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Wednesday, March 07 2012


     I named the calf "Norman." Not exactly original, but I doubt he cares. Norman passed away last night. Other Half fed him around 7 pm and tucked him in. I came home from work at midnight to find him still warm, but gone. Norman was premature. His teeth were not fully developed but other than that, he looked like a full term calf.

     Other Half had planned to put him down yesterday afternoon because he wasn't making a marked improvement but after some more research on premature calves we decided to give him one more chance. The mortality rate is high, but some do pull out.

     So we continued to try. Unfortunately, I opened the bedroom door last night to find him motionless. Ranger rushed in and attempted a canine version of CPR.

   It was touching. The little blue dog was quite upset. I gave him all the time he wanted. He guarded Norman's body from the other dogs while I pulled Norman's pallet into the muck room. I left the calf there while Ranger valiantly continued to revive the little guy. It was sad, poignant - Hollywood's version of what a dog is, and most aren't. And yet, there it was in front of me.

     Briar was in the back yard and so she came into the muck room to check out Norman's body.  Ranger threatened her but she was politely persistent. I don't think Briar has ever seen Death claim someone, so I called Ranger away to let her carefully explore Norman's body. Then I went to phone Other Half.

     I was okay. Despite our best efforts, I knew saving Norman was a longshot. It is what it is. Nature can be cruel. While I chatted with Other Half, I was okay - until I walked back into the muck room and saw Briar. Then I burst into tears.

     Briar, who had never seen Norman alive, was lying beside his still body with her chin on her paws. Her expression was the saddest I've ever seen. Briar understood Norman was dead. She settled down beside him, and waited, her expressive eyebrows shifting but her head never moving from her paws. And then I cried.  Not for Norman, but for the sweet nature of a good dog. Briar and Ranger have a level of empathy not seen in the rest of the pack. 

Typical narcissist, my beloved Lily bounced around, "Can we play fetch now?"

Dillon, who had been frightened of Norman when he was alive, was not frightened, but now curious of the dead Norman. Trace was still slightly growly. To them, Norman was a Thing, never a Someone. But Ranger and Briar see suffering and death for what it is, and they respond with an uncanny sympathy. It touches me.

Sadly, Norman joins the ranks of my other failed attempts to save the longshots. For most of my life, God has sent helpless animals my way. I have killed more baby birds than I care to remember. At one point I recall upon finding yet another helpless bird, throwing my hands to Heaven and shouting,

"Why do you INSIST upon sending me these things?!! You KNOW that I can't keep them alive!"

(I have a long history of shouting at God. It gets me nowhere by the way.)

My baby bird dilemma has been solved by the wildlife rehab people. Now I can whisk a little bird up, drive an hour, and gratefully hand it and some money over to someone far more qualified than me. It may still die, but at least I feel I've done all I can do.

And such is the same with Norman. Other ranchers and the vet wouldn't have spent much energy or money on Norman, and yet for some reason, like Ranger and Briar, we felt 'something' and were compelled to try.

I am still tempted to throw up my hands and shout at God, "Why do you keep sending me hopeless cases? My faith does not grow each time I try and lose them anyway!"

It is tempting to carry them to the vet and let him deal with it, (translated: I don't have to watch them die and feel responsible for their death) but as Other Half has pointed out, "He'll do the same thing we're doing, and besides, he doesn't think you should even try." (Our vet went to high school with Other Half and doesn't sugarcoat things for us.)

But like Ranger, I have to try. And when the calf dies, like Briar, all I can do is mourn another failed attempt to cheat Death.

Posted by: forensicfarmgirl AT 10:57 am   |  Permalink   |  9 Comments  |  Email
sorrow at death...and awe at Ranger and Briar and their wisdom....our language of words is so puny sometimes.....take good care of yourself.....
Posted by clairesmum on 03/07/2012 - 11:31 AM
What matters is that you care and you try. It shows your heart. This might be the reason they are sent to you. I would hate to think of a steward of animals without a heart. Take comfort in that.
Posted by Janet on 03/07/2012 - 11:47 AM
I am in awe of your compassion. Do not feel bad that you cannot save them. For the life that they did have was soooo much better for you being there. I feel that these animals are sent to you because of this. Have faith you are meant to to touch the lives of these helpless creatures. And that is what means something. To make a difference.
Posted by Susan B. of KY on 03/07/2012 - 12:04 PM
Norman may not be here and you may not feel that you saved him but I know you touched the hearts of many readers with your compassion for those that need you. Now go play some fetch with Lily because even though she did not worry about Norman I know that silly black and white goddess worries about you :-)
Posted by WolfTexas on 03/07/2012 - 01:27 PM
Norman may not have made it, but he was warm and dry and knew kindness in his life. That's not a bad thing...Of course this story brough me to tears and I don't even know Briar, but can imagine her mourning. You raise good dogs!
Posted by Janie on 03/07/2012 - 03:56 PM
You guys are so sweet. ((group hug)) Even though his death wasn't unexpected, it still sucked. Lily is completely unconcerned with the world outside of "Mom & Me" so her behavior was no big surprise, but Ranger and Briar really impressed me. It was humbling to see how much they cared for another creature they didn't even know.
Posted by forensicfarmgirl on 03/07/2012 - 04:26 PM
The only time you truly fail at something is when you don't even try. You tried, you gave one of God's creatures the best of yourself and that's all any of us can do. I am also in awe of Ranger and Briar. I suspect they are very old souls and this is not their first experience with death, but to know they also grieved is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. And yes, I cried. Godspeed Norman.
Posted by Virginia on 03/07/2012 - 08:58 PM
Oh, they grieve. When Sampson m 5 year old Great Pyrenees died, I put him in the tractor cart and let Molly (Pyr buddy), the two mini donkeys and the two goats who all shared the pasture - see him and nose him. Then we drove him to the back pasture where we would bury him. They ALL followed... a sad procession. And after he was buried they all (donkeys and goats included), went to the ground and spent time by the dirt under which he lay.
Posted by Linda Nightsky Farm on 03/08/2012 - 12:20 AM
I have seen this grief with our then Percharon mare Mary.She stood and wimpered all night long over Vida the buckskin's body under the tarp. Then was morose for quiet some time till she went too. [both very elderly]. Norman was blessed to be with you for his brief stay. Briar has it in her genes but I am suprised by Ranger. Tears here too,
Posted by Liz (Vic Aust.) on 03/08/2012 - 04:10 PM

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