Over my dandelion littered lawn, past my pecking hens, under the old apple tree with the swing, down the little hill where the herbs are planted to where our first pig sty was, under another old apple tree, right by the bee hives and a bit beyond the huge tire holes where the fire truck got stuck when my husband had a brush fire without a permit, there is a field. Beyond the field is woods and trees and poison ivy. Through the woods is a pond. Not a big one, maybe 12 acres and it's kind of swampy, but a pond nonetheless. I love this piece of land. I own it. I can open up my back door and take off running and not hit anything or anyone else's land until my breath burns in my chest. It's not perfect. I'm closer to the highway (we say interstate in Maine, but I'm not sure if everyone does that?) then I'd like to be and can hear it and I wish I couldn't. But other than that I am happy here.
No one bothers me. I have one neighbor on one side and I'm sure they talk about the rampant pigs and the goats being chased by dump trucks and they've had to call me to rescue an adolescent rooster from their shrubbery, but things are generally pretty calm here.
This morning something happened that sullied my funky little utopia. I'm sure few people would think it a big deal, though I did call law enforcement. This morning someone's dog came onto my piece of land and while I put together breakfast for my children he chased and killed three of my chickens. Now my chickens don't have names and we don't knit sweaters for them. But we do keep their house clean, feed them good food, water them daily and let them have free range of the entire property. In turn they eat bugs and give us eggs to eat and to sell. I love having them. Sometimes foxes and other predators come into the yard and once in a while we lose chickens to them. This makes me angry and I hate it, but I know the foxes are eating the chickens and taking them back to their babies and although I don't want them to do it and do everything to avoid that happening, it is somehow easier to take then having a domesticated animal kill for pleasure and leave the birds broken and wasted, just to move on to the next one.
I caught him in the act of chasing down a fourth bird and was able to run him off. As soon as I went inside, he came back and grabbed another. If I'd had a gun, I would have shot him, but I was able to kick him and save the chicken. The owner was notifed by police where her dog was and she came to my house mouthing her apologies even as she drove down my driveway. She offered to compensate me for the birds but I refused. All I asked for is that this doesn't happen again. I know that she can't really promise that, even though she did.
I just feel smaller somehow from this. Should I cage my chickens? Should I have them at all? Should I have demanded more from the owner? Should I have demanded more from the police?
As I dug three tiny little graves, I felt such a sense of waste and sadness at the futility of it all. I don't have the time or energy to figure out the bigger picture and I really don't have time to get angry. I'm just sad.