A Gift From the Henhouse
by Rebecca Bresnick Holmes
The chickens inadvertently gave us a gift, and it wasn’t an egg (those teenage chicks have yet to do that). They gave us the chance to say goodbye to our very old cat, Ubu, who we’d had since he was a kitten.
I had been planning to cover the exposed part of our chicken coop with a tarp when the weather turned wet and put the chicken feed in there to protect. Several mornings ago the forecast predicted showers. Since rain seemed possible, I decided (impulsive as I am) to do it right then — at 7:15 a.m. — before I took my kids to school.
After searching the garage, I finally found the tarp, outside, neatly folded (wow) in the foot-wide space between our shed and the house. I dragged it as it was across the backyard to the chicken coop. It was old and sticky so I went inside and got some gloves.
I opened the first fold of the tarp, then another, and as I did, I noticed something in the middle of it, on the ground — a mess of black fur. “Huh,” I thought, as my brain tried to make sense of what I was seeing, “How did all that fur blow across the yard and into the tarp?” We often brush Ubu (black cat) and Oscar (black dog) in the backyard and the fur tends to blow and collect in corners. As I pondered this, it dawned on me that this was not a fur tumbleweed, but rather Ubu himself!
I was stuck for a moment. Ubu wasn’t moving. I looked at him more closely and was relieved to see that he was breathing. I called my husband to come out and we carefully picked Ubu up and put him in his favorite box.
He wasn’t looking good but we couldn’t see any signs of trauma or injury. I figured he crawled into the tarp to die. He was nearly 18, which would be like a 115-year-old-human. We talked with our boys about the situation and they said their goodbyes to Ubu in case he didn’t make it through the day. They were sad but ok and then off to school.
After caring for Ubu for most of the day, trying to get him to drink or eat, we called the vet, who suggested that we bring him in the next morning if he was the same.
Ubu actually got up and walked around that night after licking some yoghurt but he was confused and unstable. He made it through the night but was the same in the morning.
The kids said goodbye again before heading off to school, and then we took Ubu to the vet. Among other problems, his pupils didn’t dilate. Something had happened inside his brain and he was not going to recover. He had had a good life and we said goodbye.
We had a nice burial in the yard, planted bulbs over him and made a nice plaque to hang on the fence above him. The chickens were involved too — picking out worms and bugs from all the digging.
Had it not been for the chickens, I would not have found Ubu in the tarp that day. Who knows when we would have found him and when we did, it would have been awful.
In a roundabout way, the chickens gave us a gift: being able to say goodbye to Ubu, who had been a part of our lives since before marriage and kids, in the best way possible way.
Meanwhile, we’re still waiting for eggs!