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Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.
Monday, August 15, 2005
Yesterday afternoon one of the most dreaded things happened to us. We always knew it was coming, but never expected it to happen nearly so soon, especially not before we got our house finished and a special place of honor fixed all for her.
Our most loving and beloved dog, Princess, mother and grandmother to some of our other dogs, passed out of this earthly plane and into the next.
There are no words to accurately describe the heartbreak I felt discovering this awful and tragic occurrence. Virgil and my mother were torn up as well. We all cried and said our own blessings and prayers over her as we buried her. I even took a pair of scissors and cut off the end of my braid of hair to bury with her. It was all so sudden and unexpected that we just weren't ready. I spent most of the rest of yesterday in shock and utter grief, not eating (still haven't, other than a handful of crackers), and I still just start crying at the drop of a hat whenever I think of this (And, of course, I am crying even as I type this.) or even just out of the blue, for what seems no real reason at all. Except that I loved her. A lot.
As a current rescuer and as a no-kill shelter volunteer during my teens, I have had the honor of knowing many animals of many different species through the years, both as a child and as an adult. But, as much as I cared about them all and loved each of them, none of them ever touched my heart - my spirit - the way that Princess did. There are a few of you who have met her in person, others who have only read about her or heard me talk about her, but I knew her better than anyone. And vice versa. She was with me before I moved up here to Arkansas, as I brought her with me as a young puppy to enjoy the river and the woods and the long walks we took together. She was always with me, if not physically, at least in spirit, no matter where I went. And she was always waiting for me when I reuturned if I couldn't take her with me. She was my dog, and I was her human. We bonded. Deeply. Very deeply.
I have never shared as deep a bond with any animal I have ever had the pleasure and honor of knowing. She would have laid down her life to protect me, and I would have done the same for her. The bond we shared was deep - very deep. She knew when I was talking about her, even if I never mentioned her name. She would just pick her head up and look at me and smile in her way whenever I was discussing her, as if to tell me that she knew and that she loved me as much as I loved her. This happened even when I was inside and she was outside. She would just look at me through the window to let me know that she knew. That is how close we were. It was an almost (if not actual) telepathic bond. When I say close, I mean close. I don't use that term lightly, especially not in her case. I raised her from a puppy, and we spent more time together than apart. She even went camping and canoeing with us.
She was simply a part of the family. A very loved part of it. I still can't believe that she is gone. I still look for her smiling face, but it is not there. And it never will be again, at least not in the way that it was. I can't hug her, see her bright shining eyes full of love, her wagging tail, or anything like that ever again.
My heart is just completely broken.
To fully appreciate how wonderful and special she was is hard for me to explain in mere words on the Net, but I can give you a few examples that should give you at least an inkling of this fact.
She, like I, is (I can't say was, as I believe she still feels this way, wherever she is) extremely fond, loving, and protective towards babies. Babies of any species. Human or non-human. I read a term today calling nonhumans "Godlings." That description would fit Princess completely. Princess just loved babies. All babies. As do I.
To give you a few examples, any time we had a dog bear a litter of puppies (before we got everyone spayed), she always had to have her hand in raising them. It didn't matter who the mother was. She was there, laying next to them and offering her milk-less breasts for them to suckle, licking the behinds of those who needed cleaning up.
She tried to mother kittens, whether the mother cat wanted her help or not. And when she didn't, Princess' feelings were terribly hurt, and you could see the confusion and hurt on her face as she wrinkled it up and frowned with desperation to help mother those babies. She truly could not seem to grasp that any mother would take her love and maternal desire to help as a threat. She would look then at me with sad eyes as she retreated from the room and left the mother and her kittens alone, but never stopped checking on them, hoping for a chance to be able to lie down with them and love them anyway she could.
But perhaps the most interesting case of this came from an ill-thought-out gift to a 2-year-old child of a baby chick as an Easter present from a friend of mine. No child should ever be given a baby animal so fragile as a baby chick. No matter how much you supervise the situation, disaster is likely to happen. And, yes, just as I knew would happen, within days, a terrible and dramatic end came for that innocent baby chick. All I can say is that, luckily, it was quick. I needn't go into details.
But before then, on the day that the baby chick arrived and we set the ground rules of never picking up the baby, never taking her out of her box, etc. without an adult around and all, as we worriedly set up the comfortable box in our living room for the new addition to our family, here came Princess to check out the new baby. Looking very alert and maternal as she always did when there was a baby around, she peered into the box to examine the baby chick.
Well, not long after, I came back into the room to check on her and she wasn't in her box. Of course, the first thing that I thought was that said 2-yr-old had disobeyed and gotten the chick out of the box to play with, despite my warnings and explanations of how fragile and easy to hurt baby chickens are. But then I turned around and saw her. Guess where she was? Yep. She was with Princess.
Princess had apparently taken this baby out of her box to watch over. She had crossed her front feet and placed the baby right there in the triangle that made in front of her face and was watching her intently, determined to mother her and protect her from harm. I determined this by the fact that the chick's feathers were wet and was worried about whether or not Princess had unintentionally hurt her, being as fragile as she was.
I shouldn't have been concerned. Princess seemed to know exactly how fragile our new family member was and had used her mouth to ever so gently pick up that baby chick and carry her to where she thought she would be the most safe - between her crossed front legs and right in front of her face where she could watch her every move. I remember being surprised that a dog as big as a German Shepherd could use her mouth to pick up a baby chick gently enough to avoid the least bit of harm. I couldn't help but smile at the loving nature of my most beloved friend and her love she carried in her heart for babies of any species. After that, you could always tell when Princess had done it again by finding the baby with wet feathers as she grew and was found spending more time roaming outside of the box around the living room.
It was a sad, yet necessary, day the day I took Princess in to be spayed, knowing that she would never again have the joy of bearing babies again. She was always so proud, with her eyes shining, as we shared in the birth process together. I gave CPR to quite a few of the ones that were stillborn, with Princess looking on, and us both being so very happy when the new life finally came through, the tongue pinked up, and the tiny little cry finally escaped the mouth of the newborn, with me then handing the new life to her to clean up and put to her breast to suckle for the first time. As necessary as it was to keep her from being a part of the overwhelming overpopulation problem, it was still sad to take something like that away from Princess, knowing that she loved having babies so very much.
I needn't have worried nearly as much as I did. She attended the births of more babies right alongside me, licking butts, stimulating amd cleaning up new arrivals until I finally ended up being able and getting the rest of my female dogs spayed. (Thank you to the generous sponsors of Warm Hearts of Montgomery County, AR, Dr. Page, and PETA for making those surgeries possible! You have prevented untold numbers of unwanted dogs coming into this world. I can't thank all of you enough for your help in making this possible!)
There are no more babies born to this household anymore, and so we are not part of the overpopulation problem anymore, and are actively trying to help stem the tide by persuading others to spay or neuter their animal companions. It is especially necessary in our county because there is no shelter, as we have mentioned before on this blog site and in many other conversations with other activists. The only hope that dumped dogs have is people like us who take them in, nurse them back to health, and do our best to find homes for the ones we can and keep the ones we can't.
The point of this whole post, though, is to show to those who would argue against the fact that animals have feelings and emotions every bit as strong as ours that they are wrong. It wasn't instinct that kept Princess from killing that baby chick and trying instead to protect and love her herself. It wasn't instinct that had her watch over human babies here, never leaving their side as they slept and played.
It was love. Deep, strongly felt, emotional love.
Goodbye for a while Princess. We buried your physical body yesterday in a place of honor next to your former mate and one of your sons with a beautiful headstone, but we know that your spirit will always be with us. I long for the day that we will be reunited. May you find peace and never suffer from anything ever again. And, if you feel like it, drop in and say "hi." I will keep my spirit open to receive yours should you wish to communicate with me, as I know is possible, thanks to the likes of Kim Sheridan's and Rita Reynolds' writings, among others. (We'll write their books up and link to them in another post, as this one is solely about Princess.)
Until you and I are reunited, you will be sorely missed, as there will never be another dog who could possibly take your place in my heart. You were the most special dog, the most special nonhuman, the most special Godling, I have ever known and the most loving, and I have known many through the years. May the spirit to spirit bond we shared never be broken.
With deep, abiding love, along with quite a few tears, I bid you farewell, but never goodbye, until we should meet again.
I love you Princess.
And I always will.
You will never, ever be forgotten.