We have been experiencing some issues with a fox who really wants our chickens. Our dogs have been doing a decent job at chasing the fox off but we did lose one hen a couple of weeks ago. The other night the fox had pinned one of our girls down but we happened to catch sight of it before the chicken was injured. This has been a lesson in the food chain for the kids, unfortunately involving their beloved hens.
As difficult as this lesson can be, it is essential.
Yesterday, we were out exploring. We were in a loved area, playing with wood chunks and branches and climbing on a rock pile. Our dog, Juniper, discovered a den in a pile of brush that had been left from last year. She was going crazy, digging and yipping, trying with all her might to get into that den. I watched her closely so she didn’t get hurt and so nothing else got hurt. As much as I don’t want a fox eating our chickens, I don’t want it to be injured either.
Juniper dug and dug and then she came out with something in her mouth. I commanded her to release it, and she did immediately. It wasn’t a fox, after all, but a baby raccoon. I left it, hoping it would get reunited with its family. I was so sad when I checked on it and it was struggling to breathe but very much alive. What I was hoping was a still attached umbilical cord turned out to be part of its intestines.
We made a few phone calls. One person advised us to leave it alone. I couldn’t do that. I called a woman who rehabilitates animals to get a positive ID and for further advice. She told us the name of a local vet we could bring it to to have it euthanized. I couldn’t let it suffer so off we went.
I felt awful that it’s injury was most likely caused because of me, and I let the kids know that I shouldn’t have let Juniper dig in that far. She most likely would have scared any creature living in there anyway.
We brought the raccoon to the vet. The woman working the desk told me that she raised one from that age, and with tears in her eyes squeezed my hand and thanked me for bringing it in so it wouldn’t need to suffer anymore.
Waverly was a mess. She didn’t understand why we couldn’t bring it home. Gannon was afraid that his belly would open and his intestines would also spill out. Egan didn’t know what was going on and really just wanted to eat dinner.
We had a long talk about nature, about death, and about not letting things suffer. They had some big lessons yesterday, some hard lessons. But important ones. Life is fragile. It is precious. I made a mistake and I feel incredibly sad. This is a creature that could grow up and cause more damage to our chickens, so it was also ironic. But it is still life.
When i removed it from the den, I wrapped it in my flannel. I held it all the way to the vet. The kids looked at it, expressed their sadness in various ways. The raccoon would stretch, make some noises, and settle back in against my hand. My heart will hurt for the loss of this being for a long time to come.