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  • Kristin Ramey

A Day with Death

We recently got gifted a space at the butcher for 2 hogs. Oh boy, did we need that! I thought about the last time I loaded hogs into the trailer and decided to take the day off work. I thought I was in for a fight in the morning to get them to load, and getting messy in the process, there was no way it was worth my effort to try to get cleaned up and drag my dirty trailer to the office, so I took the day off.

I planned on having a ME day after the drop off was done. There is plenty to do around the farm, and I'd need a minute to think about those girls and saying goodbye to them.

So the day was meant for saying goodbye.

The girls were hanging weights of 432 and 400 pounds. That's likely something like 600 pounds live weight. That's a lot. They weren't really going to get any bigger. Their sisters that got butchered in August were the same weight. So what we are looking at here is continuing to feed 600 pound pigs, for no extra return, and having to feed 600 pound piggies. This is the beginning of the end of me raising ANYTHING but Kune Kune pigs! As opposed to Sophie, who was also big, she was MEAN. These girls were so nice. HUGE and destructive, but nice. They usually liked back scritches. But we know very well these were raised for food, so they have become sausage and bacon for our customers.

You can see the difference between our Kune Kune, his friend Little Sweetie, and the two big girls we said goodbye to. We are grateful for them and thankful for the food that comes from them.

Here's where the day took a turn. The night before, my dog had a very swollen belly. I let him out, hoping he just needed to go and watched him closely. Unlike a dog in bloat, he was not in distress, he was not throwing up, and he was, in fact, eating and drinking. The next morning, it did not resolve - this was not a case of bad gas or a full bladder.

So on the drive home from the butcher, I called my vet to see if she had some space for me. She did, I got home, swapped cars, grabbed my dog and went to the vet. They asked if he could stay so they could fit in some tests. They did an x-ray which confirmed it was not bloat, and likely an issue with his liver. They did some blood tests, to see if he did need surgery, was he in a condition to withstand it. They also did an ultrasound, which I have not seen yet.

This brought back memories of my Ditka, who had cancer for a very long time, but the ultrasounds of his bladder, adrenal gland, liver and kidneys were all I needed to see. Cancer's a bitch.

I haven't seen the ultrasounds images, and hope that I can someday. But I am told that his liver and spleen have grapefruit sized tumors on them. His body cavity is filled with fluid, and that is making him uncomfortable. A visit today showed that most of his body is actually filled with cancer. The little fluid they were able to drain (in the hopes of relieving his discomfort) was blood. Not a good sign. He still wags his tail. But he snaps at any other dog or cat that comes near him because he is uncomfortable.

Starting the day with a planned departure of two big hogs, I ended the day with my pup, knowing the time to say goodbye was very near. He's only 10. 10 is good for a 100 pound dog. But 10 is never good enough for me. I'm not ready. We just got him a new house! He was supposed to get to enjoy it with us for a while.

A Day with Death, is a day in the life on a farm. We face it when it comes, planned or unplanned. We can't stop it from happening. But we can honor the lives that we lose, before and after they are gone. I have a ritual when I say goodbye to a pup, when I get to plan it. We share dinner, we share a pint of ice cream, we go for one last walk. Ditka's last walk was the slowest dog walk I have ever been on. Hobbes' walk, we almost didn't come home, just to avoid the inevitable. I've loved every minute I have had with Moose. He's a special and very good boy. I'll enjoy these next few days.

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