One morning in the recent past, I went out to feed our three labs and found only the two boys; Our 10-year-old female, Cocoa, had sneaked out under the fence.
I walked around to the side of the garage so that I could see to the back of the property, and lo and behold, I sighted Cocoa strolling side-by-side with another brown lab, a male. I have always criticized Disney for romanticizing their animated films, but I have to admit that this was a scene right out of Lady and the Tramp. I laughed it was so bizarre. Cocoa strolled right past me, gave me one look that said, "You understand, don't you?", and strolled right into her pen. We never saw Loverboy again. . .until yesterday.
I was assisting Nathaniel as he converted our old pig trailer into an eggmobile, when I heard an odd mewing sound. I investigated and found Cocoa licking Loverboy Jr.
"I'll go tell Emma," Nathaniel said. Emma is our official midwife from when we had a full complement of farm animals in Louisiana. Her only downfall is that she adores bottle feeding so she is not as supportive of the newborn's attempts to nurse as she could be. Once there is a hint of trouble, Emma starts calling for me to buy formula.
So anyway, Emma hurried out to the birthing shelter and began her ministrations to mother and puppy while Nathaniel and I continued our work on the trailer. After a couple of hours, in which Emma recalled with gruesome detail every stillborn birth that she had experienced, Cocoa birthed a little female. "She's very weak," Emma announced, and conjectured that the rest of the puppies might be born dead and maybe even green with rot. "She's taking too long," Emma said. "Remember what happened when. . .?"
"Stop it, Emma!" Nathaniel shouted across the yard. He can't stand to hear that kind of stuff. We didn't hear any more for a long time. I went to check and found Emma asleep in the hay with Cocoa and the two puppies.
This event sure brought back a lot of old memories. Here's an e-mail journal entry from February 1998:
We went shopping for Mel (our pig) this morning and got her a beautiful new blue feed bucket and 100 pounds of SuperHog. She had destroyed the plastic pan that we had used for her first meal in two shakes of her piggity tail. We will all have to start wearing some kind of plastic coveralls when we visit with her since she is so fond of snuffling us all over. I'm not sure I enjoy affection from a 200-pound hog, but the kids can't get enough. Emma told me Saturday night, "I love our pig best of all." Then she promptly burst into tears and wailed, "Why do we have to kill her and the chickens?" I had a very good explanation for that which I followed with a bribe: "After Mel goes to the butcher, we'll get a baby pig to raise. And you know what else you have to look forward to? I comforted. "Someday Genevieve (Emma's puppy and Cocoa's sister) will have puppies."
Emma drew in her breath sharply and her eyes refilled with tears. "And then we're going to eat them?" she sobbed.
Genevieve is reminding me more and more of E. B. White's dog Fred. She gulps life--leaping in the air one moment, grabbing a chicken by the tail the next. She has determined that the best way to get to know another animal is by scarfing up its poop. She got her first smackerel of pig poop this morning and declared it ambrosia. She relishes rabbit pellets, chomps chicken chit. Amid her revels she pauses and looks at Cocoa as if to say, "Come to the cabaret, old chum."
Genevieve died last year. How I miss her!