Life and Death on a Small Farm

Our dog, Jack, passed away a few days ago.  He was sick for a very long time before he passed and so his death comes with more of a sigh of relief than with sadness.  I am so glad that he is no longer suffering.  He loved life and was strong and courageous until the very end, he did not shirk his duty ever….even on the day before he died he sat outside and “kept watch” for danger as the children played in the backyard.

I remember when we first received Jack, I say “received” because we did not search him out, we were not even thinking about getting a dog at that time.  But there he was, in the arms of our neighbor who was standing on our doorstep.  She said she had found him wandering up and down the road after she got off work and she herself already had two dogs, “….and he’s gonna be a big ‘un!” she said, while looking down at his already huge paws.  “If y’all don’t want him then I’m going to take him down to the humane society tomorrow.”  I couldn’t let her do that, who knows if he’d make it out alive…..sure, we’ll take him 🙂

I sometimes wonder how different Jack’s life might of turned out had she taken him to the humane society….would he still be alive right now?

When we received Jack we were living in our house in town, with a 1/4 acre backyard, but he was a big dog….he definitely had german shepherd in him and pit bull, those two breeds were easily identifiable….and while we let him run as often as we could I always felt bad for him not having more room to roam.  We didn’t own a car at that time and lived on a very busy one lane road which was treacherous to walk along…that road took the life of Tony, our first family cat.

But 3 years after we received Jack we moved here to where we are now, with 9 acres and miles upon miles of woods beyond that, and he got to RUN!  I love watching dogs run, the sheer speed and simple beauty of an innate love of life!  It never fails to make me smile 😀

About 6 months after our move is when he started getting sick, he would be sick for a week or so and then get better and be well for a few months and then get sick again….off and on for almost 3 years….each time spending more time sick and less time well.  We didn’t know what was wrong and even if we did know there is not much that could be done, there is no money available for making a dog well again, it’s just that simple.  Vets are expensive.

He was 6 years old when he died and I will never forget him.  He loved life so much, he loved being with his humans….he was everything that every dog aspires to be…loyal, trustworthy, intelligent, strong, obedient and eager to learn, an excellent guard dog and farm dog, wonderful with the children….he did not deserve such an early death.  But such is life on this planet…those who deserve it the most often get it cut the shortest…

More than anything in this life, it is  Jack who has taught me to “never give up”….that is the lesson that I will take from his time here.  Even when he was so skinny and could barely breath and had blood pouring from his nose he would still join us on a hike in the woods as if nothing was wrong.  Such tenacity of will and such was the love of life that was in him!

Even just mere hours before he died, I went in the shed to check on him knowing that his time was close….I petted him, gliding my hands soothingly across his frail body….he wagged his tail and licked my hand as if to comfort me.

He looked at me with his kind warm brown eyes as if to say “why are you crying?  everything will be ok, it’s alright” and I would say “no it’s not alright Jack, you are dying”…”yes, but it’s supposed to happen this way” his eyes said “this is my job, the reason I was sent to you.”  And now I understand what he meant, it was the last puzzle piece….the final string cut…the renting of the heart into two…broken.  In pain lies peace, in suffering there is true life….and while most seek all their lives to be comfortable and at peace, it is found only in the last place they would ever think to look…in their pain, in their suffering, in their sadness…

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

The purpose of the death, this continuous cycle of death, where everything dies and everything lives off the death of something else, is to show us that although death always follows life, life can come from death….through the death of one, (THE ONE, who is Jesus Christ) life is given to many…

I see this when I butcher a chicken or a goat, or when I kill a plant in my garden and eat it for lunch…or when I kill a bug so that it doesn’t eat that plant before I do.  And even the death of pets…Tony, our first family cat…or Bunnini, our pet bunny that died two years ago…and now Jack….all put in our lives to teach us about life and about love.  And we must be willing to hear them, willing to listen….in order that their life and their sacrifice not be in vain.

Our cat, Gizmo, is heavily pregnant and due to give birth any day now…this will be her fourth litter and every litter before has died…we don’t know why, but such is life…such is death.  In a few weeks my goats will begin kidding…some will become meat for us, others will be raised and sold for profit….such is life, and such is death. And as I sit here typing I can hear the sing-song peeping of little bird life in a box in the corner of my kitchen…all of those birds will be eaten at some point, the roosters will go first and then the hens after they have lived a useful life as a giver of eggs….such is life, such is death.

The lesson to be learned is this: do not shrink from either…accepting death as normal and good and necessary frees us to live well….and living well frees us to die well, without fear.  It’s both awful and beautiful….and such is the love and goodness of God 🙂

8 thoughts on “Life and Death on a Small Farm

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. Losing a beloved family pet that you spend all that time with is, to me, very much like losing someone of the human species. I pray that all of you will be comforted. Blessings to you. Thank you for sharing.

  2. We just had to put one of the ponies down. It is hard to lose a pet, even for farm kids, but we always use it as an opportunity to discuss the effects of sin and how even the animals were cursed by the fall. It is a way for them to look forward to the return of the king in a way they can comprehend.

  3. I am very sorry for your loss.
    Recently, while going through some painful memories I realized that much was made bearable in my growing up because of my four legged friends who so loyally went through that fire with me. Their life truly was poured out to give comfort to those in my family when we simply were not able to comfort each other. I had not realized until now that they did it in such a content way, never asking for more for themselves. Animals are an amazing gift from God.

    I truly long for the day when the Lion will lay down with the lamb…etc. As much as I need meat, as much as death is necessary, I hate it. I am so grateful God made a way for us to be redeemed.

    I saw a post recently where a Vet had to put down a very beloved family dog and the family asked that their six year old Son watch. She said that she said outloud “I don’t know why pets have to die, I am so sorry” because she was overcome by the love between the family and the pet.

    The six year old said to her, “I know why. People get longer lives because they need to learn more. Animals already know how to love, so they don’t have to stay as long.”

    That is the closest thing I can think of to a perfect answer. And though many who believe as I do (in the Bible) do not think their is an after life for animals….I hope there is. I have deeply loved and been grateful for all my pets. I hope that I can see them again one day.

    • I read once in a book by C.S. Lewis (I think it was “The Four Loves”) that he liked to think that pets were granted the gift of immortality based upon how closely they bonded with their owners, and that those who were very close with their owner were granted entrance into Heaven for the sake of their owner….because it wouldn’t be Heaven without them…..I don’t know how true that is, but it’s nice to think about, if at the very least to give people some kind of solace.
      Death is necessary and at the end of the day I regard it as good, a friend come to release me from this earthly prison cell…not that my life on earth is particularly horrible or anything…it’s just that life in general on this planet is completely intolerable. I have to say though that raising my own meat and killing it myself is easier than I thought it would be when I first embarked on this way of life….God has given us dominion over all Creation to use as we see fit and at least when I care for the animal myself I can assure that it lived well before it died, that gives me more peace than I ever realized it could. I hope to raise more of my own meat in the future, possibly rabbits and maybe a yearly meat pig.

  4. This is taken from my book called ‘Heaven’ by Randy Alcorn. He has devoted a whole chapter or so on animals and our pets.
    He says, “We all know stories of pets who’ve risked their live and died for their owers, because the animals’ instinct fo love and loyalty outweigh their
    instinct for self-preservation. It is noble for a person to lay down his or her life for others, so animals who do the same must also be noble. We needn’t be embarassed to grieve their loss or want to see them again. If we believe God is creator, that he loves us and them, that he intends to restore his creatures from the bondage they experienced because of our sin, then we have biblical grounds for not only wanting but also expecting that we may be with them again on the New Earth. Let’s not “correct” our children and grandchildren when they pray that they’ll be able to see their pets again. Then answer to that prayer is up to God. But he loves to hear the prayers of HIs children, ant there is scriptural reson to believe He may answers those prayers. Remembr too that our children’s instinctive grasp of Heaven —is sometimes better than ours. (Christoplatonism hasn’t gripped them yet.)’ He goes on to say, “C.S. Lewis gives us a creative glimpse of what the Resurrected Earth might be like. In ‘The Magician’s Nephew’, King Aslan declares the sons of Adam and the duaghters of Eve, now in Narnia on it’s first day, to be his kings and queens. The talking animals make crowns for the first king and queen and express their delight in being ruled by these humans. One of the animals who watches this scene is a horse named Strawberry, who drew a London carriage on Earth. He toiled adn sometimes his master Frank, a cabbie and good man, whipped him to make him move faster. Strawberry, who Aslan renamed Fledge, marvels at thenew King Frank in the New Naria: “My old master’s been changed nearly as much as I have! Why, he’s a real master now.” Aslan later says to King Frank and Queen Helen, “Be just and merciful and brave. The blessing is upon you.” All the people celebrate. All the animals rejuoice. Aslan, Lord of All, is pleased.

  5. Stephanie, this post made me cry. I’m going thru something similar with my cat- I really think he has diabetes. Like you, there is just no money for a vet bill- how can I spend hundreds on that when my husband desperately needs new glasses and he can’t afford them? Then I feel terribly guilty that I can’t take care of a pet properly- it’s not his fault we have no money, it’s our responsibility. We’ve had to make a lot of these hard choices right now just to fight to keep our home and business, as have a lot of people we know. I still feel bad… he was my first “baby”.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Robin

  6. I agree with you. That you take the time and effort to properly care for your creatures and use them for food when it is there time is a noble and honorable way to live. I have no problem with it. It is only that I have recently had a glimpse of the beauty of creation and what was, and clearly seen the desperate destruction we humans have brought. And like innocent children along for the ride with horrible parents until the time they are unbound for them…so too are the animals.

    All that they go through, they were not meant for. The love you have for your Dog is a shawdow of what it was meant to be. Imagine never being seperated by death? Being able to talk to each other?

    What we traded for the “freedom” to disobey. And I do not blame them, I have done it myself.

    Anyway, I just am not going to take the assumption that animals do not live on. Truly I have seen the souls in the eyes of my dogs. And they have loved me with more kindness then most humans who were susposed to. They were and are a gift and I pray that my Good and Mighty Father welcomed them home and said “Well done” to them too.
    I guess I will have to see 🙂

    • I have been given glimpses of what you speak of, of “Paradise Lost”…while working in my garden deep in thought, I’m given visions and sensations and feelings of how it’s “meant to be” and how royally we have so totally fucked this planet straight to hell…trust me, I know exactly what you mean…and it’s stabs at me in my heart, this pain, like a glowing hot fire poker stabbed into my chest…and I mourn, I mourn it all…this is what I mean when I say that life in general on this planet is completely intolerable.

      I’m sorry if I offended, I don’t mean too…I honestly don’t know what happens to animals when they die. I figure that when I get to where Jesus is, to live with HIM for all eternity, I will be so fulfilled and satisfied by HIM alone that I just don’t think I’m going to care too much about the animals I knew on earth….and I am not saying that in a way to belittle their sacrifice, it’s just that I know that EVERYTHING I ever regarded as important will pale in comparison to just being able to BE WITH HIM…can you imagine?? And if he so chooses to have my earthly animals come along for the ride too, I would be the last person to argue against it…as far as I’m concerned it would just be another good part of an already perfect eternity 😀

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