June, usually my favorite month of the year, has not been a good one on the homestead. In fact, it has been really sad. My homestead is going from Norman Rockwell to Norman Bates-ish; a regular Stephen King horror story.
It started out with my chicks disappearing. Being so small, they were just the size for black snake “chicken fingers.” One was gone and then the next day the remaining were swallowed up by what must be a five footer. I was so sad and filled with disgust. I grieved for the hens who seemed out of sorts for a day, without their babies. Gratefully, they quickly jumped back into the flock, doing their bug eating duties.
Next time it’s time to hatch eggs, I will put my hens and their eggs in a rabbit hutch. Off the ground, with the tiniest wire fencing around. No more losing chicks!
Then we lost three pets inside a month. The cats were old and you might remember me asking for a humane way to put one down. By the end, her tumor was bigger than her head, eating away every bit of flesh of her body. In the end her tumor no longer showed, for it took the place where normal flesh was. Oddly, she didn’t die first.
The other cat died first. Gato B. Kitty, a punny name using the Spanish name for cat, “gato” and ” got to be kidding.” Say it a few times quickly. You might get it. Hey, we have to humor ourselves around here!
Her death was not totally expected though she was old, too. I believe at some point she had a stroke, for she walked with her hind legs wanting to go before her front legs, giving her a rather cartoonish sideways walk. While shopping, I got the call from home that I should be prepared for a dead cat. Sure enough, I pulled up and could see from afar a still cat with flies on her eyes and knew she was gone.
Angel was kicking and eating three times a day. That tumor was hungry! I am sure she had at least 10 lives. It was my dear dog’s death and a few other disasters that left me no energy to visit with you over the past few weeks.
Malena was only a bit over a year old. Though I didn’t have livestock for her to guard, I was creating quite a nice yard dog. She watched me, the chickens and became my walking partner. She learned to walk as lovely as a show dog and we exercised daily.
One day she just didn’t want to walk…very odd for her. She was a large dog with as much energy and her height and length. Malena had the body structure of the long legged and bodied Great Pyrennes and the head of a St. Bernard, minus the unfortunate look of aging in the eye and face. She was as fluffy as a panda in the winter and lost all that fur in the summer. In fact, I went back to her yard one day to find so much fur on the grass I thought she had torn open a pillow and spread the filling all around.
It was one of our first 90 degree plus days. I figured the big fur ball was just too hot. So I took her back home to her kennel (she was in heat and had to be sequestered) after one lap and jumped on a bike and finished my exercise. Didn’t think much about it, just found it odd.
The next day, she seemed even more lethargic. It didn’t make sense and at this point I became rather concerned. I filled her baby pool and she climbed right in. I did notice she wasn’t drinking her water and figured she had some funky weed in it making bitter tea or something and gave her fresh water near her pool. She did drink it and then threw it up. Hmmmmm…..
I went off to pick up my son and upon arrival she was outside the pool, still wet, laying on her side, breathing super heavy, her heart pounding almost outside her chest, eyes unfocused and gnats congregating around them.
My son put a call to his friend, who is going to school for zoology and currently working at the zoo. She discussed possible poisonous plants and poisoning in general. Was she bit by a copperhead? This state is the epicenter of copperhead bites. Did she suffer a heart defect? Did she have female organ issues? I did notice her menstruation ended quickly which is not normal for a large dog. They will be noticeably in heat for days, and very obvious when they are mostly white.
She labored in her breathing, unable to swallow. We petted her gently as she was having apparent heart failure, knowing that she was too far gone to even run her to the vet. In fact, lifting her would have likely killed her all together. I prayed that she would go quickly, for suffering is something I can’t handle.
Within minutes she was gone. Shock poured over me. I didn’t even have time to process it all. Shock keeps me from falling apart and we went into action quickly. I reacted later.
Thankful for the large perk test holes on the property, we lifted her onto a tablecloth, wrapped her in her grave clothes and rolled her in the wheelbarrow to her final resting place.
I was so thankful my son was with me. It was hard on him. He really loved that dog. She was a big dog and burying her in the 90 degree summer was a labor of love.
Once it was all done and I had time to think, I grieved. It was all so senseless and sad and we will never know what killed her. That will remain an unsolved mystery.
Was it a week later or the same week? I don’t remember anymore because it is still all such a blur but the remaining cat was hiding behind the grill. Ugh…not a good sign. Though she is the one we expected to die, this was the eve of me having out of town company and my daughter, who’s cat it was, was of course, away on a sleep over. I decided to leave my suspicions to myself and see how the night went.
I was so thankful the first cat died in plain site. Many times cats go off somewhere and die which is never good because you don’t find them until you smell them. Having yet another dog and chickens, you can see why an animal we can’t find would be worse being found by something else. Won’t go there….
Angel actually came out to greet my friend and then turned and walked towards the back yard. The next morning she didn’t wail at the door for food, which was her normal annoying habit. I never knew such a loud cat. People could over hear her on the phone. It was quite ridiculous but effective. The squeaky meow did get the kitty chow.
She was no where to be found. I suspected she was dead and guessed the likely places. I prayed she didn’t go under the old sharecropper’s house. There is no way I could get under there. So the first place we looked was the open deck, which really needs to be secured, and with a flashlight, we confirmed she was below. Of course she was deep under the deck. This was one time that a half done job was welcoming because we had to take the deck boards off to get to her. Only one screw or so was keeping each board on and in minutes we had her out and slipped into a pillowcase body bag. Angel was my daughter’s pet for 14 years and wanted to be there for burial so we waited for her to arrive, dug a hole in the small pet graveyard and put her in her final resting place.
Before even recouping from the looming loss of pets, my friend and I were watching a movie and a quick zip went across the peripheral vision of our eyes.
“I just saw something fly across the room.”
“I did too, ” I answered and cringed. I’ve seen this before, at least once a summer. I was gripped with anxiety. Without the margarita that flowed through my veins, I might have cried. God bless the agave plant!
“No, I really did,” I confirmed and looked up to see a bat zoom by. We ducked down together, me hitting the floor like a seasoned victim of kamikaze vermin.
“Welcome to life in the country!” I thought to myself, or maybe said aloud. What a friendly greeting:dead pets to bury and bats. Yep, I know how to really impress someone.
I have ceiling fans in almost every room which pretty much screws up a bat’s radar. The bat was going, well, batty. It dive bombed around, almost hitting me in the head. I flew into the air, toes pointing like the dancer I once was, and hit the floor with a thud that only the best belly flop and make. I can’t always be graceful!
I can castrate calves, butcher chickens and do surgery but do not ask me to be in a room with bats. I screamed like a girl. I think we both were, but I only heard my screams.
I was kind of happy I could scream. They always say you should practice screaming in case you are attacked. Oh, just be around bats. You will learn to scream like a tornado warning system.
I had just had a bat a few days prior, so this was bothersome but I knew what to do. We opened the front door, turned off the fan so its radar could work and the bat flew right out the door. The next night another made an appearance. I think my friend couldn’t wait to get back home where bats didn’t live. Yes, they are just plain creepy.
The next night heard a sound down the hall. A bat apparently flew into the door, confused by the fan and knocked itself out. I peeked through the crack in the door and could see it’s ugly little body lying lifeless. I was gripped with fear.
Here I was, alone in the house with a bat laying on my floor. Aren’t they supposed to be hanging on walls or flying? What was wrong with the thing? Would it pop up at me once I went near it? My adrenal glands kicked in as fear covered my entire body, drenching it with the sweat that usually only a good workout can produce.
I grabbed a glass bowl mixer bowl and quickly covered it. I picked glass so I could see if it was moving or not. I felt nauceous as the creature opened its ugly mouth and chirped at me. With the help of my daughter, we slid cardboard under the bowl and got that one outside.
The next night was like Hitchcock’s The Birds, but it was bats that invaded. Not one but 5 bats ended up flying about and usually landing on the floor. Again, the work of the ceiling fans. I won’t go into details on what we did about it all but all I can say is, I screamed so hard and then laughed so hard, I think I wet myself a little. I became a major league batter and between me and my daughter and her boyfriend, we got all but two who were MIA in the house. I found and disposed of them next morning, with the help of a Nesco and butterfly net. (d0n’t ask.)
I found the places they were getting into the house and stuffed them with insulation. Now I need to work on getting rid of them in the attic space. Something I have learned over the years was to listen to my heart. Did you know we all have a cranial heart? That place in our body that literally gives us what others call “gut instinct.” Anyway, I felt there was no longer screening over the attic vents and I was right. Now, I have a major infestation and lucky me, it’s pup season. The critters are protected from removal from April to July in my state, but I know how to rid them anyway. For now, I am just happy they aren’t in the house.
So, as you can see, it has been a challenging June, so far. However, this is part of owning pets, living in the country and life in general. As Jim Rohn says, ” The wind blows on all the same. It’s how you set your sails that makes the difference.” Or something like that….
I learned that you never want to buy all your pets during the same year, especially if they have the same life span. Cats and dogs are about identical in that department and though the older dog wasn’t the one to die, the odds were more likely the older cats and she would go close to each other. Ginger, the original homestead dog is doing well, thank you Lord. She will live for years, I am sure.
I learned that I can over come fears. I am proud to say I caught two bats the day after the “big night” and didn’t sweat a bit. Only stressing minimally, garbed in a winter jacket, gloves and goggles, I netted them and screamed, “I am woman, hear me roar!” punching my fist towards the attic where the fear factors live.
I have learned the value of true friends who will stick with you through thick and thin, even when you’re thick on bats and thin on fun. For that I will be eternally grateful.
Live well and happy homesteading, S