Descanze en Paz, Margie

22 02 2010

This is Margie who died at the vet’s office last week.

How do I explain the sadness and spiraling despair that resulted from the the death of a chicken?  And one that had only lived with us a few months?

She should be, in my eyes, disposable.

Had her meat been consumable, a person’s hunger may not have lasted the night.  Were I generous, I might have given her as a gift.  If nothing else, fed her to my cats, who eat chicken on a regular basis.

My mourning over an animal we characterize as meat feels excessively extravagant.  It feels as though it arises out of my own lack of hunger; out of my own security.  If I were hungry, or better yet, my children starving, would I hesitate to kill her to feed them?

Some of what I felt last week was this extravagant mourning.

But I also came into that sort of crazy melancholy to which I periodically succumb.

I had been nursing our old cat who seemed inclined to starve herself to death from something as simple as a kidney infection (survived) and attempting to get Margie the chicken to eat a bit and drink a little after the surgery* to remove the lead object from her gizzard (died).

*[And about that surgery–if the prognosis is good, and Margie’s was (the extent that her liver had been compromised was not known), I feel ethically compelled to pay for any veterinary treatment recommended for the creatures in my care.  Assuming the treatment won’t make them suffer more than they might without it.  Assuming I know this, or can tell. But of course, now that she’s dead, it feels as though the money spent would have better been saved, or if it must be spent, sent to Haiti.]

At the end, the old cat is much much better and the chicken is dead.

And the pet nursing pretty much ended.  And my reading and talking about the broad sense that things are akilter (which wouldn’t matter so much but for the kids). And my narrow inability to escape my ego (“I want to create something beautiful and am incapable” “I want to be the perfect mother”).

The last time the depression slipped its leash and swallowed me was when we put another old cat, that I had been nursing, into radiation therapy for hyperthyroidism.   She was there for two weeks and I was inconsolable.  And then she came home, so much healthier than before.

Explain this to me please.

This blogpost is not supposed to be about me, but it is.  It was supposed to be about Margie–She was a barred rock.  She was fluffy and beautiful but not very interested in people.  Her friend, Luanne, is much more cuddly.  Margie was dominant and a not very adventurous eater, except, of course, she liked small metal objects.  One of which ultimately killed her.  After her surgery, she apparently gravitated to the blue oxygen tank in the back of the veterinary clinic, cooing and getting comfort from it.  Once home, I injected her with painkiller and antibiotic and handfed her, desperate for her to eat something.

I purchased her for $10.00 from a woman who wanted to thin her flock.  I wish I hadn’t, because then she might be alive–she would not have consumed that little object made of lead, tossed into our yard during either the previous owner’s construction dumping or the rear neighbor’s kids’ flings with using our yard as a waste pile and she would be alive.  (Or, I suppose, dinner…it is so confusing with chickens).

Luanne probably misses her, although she is so friendly to humans, it is hard to tell.  Luanne is an individualist, a chicken that survived a raccoon attack with one wing still intact.  Someday, we will adopt a friend or more for her, and hope that no one finds any other poisonous objects in the yard.  I’m  not eager to right now.

It seems the caretaking I impose upon myself in relationship to the creatures I live with, in times of severe illness, is more than is sustainable.  Perhaps.  Certainly, when I feel so utterly unbounded; incapable of separating out the little pieces from the animal others I encounter; and when this unboundedness is matched with a coldness and lack of susceptibility to logic, I am in some peril of becoming ineffective.  And I must  be effective, if not for my husband’s sake (who is, after all, an adult–though my rages are not fair to him) for the sake of my children.

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