This weekend I was reminded of a lesson you learn early on a farm. Animals don’t live forever. Sometimes they die because of sickness, some of old age, and sometimes the harsh reality of our meat-loving culture takes them.
Growing up I was in 4-H and showed both hogs and cattle. I remember when I started showing my dad told me, don’t name anything if you can’t eat it. He was teaching us a big lesson of farming. Getting attached to an animal doesn’t change it’s purpose in life. Our prized beef steers that we pampered and trained all year still became hamburger for the table just like any other steer. This may seem shocking or shallow to some one who didn’t grow up on a farm, but to a farm kid it was just a fact of life. Nothing lasts forever.
Of course there were those animal losses which were much harder to take. When a beloved dog died it was heartbreaking. The worst one for me was having make the decision to have my horse put down. Anyone who’s owned a horse knows how much they mean to you. It’s a lot like having to put a dog down. I can still remember the day like it was yesterday. I knew I would never have a friend like her again and I haven’t. As bad as I felt that day, I wouldn’t have traded the time I did have with my horse. The old saying, to have loved and lost is better than having never loved at all is true with most animals on the farm.
I was reminded of all this over the weekend because one of the heifers I feed every day died. She had been sick a couple of weeks ago, but seemed to be getting better. She was the runt of her group and just never as healthy as the rest. Even though I shouldn’t have been surprised she died, I was. It just never gets easier to lose an animal, whether or not you loved them. One of the many life lessons learned daily on a farm.