Parenting Through Raising, and Losing, Animals
Animals are a lot of work. Pretty much all of us know this. Some “practice” parenthood as a fur mom or dad before venturing into having kids. Some add them to the mix after starting a human family. Whatever experience one has with raising animals, one thing most can agree on: it’s fun, it’s dirty, and one day we will have to say goodbye to our pets. There is no perfect process in raising, and losing, animals with kids in the equation. Young minds ask seriously deep questions at times. Questions we, as adults, struggle with ourselves.
Shower them with love
“Can we get a cow next, mom?” I hear this at least weekly. I follow it up with a firm, but calm, “No….”, even if I want to shout it back at times. I am maxed out in the animal department. This was confirmed after one of our chickens recently suffered an injury. It is me, mom, who is out there twice a day changing bandages. Me, mom, who dribbled water drop by drop onto her beak to ensure she stayed hydrated in those first shaky 24-hours. Me, mom, who hard-boiled eggs to hand feed her the yolk (yes, chickens eat eggs, I know!!). Raising a brood of kids on top of a mini farm in town limits isn’t all glamour. Shower them with love, and get love in return. Plus poop. Always poop.
Lots of hard work…
The question I get the most is where did all of your animals come from? All over. Most were rescued, or in some way in need of a good and loving home. How many do I have, you wonder by this time? It’s easiest to break it down: 2 dogs, 3 cats, 2 rabbits, 6 chickens and 2 goats. Doesn’t seem like that many, until you’re literally elbow-deep in animal fur and feathers, with each sweet little face or hungry belly in need of your immediate and undivided attention. Then things get complicated. As much as my children love our fur and feather family members, scooping poop and changing gauze just isn’t their game. Well, not yet I whisper to myself with glee…
The perfect mix
We live in Windsor, within walking distance to the Town Green. I dreamt, as a child and adult alike, of one day having a lemon tree and a goat. Naturally, in 2010 when my husband and I were in the market to purchase a home, we searched for a simple house with a large enough property to do all we yearned for, without the overwhelming dread of too much to maintain.
Apparently, it only takes a bit over an acre to create your own urban animal and tree farm! The trees came with the property, and came before the animals. Fruit trees require a lot more than one would likely imagine to maintain. Now as I go to bed at night, I can smile knowing I gave all the love I could muster for yet another day. Plus the knowledge that we have finally encountered the perfect mix. Hence my original point- NO MORE!!
The hardest part
What is the downside to giving so much love? A warm embrace and comfortable home to so many creatures? One day, the life ends. Their life. As they become embedded in my daily routine and the lives and loves of my children, I cringe to remember the times we lost one along the way. And the sheer number of animals currently sharing our space, who one day will follow suit. It is a really hard internal compromise, to choose to allow that open and sincere adoration from an animal, once you have suffered the sheer and significant loss of another.
As hard as one day sharing that dreaded news with my family, inevitably over and again with so many animals, will be… We will one day laugh and cry together in honor and memory of the sweet souls who graced us with their presence. Bouncing Nigerian Dwarf goats, who run sideways when they get really goofy. Snuggling chickens who hide their head in my neck and coo as I stroke them. Dogs that howl and chatter back at me as I rant to them about our crazy kids. Cats who find any inch of lap to take over in purr-fect completion.
Forever we love them
For now, we care for them. Share them. Laugh and smile with them. Comfort through pain and confusion. Snuggle, bathe, bandage. And every single day through it all, I get to clean up their poop.