As I mentioned in my last post, we had to euthanize our chicken Anne over Christmas. She was ill and we took her to the NCSU Vet Hospital. They were kind and compassionate during the whole process. We got to stay with Anne while they administered the lethal drugs, and they even told us they would just send the bill so we wouldn’t have to worry about it on our way out all red-eyed.
They scheduled an autopsy and told us that afterward either they could cremate the body for collective burial with other animals or we could have Anne’s cremains returned to us for a charge. Well, my mind flitted briefly over the idea of burying little Annabel next to Victoria’s Stone by the Japanese maple. (We still say hallo to Victoria when we walk by.) Though I felt a vague lack of closure with no body to bury, having cremains sent to us seemed too much fuss over a chicken.
The vet’s office called us the next day with preliminary autopsy results (at that point Marek’s, a viral disease, was suspected) and said it would take a few weeks to get the final report. A couple weeks later the bill came in a simple plain no. 11 envelope. A second larger envelope also arrived. It seemed an odd shape, but I assumed it would be the autopsy results.
When I opened the package I found a burgundy, sheer mesh, drawstring gift bag. It held a plaque similar to those that kindergartners make for their parents. You know the kind—soft clay or plaster of Paris with a handprint and a name and year etched in with a toothpick. Only this plaque had a chicken footprint in it along with a little red heart and the name ANNE in stamped letters. Enclosed was a card with handwritten notes from the vet and staff.
My goodness you could have knocked me over with a feather—and not a sturdy wing feather or tail feather. One of those downy little chick feathers would have felled me.
There it was: Annabel’s Stone.
Many thanks to Dr. Bethany Walters and the staff and students at NC State Vet Hospital. My husband and I were grateful for the memorial, but even more touched by the kind thoughts and compassion that went into making it for us.
A few weeks ago we got the results of the microscopic autopsy. The cause of Anne’s illness ended up not being Marek’s but rather oviductal adenocarcinoma (cancer), which had also spread to several other organs. Getting the final autopsy results reminded me I hadn’t finished the story. And now I have.
One last promenade
atop the coop before
a long solstice night.
Margaret, Anne, and Victoria in better days
Christmas week we lost another chicken, the second in 2015 (we lost Victoria in February). Poor little Anne had been showing some oddities throughout the year but in December she started showing more specific symptoms (lack of appetite, lethargy, etc.), and just before solstice we took her to the vet at NC State. We weren’t willing to do extensive tests and treatment, and the vet said even with them, Anne probably had something serious (e.g., cancer rather something simple like worms).
We decided to euthanize her and have an autopsy done. Preliminary results suggested Marek’s, which is a viral disease chickens are susceptible to. While our chickens were vaccinated for Marek’s, chances are the vaccination wears off at some point (it probably varies by breed). In Anne’s case, the disease resulted in tumors all over her insides that compressed her egg-laying apparatus as well as her GI tract.
We were relieved that the autopsy results showed she had something wrong that we couldn’t have prevented. (We want to be good chickenparents!) And we felt comfortable that we made the right decision about euthanization. As a side benefit, the NC State vet program lets the veterinary students do the autopsies as part of their studies; it made us happy to contribute in that way too.
The photos on this page are not recent. As the chickens have aged, they’ve been less interested in jumping up to the heights. (Leave that for the little chirps!) But shortly before Anne got sick she started flapping up to the top of the coop again. Margaret would follow sometimes, but she is bigger and ungainlier than Anne was, so struggled to get her heft up there. When the chickens jump up to the coop (or chair or bench), we always imagine they are saying, “I like to be tall, Chickenmama! I like to see everything, Chickenpapa!” I guess she wanted one last look before the dark night came.
Do you feel you’re missing something? Do you feel trapped by circumstances? Can’t find a way out? Do you feel disconnected from your true self? Does life seem like a hollow farce or a shame-filled tragedy? Have you relied on thinking as the only proper response to the confusion of life, only to discover that thinking is its own trap?
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After the Shock
From the description on Amazon:
When you hear the word crisis what do you think? A dramatic car wreck. A critical medical diagnosis. Divorce. Job loss. Natural disaster. Death. What about the mini-shocks within those crises or the smaller events that disrupt our lives more frequently? A fender bender in rush-hour traffic. Personal information getting hacked. Being overlooked for a promotion.
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Alan is a fantastic speaker and communications coach and trainer and owner of MillsWyck Communications. I took his Powerful, Persuasive Speaking and Powerful, Persuasive Content workshops a few years ago and became a convert to his approach. After years of freaking out over public speaking I became more comfortable on stage and more in tune with my audience. I also use his audience analysis and content development approaches in my writing.
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I went to a writing conference Saturday (Triangle Area Freelancers’ Write Now! conference—they did a great job). As I drove there around 8am on a state highway in an urban area, I had to brake suddenly for a family of geese padding into my lane. I quickly glanced in the rear-view mirror and was relieved there were no cars immediately behind me. To the best of my knowledge, the family made it safely across the road. Whew.
I am happy to report I successfully completed NaPoWriMo—30 poems in 30 days.
The first 19 poems were posted here, generally in response to some prompt. The last 11 are part of a series I’m developing. Since they are such early drafts, there’s not a lot worth sharing from the poems themselves, but I do have a few observations:
I made the notes that are the basis of these poems almost a year ago. They are structured by day over a period of time. I am finding that almost every day has a sort of theme. Some kind of image or story that resonates or repeats. Completely unintentional, just how things played out.
I am also finding some themes that run throughout the days/poems.
As I revise, I am wondering if I will find a way to make these themes or recurring elements more prominent through form of individual poems or structure of the series.
I may offer an update periodically, but for now it is just nice to have a big chunk of raw material to work with.
Since I stopped posting new poems after Day 19, I’ve been working on the larger project I mentioned. So far I’ve drafted 8 poems. I’m not planning to post them because they need to get “connected” and revised to work together. But so far 19+8=27. Just 3 more poems today and tomorrow to hit the goal of 30 poems in 30 days.
I need a new challenge to expand my brain’s wiring.
The Day 19 prompt from napowrimo was to write a landay (which I actually did that day—just slow getting it posted). This is a form that I had not heard of. In a nutshell, it is 2 lines of 22 syllables (9+13) that rhymes. And the history is intriguing. It is a form of poetry from Afghanistan, typically used by Pashtun women, generally only spoken and often covering themes of love, grief, homeland, war, and separation. If you click through to the article about landays, you can scan it quickly for examples.
This is the third year I’ve done NaPoWriMo and so far this time around, I haven’t been generating anything particularly interesting. It has felt more like an dull obligation rather than a creative inspiration. I’m not giving up on writing poetry daily, but I decided to shift focus. For a while now I’ve had some raw notes that I have been meaning to working into a series of poems, so I’m going to start working with those. I’m not sure they will lend themselves to a daily poem, but I’ll offer periodic updates on my progress, maybe sharing a few lines if it makes sense.
OK, so happy NaPoWriMo, everyone—enjoy your writing!