I have to admit I don’t feel good about my involvement (or lack thereof) in the death of Queenie. Oh, it’s not guilt for having allowed her to die – I am coming to terms with the fact that there was likely little I could have done in that regard. It’s more the fact of her actual death, and how I hid cowering behind little L’s bedtime routine rather than acknowledging or participating in the bird’s removal and burial. I thanked her for her service and delicious eggs in the last hours of her life, but I didn’t memorialize her death in any way. Instead I sent Sam out to deal with it, relying on his steady nerves to bundle her up in a feed sack and his strong shoulders to dig a burial pit on the back of the property. I don’t think it bothered him – at least, he didn’t question this arrangement – but it’s been niggling at the back of my mind ever since.
I have always been squeamish about the physical effects of death, and have a complete aversion to dead animals. I get a strong urge to run, hide, do anything to avoid having to actually touch something that is dead. Once it’s been packaged into a form that resembles food, I have no problem. I don’t mind handling raw whole chickens from the grocery store, and didn’t have any issue seeing/touching our pigs once they were sawed in half and hanging in the butcher’s cold store. But an animal that was recently alive? With feathers/fur still on? Fuhgeddaboudit. Ugh. My guess is that this sense of revulsion is common and entirely normal, probably even protective from an evolutionary point of view. In an age without soap and antibiotics, those who went about touching diseased and decaying corpses probably weren’t long for the world themselves. But if we are going to raise animals, and more importantly eat the animals we’ve raised, I am going to have to get over it to some extent. You can’t pluck a chicken, or eviscerate a rabbit, without touching it. I also feel that there is something in my squeamishness that is disrespectful to the creature itself. Yes, in death the life-giving spirit of the animal has departed so that there is a physical change. But, at least for a time, the body remains, and the body itself is the same as it was in the moments before death. If anything, it’s even more harmless because it’s inert. My aversion suggests that the transformation upon death is so extreme that I reject the creature entirely, body and spirit, and that’s just not right. I am not sure I have a point here, except to recognize a weakness in myself and to understand that it’s something I’d like to work on.
The upshot of all of this is that our second sick hen, Lulu, is not doing all that well. She is able to move about of her own volition and clucks disapprovingly when we approach her cage, which are both good signs. But she’s not eating or drinking much and is still diarrheal. I’d hoped she’d have made more of an improvement by now. So we’ll see. I may have the opportunity to put my squeamishness to the test again sooner rather than later. Sigh.