my nose to say goodbye. It is as you said better to have loved and lost.
Thank you Dragonlady16 for sharing this with us. It is so difficult to make these choices for animals that we love and have lived with. Your little one was very lucky to have you as a Mom.
I am touched by your post. I have lost a few pets in my time, and it is never easy. It is true that it is better to have loved and lost than not have have loved at all. Blessings, Anna
Thank you Anna, I am always so happy when people can relate to the posts. Thank you for your kind words today.
Your blog today is so touching; I know most of us can relate. When my little handsome gentleman of 16 years reached the end of his life, we knew we had to make preparations, but he saved us the heartbreak of having to put him to sleep as he died in my arms that evening. As sad as that was, we could be happy that we had him for 15 years. Three months later, our 7 year old suddenly died, and I thought I would never get over the shock and sadness of losing her so unexpectly. Even now, seven years later, I can still smell her at times. I used to smell her constantly, but as the shock and pain have diminished, she hasn't had to 'visit' so often. I thank God for all the animals in my life – and YES, it is definitely better to have loved and lost … Thank you for sharing your beautiful story.
Thank you so much for sharing your story here with us. I can relate to your story and know how much you loved your animals.
So glad to hear that Tilly is feeling herself again. Poor little girl went through so much.
Thanks so much! I know you have definitely walked this adventure with us. Thanks for all of your thoughts and support!
Your post touched me deeply. Yes loss is the hardest lesson in life. After losing absolutely everything that meant anything to me 18 months ago. Its been a long hard journey back for my heart,mind & soul.
Only now after the arrival of my girls Henny. Penny & Jenny 3 Isla Browns have I felt connected once again to life & living. It's such a joy to greet them each morning & tuck them up for the night each day watch them during the day & get to know them via there 3 very different personalities!
You had inspired me to get the girls with your tales of your own girls and I could tell that they had brought such a joy & love into your life
That I was compelled to have my own hoping that would open & mend my own heart once again to being able to overcome such loss . Thank you I truly appreciate being able to share a part of your life through your blog that brings such joy & love.
What a lovely story you have shared with me today. Thank you. It means the world to me to know that I connect with my readers and that we are walking similar journeys in life. I am so happy to have you are part our our blog.
I have tears burning my eyes- having lost a dog suddenly in the past 2 years (for me, it usually takes at least that long to grieve the loss of a dog). I currently have my best buddy who is 10 years now, and since I want to avoid the pain that comes with pet dogs, I've promised myself a pet house-rabbit next time around. Rabbits are kind of between a cat and a dog (in my experience); the best of both worlds in a way.
I cannot say how it will go when the weather warms and I am finally faced with the deed of culling my extra birds (for various reasons). The chickens do have personalities, but then so does a lizard, if you get to know it. Now that I know this, I don't let my dog chase them for the thrill of the kill anymore!
So how you can cull (such a convenient word), an animal or bird that you have nurtured, without feeling immense feelings of heartlessness (or something), I don't know…
I'm glad that others have gone before me on this path, and I appreciate your thoughts on it.
Thank you Illoura for sharing your story with me too. I love to know that I am not alone in my feelings for animals.~Melissa
You’re getting a dog? Let’s hope it doesn’t attack the chickens like mine does… Terriers with chickens is a big mistake.
This is an old post. We added Sara 3 and a half years ago. We hired a behaviorist to help out from when she was just weeks old. We never leave them alone together.