We all hear stories, right? Have you ever had experience with an animal exhibiting such compassion that it leaves you with little doubt they have a soul?
I have on two specific occasions, recently. Reading an e-mail from a friend which delves into a guide dog’s heroic efforts to save people from the burning buildings at Ground Zero, regardless of the pain being inflicted from his burning paws and lungs; brought this question to mind.
This past Easter I purchased ducklings and chicks for our family; it’s still very cold here in the Northeast at that time of the year so they needed to be kept warm in our kitchen, near the wood-stove in our kitchen. As you may already know, we have a Berna-doodle named Finnegan; he quickly became attached to the peeping bundles of downy fuzz; checking on the them from time to time, and always, as soon as he came back into the house from his outdoor adventures. time passed and the fuzzy bundles grew, down being replaced by feathers, signaling their readiness for the warming weather conditions. We prepared an area right out of the back kitchen door, safe from predators, rain and wind, a new home complete with a wading pool for the growing ducklings. Finnegan would go to the (french) doors and look out at them, seemingly assuring himself they were ok. One morning several weeks later; Finn was at the back doors barking, loudly and sharply…unlikely behavior for him, he is very laid back most of the time (except when visitors arrive)…”Finn, shush”, I told him, nope..he kept right on barking, (I should add, he is a 140lb animal, his voice fills the house) I went to the kitchen to find out what in the world was going on…he was looking from me to the doors and back again; barking still. As I looked out, I noticed one of the chicks had fallen into the wading pool and was struggling to stay afloat. Finn and I went out and I took the little fuzz ball out, dried by the fire inside, all the while Finn sat by our side. I placed her back into her snug enclosure with the other chicks. Finn took a nap.
Maeve was one of my favorite llamas, she was beautiful, sweet, and very trusting. I couldn’t wait for to be old enough to breed (3 yrs, here on on farm),hoping for a cria as sweet and beautiful as she was. Finally it happened, we were so excited; she would be due in early May of 2011. With an 11 month gestation period, this seemed like forever. May 20, 2011, Maeve was in labor, it was a long and difficult labor; she needed help. The Vet was called; and Teddy walked us through everything. After hours and hours of labor, with my assistance, Our Phantom’s Thunder (Andy) was born. A tall, beautiful, boy. Maeve was exhausted, but still she nuzzled at him, as he tried to stand…and stand he did within minutes of hitting the ground. As with most mammals, getting the mother’s first milk (colostrum) is extremely important and can mean life or death in llamas; Andy wasn’t nursing. Maeve tried to coax him, hours passed, knowing that there is a small window of opportunity for Andy to benefit from the milk rich in antibodies and vital nutrients.The newborn should ideally get at least 10 % of body weight of colostrum in the first 12 hours after birth. 10% of a 30 pound cria is three pounds or three pints (a pint a pound the world around). Colostrum is strongest THE FIRST MILKING and gradually becomes diluted. The antibodies are absorbed the best the first 6-12 hours. By 24 hours of age virtually no antibody absorption occurs. We decided to try to express milk from Maeve, and bottle feed Andy; She stood perfectly for us, which was amazing; we were able to get enough colostrum from her to feed him in small increments(or try, he was incredibly independent, which has served him well since). Hoping above all we had gotten enough into him, we continued this routine every 2-3 hours over the course of 2 days. Problem number 3 arose; it was going on 36 hrs and Maeve had not expelled her after birth, we had been in contact with the Vet ( of course this is the weekend) after following her suggestions it appeared that it had all passed; though in 3 pieces, not ideal. weeks passed, Andy was growing strong, Maeve became my concern, she was growing weary, and developed a limp. After a trip for both of them to the Vet, we started on a prescriptive regime. She appeared better for awhile, then rapidly worsen, Andy was now six weeks old; and was drinking water from the bucket and eating grain(highly unusual) He wasn’t getting enough nutrition from his Mom, so he became independent enough to seek it on his own. It was a week of 100 degree temps. and high humidity; it appeared we were losing our battle to save Maeve, we tried everything, I spent 6-8 hours with her everyday, hoisting her up to do physical therapy, and thus allowing Andy to nurse. We could not get her fever down, nor get her up ( a down llama is not good). Andy and another llama (KatDoll) had been beside her day and night for the past couple of days; only getting up to drink ( I had an ample supply of hay in the barn for them). they kushed (laid) right beside her…she was never alone. On a hot July afternoon, Maeve passed. KatDoll and Andy got up quietly and together walked away. It seemed KatDoll had made a promise; she would watch over Andy, KatDoll was not of breeding age, so she could not nurse him, but she has caring for him since, they are rarely apart. (Oh my gosh, I am crying again)
I believe animals have souls. Do you?