I shot Bunny the calf this morning. After feeding her bottles of milk twice daily for nearly four months. Euthanized her – to be more precise and perhaps less honest about something that it took me days to steel myself to do. She had broken a leg somehow and was wracked by arthritis in the other three. She could no longer get up without my help. I found the spot on her forehead that would kill her instantly and pulled the trigger. (I never get used to the silence inside the gunshot when your ears ring and the body falls to the ground, and it seems that time stops. It’s eerie and you want to cry and you are for a little while unclean in every way, a monster to all that look at you.)
I’m sorry, Bunny, you who came into the world so bereft and fought so long to stay here against all odds. I know that you were never really well while you were here. It was only going to get worse and that’s why I did what I did. I know you never stopped trying to live. You had almost four extra months than you would have otherwise, four months to see day turn into night and back again, to be hot and cold, hungry and full. That was something I think. It is something to get to live in the light, to feel pain, to have lived no matter how briefly.
I should have killed you long ago*. I should have let you die as you were born, alone. I should have known that I couldn’t overcome what was broken before I even found you…
What do I know about saving or taking lives? I have done more of both than most but not enough to know what the significance of either might be. What traces do life and death leave? If any. Do we need to leave traces of ourselves – our words, empires, monuments, off-spring, names, gravestones? Can we not just trust the dark from which we came, as much as the light in which we live?
Sometimes it seems that we fight too hard with the world, fight against it obsessively, feverishly. We take everything so personally. Something fearful haunts us and we fight against it wildly – even if we can never quite grasp what it is we fear so deeply.
Not that we shouldn’t struggle because the struggle is the most beautiful part of being alive. Not that we shouldn’t fight for a place in the sun, for beauty and health and poetry, for justice and mercy. But there is a time to accept that there are unmerciful but also un-malicious currents in which we live our lives. The struggle is noble, but so is acceptance.
I loaded Bunny’s body into the back of the truck and found a beautiful young ‘ohia tree to lay her under. She will feed the tree and the wild pigs and dogs. She will have done something good, as we all can only hope to do.
(*when I found out that you had been abandoned so young that you did not get a chance to nurse from your mother at all. Without the transfer of that first milk – colostrum – it seems that the symbiotic microbiology that has nurtured cow-bodies these millions of years is not passed on.)