The final chapter

Yesterday was a hard day for our family.

After several blogs, 2 and a half weeks, and dozens of comments with advice and feedback, we made the difficult decision to put our Golden Retriever, Scout, to sleep. If this is the first you’re hearing about Scout, our adventure began when we picked him up the December 30th, expecting to be a short term foster family. As a direct result of a prayer with a 6 year old, Scout became a permanent resident of Shalom Farm on the first of this year. (Read more: Farm Fresh).

About 2 and a half weeks ago, Scout unfortunately bit my husband pretty viciously. And although it was- for the most part- out of character for this old dog, that one three second incident, set into motion a challenging chain of events for us. (Read more about all we now know about Rabies: Rabid).

After we survived the 10 day rabies quarantine, we were pretty set on our decision to put Scout down because 1) he had become really sick over the 10 day stretch and 2) we couldn’t keep him for fear of him biting again, and the rescue we had lined up fell through. I reported to you all that we had made a decision and were planning to put Scout down the following day, even though he had made a miraculous Easter morning recovery! (Check out the story: Over and Out).

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However, we have a 6 year old who really wants to be a vet when she grows up and her heart was just broken at the thought of us having to “kill” him. So we decided NOT to put Scout down, because it was a school day and Cadence really wanted to be there to say goodbye. That seemed fair to me, and also I actually like Cay’s Kindergarten teacher and didn’t feel like it would be right for me to dump my broken hearted daughter on her lap on a random Tuesday. So we decided to postpone the inevitable until that Saturday… but then Saturday came and went. Scout seemed so healthy and happy and although I have had to put a dog down before, that decision was hard enough to make when my dog was sick and suffering. Something just didn’t feel right about putting down a perfectly healthy dog. But then again, there was this whole aggression thing, and I felt very confident that we could NOT keep him at our farm. This left one alternative: A no kill shelter. That seemed fine to me, except for the fact that a shelter is no life for a dog who has been living on an 84 acre farm. And I also just couldn’t reconcile the idea that if he were adopted, he would bite again. Maybe worse. Maybe a child.

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Sooo I came to you guys! (Check it out: He lives!) I asked for advice, and I got so much of it! Thank you for all your kind and thoughtful words. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for sending sweet messages recognizing just how impossible the decision was.

I appreciate it all, Readers!

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And through much prayer, much discussion, and much research, Thomas, Cadence and I decided that we really couldn’t risk him biting someone else. And we really couldn’t imagine him living out the last of his days (he was quite old after all) at a shelter, with all the barking and stress that goes along with that. My friend Tori once told me that often times the decision that requires the most FAITH is often the right one. Although it would have felt better in some ways to not have to make the decision to end his life, I know that one way or another, that was exactly the decisions we would be making. Life, as he had known it, was going to be over either way.

And so we decided.

Yesterday, after Cadence got home from school, we loaded up as a family to say our final goodbye to our newest pet- the first we’ve had to say goodbye to since Thomas and I have been married. We circled around him, prayed over him, comforted him, and loved on him until the end. That’s the best we could offer the sweet dog who unexpectedly popped into our life only 3 and a half months ago.

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We brought him home and laid him to rest in our backyard, at the edge of the woods. Thomas and Merit dug the hole earlier in the day- Thomas thinks of it as the last act of love we can offer our fur buddies. Together, our entire family- Harper and Ruger (our other Golden Retrievers we’ve had since they were pups), who were very confused but not excluded- covered Scout in dirt.

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We then linked hands and prayed that God would take him to doggie heaven, and if at all possible, help him to find and hang out with Grandpa Kevin (Cadence’s special request). We ended the funeral service in the same way Thomas and I started our marriage almost 10 years ago- with a Ben Harper song…

“Couldn’t leave you to go to heaven…

… I carry you in my smile.”

And then we had a yogurt snack and headed off to Merit’s baseball game!

All things considered, this pretty rough blow to the family went over pretty dang well if you ask me. I know that animals will continue to come and go on this farm, but I also know that it’s different when they are a pet. It’s different when you snuggle them and share the couch with them- as we do our doggies. This was sad. And it was hard to teach this very important lesson to my daughter. Sometimes the right thing, is the hard thing.

Thank you God for guiding us through this and helping us to make it matter. I do feel like we learned so much and He was able to work this for our good here on the farm. But mostly, I’m just glad that it’s over. It’s been a heavy burden to carry around- this decision. I hate having to make such a choice for another living thing, and yet it’s one of the most humane and peaceful ways to leave this world. I can only hope the end of my time here is spent surrounded by loved ones, prayer and peace.

R.I.P. Scout. We’re glad to have known you. And we’ll miss your many noises.

It would be wrong for me to end this blog here, because as is the case on this farm, death is almost always met with the opportunity to usher in new life. The circle of life is ever present, and God uses the many souls on this farm to remind me all of the time that our time here is but an instant; the end of something is always just the beginning of something else.

Elsa, and Charlotte, our two female hogs (one a Mangalitsa- white- and one, a mule foot- black), have been pregnant and on about the same timeline. Wednesday morning, Charlotte was leaking milk. From what we’ve learned, that means that piglets are imminent within 24 hours! So needless to say, when Thomas called me and told me to get down to the pigs later that afternoon, I assumed it was Charlotte who was having babies. But alas, there laid Elsa, one baby already born! She had 4 in total, but one was stillborn.

As for Charlotte, she’s nowhere to be found. We had only one enclosure with hay, and because Elsa had clearly called dibs on it, Charlotte must have wandered into the back woods of the pasture. Despite several hikes back there, Thomas has yet to locate her or the piglets, but I’m certain they’re there.  The other pigs are doing a great job of splitting their time between Elsa, who is right near the fence where we can observe her, and Charlotte. They’re a family, and they’re protecting and watching out for their own. It’s pretty amazing actually. I can’t wait to see how many piglets we end up with overall.

As far as Elsa’s girls go- Thomas is no expert, but is guessing that the new pigs are three little ladies- they are as cute as can be. They have the markings of chipmunks or baby dear. They’re kind of stripped and are giving away zero information as to who the dad might be (either a Mangalitsa or a Mule Foot boy). We shall see how it all unfolds as they grow. But for a first time mom, Elsa is doing splendidly.

So between the new kittens, the new ducks and the new piglets, Scout’s passing is softened some. The circle of life continues. Life in and life out. All in an instant, or so it would seem.

And the adventure continues… as I write, I’m watching Chattanooga pass by the truck windows. We’re off to explore this weekend. Five humans, two Goldens… just like old times. Look out world, we’re not done yet!

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