What do you do with a dog, a family pet, who turns out to be a chicken killer? Savannah Mae is a Catahoula hound, and is about as harmful as a butterfly, unless you happen to be a chicken. She was named after the grassy, rolling hills up her on the ridge and she is sweet. She likes to be around people, is energetic and has been a part of our community for more than three years. Everyone loves her.
Savannah Mae belongs to Casey, and Casey runs a farm. Everything about a farm must contribute to forward progress, or be discontinued. There is too much work to be done every day, to allow detractions to remain. Thus it was that one day last week, when I heard the sound of Erin screaming out in the orchard, I was taken by surprise.
“BAD DOG,” she was screaming, as Casey and I looked up from the kitchen table, where we had convened to continue hashing out the next step of the plan. He galloped out to see what was up, but I knew from the direction that the voice came, what the problem was. I just didn’t know the degree of severity. Savannah Mae had dug under the gate, and was romping amongst the terrified chickens, doing what some primal urge directed her to do.
The chickens were a big deal on the farm, with Casey and Amber having raised another brood over the course of the summer up in his garden space, and Annie having introduced them into the main chicken coop. I don’t have much connection with the noisy cluckers, but I heard enough to know that Tulip was the only one of the original hens, who would take advantage of the new opportunity to get out of the hen house, and into the orchard.
The fence had been meticulously staked to the ground so that no varmints could get into the orchard, and the new set of hens had been introduced to both the hen house and the orchard at the same time. All had gone smoothly, except that the original hens, except Tulip, all stuck to the inside of the coop, and only the new hens ventured outside. That had proven fortunate for those older ones, as the carnage which descended on the orchard that day, impacted only those out in the orchard. Poor Tulip.
What was done was over. There was no turning back the hands of inexorable time. Savannah Mae had done the unthinkable, the unacceptable, and had to be removed. “Removed” has such a clinical sound to it, a cold and detached word that implies a solution, but which poses quite a dilemma. I can remove a sliver with a tweezers. I can remove an unsightly blemish with any number of methods. How do I remove a family pet, especially one who appreciates a walk up to the top of the road, as much as I appreciate settling into my chair for a baseball game on Comcast?
Shelters were called in the hope of finding one which had a no-kill policy, but there was none to be found in this vicinity. There were two other avenues being pursued, one of which involved a call back to the kennel that had produced Savannah Mae, in the hope that there was a method of letting others know, who might want a good family dog. As long as there were no chickens around, Savannah Mae was a real sweetie.
The other possibility was that there was an organization that Erin located on-line, which tried to orchestrate these situations so as to resolve them by relocating the dog to an appropriate environment. I do not know what caused Savannah Mae to revert to an earlier time inside her head, but I do know that her actions have no place on a farm.
In a world of disposable products, from diapers to computers, it seems terribly sad to have to put a warm, vivacious, friendly dog down, because there is no alternative. However, we live in a farming community, and we must weigh the consequences of attempting to circumvent the problem.
Of course we could revisit the gate issue, pour a bed of concrete to prevent Savannah Mae from committing dastardly deeds again, and pretend that the problem was solved. But what if it happened again? What if she found another way into the orchard? We can’t bring Tulip back, but we can prevent another disaster. Anyone want a Catahoula Hound?