Days 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 ,26, 27: how time flies when you’re flat out and quite a bit on the stressed side.
We are doing some work on our place. We are always doing work on our place. We’ve been owner-builders for 20 years. There is always work to do. Anyway, some time ago we had three holes dug to put in some ornate pear trees to hide and shade the shed. After all, we have had twice as much rain as our average and we haven’t seen full tanks in six years. Our friend the bobcat driver dug the holes. Big M despaired – the holes were too big and would need to be filled in again or the little balls of roots on the pear tree would be hanging in mid air with nothing to cling to. But then it rained and the holes filled with water and you couldn’t put soil in them if you tried.
I got up one day to take the dogs for a walk as I do every morning (or they look at me with big sad eyes and whine a lot) and went to let the ducks out. We have two lots of poultry – one set of laying hens in a mobile cage near the vegie patch, and one pair of ducks and a silky chook that live together in what we fondly call the Compound (wired to keep the foxes out). I have had a pair of ducks for probably 12 years. They started as fertilised eggs that another silky hatched out and have been around ever since. The pairs change according to whether the fox gets the better of us or not but this particular pair was a 10 year old female and her skittish 4 year old mate. The male has had wobbly legs for a long time now and I really thought he’d go first but this morning, the female was dead in her box. My diagnosis of cause of death is an oviduct prolapse and I can’t imagine how horrible that would have been. I cried. We placed her in the middle hole.
The month rolled on. This must be the busiest time of the year for unis. Student exams are an organisational challenge to say the least. This year, we needed53 simulated patients for our practical exams and that’s my job. We got them, we trained them and they were marvellous. Exams were held, exams finished. Somewhere in that time were a couple of trips to Melbourne and my kids’ own high school exams. And I have done some editing, some good editing on the WIP. Student supervision time is at least good for that. Busy, busy, busy.
And then Sam got sick.
Let me tell you about Sam. We got her from the pound after she’d been surrendered twice. Surrendered three times and an animal is put down as not suitable for a pet. So we say that she was on death row and we saved her. Sam was about 3 at the time, a red and white border collie, pretty and not so clever and Trouble. She came home to us on the long weekend in March, 2002.
It took her about a year to settle down into life at our place. Until then, she sort of operated on her own. Scared of a lot of stuff, disinclined to obey orders, unkind to other animals. We got Digger as a puppy in the July and it crossed my mind that she might kill him. She didn’t. They were best friends and she let him get away with hanging on to her tail as she flew after a tennis ball. Digger skun her tail to a wisp and she didn’t seemt o care. They had three bad, fur-flying fights in their relationship over eight years – not bad comparing it to any other partnership, human or otherwise.
Sam had been losing weight since winter. Under her bushy coat, she became skin and bone. But still energetic. Still happy to run all day. Never one to eat much, she cut back even further. The vet said she was fine. We fed her anything she would eat: mince, sausages, lasagne.
A week ago, she stopped eating all together. Her eyes just looked at you big and wide. The vet kept her in hospital on a drip while tests happened. I visited her every day, walking her on the kind-man-next-door-to-the-vet’s green lawn, holding her IV bag up. The tests showed something going on but it would need surgery to find out. The surgery revealed liver cancer but the vet rang early the next morning to say that she didn’t wake up.
We, brought her home and she’s in the first hole, the one with the roses on top that M put there. The third hole? Quickly filled so that nothing else can get in there. If the rain would stop for a few days, the pear trees could be planted.
We have all our animals buried at our place. This includes one horse, many chickens, two guinea pigs and now two dogs. I think how lucky we are to have the space to do that. And those holes. Dug too deep for a purpose?