Taking a Life Should Always Cause Us Pause

Today I had to kill a wild dog.

Julia called me at work and said that she found a big grouping of feathers behind the coop and some tracks.  She counted the chickens and came up one short.  She was worried that something killed one of the chickens.

This is something that upsets me.  We take great pride in our care of the chickens.  I tell my girls all the time that happy chickens lay happy eggs.  They take care of us, provide for us and we have a responsibility to care for them and protect them.  We try to teach the girls that the chickens must be put up in their coop with gates latched before dark.  There are things that go bump in the night for chickens and we have to protect them.  Some time ago, our oldest girl (who normally does a great job with the chickens) waited too long to put them up.  The bad news is that we found an opossum under the coop.  The good news is that this was the egg stealing bandit we’d suspected.   My daughter and I went out and fished the rodent out and I shot it.  I hesitated and it nearly got away.  In the end, I had to kill it.

Nonetheless, this was different.  I came home and changed clothes, got my gun and pushed the loaded magazine home.  I walked out to the coop and found the smattering of feathers Julia told me about.  I knew right then that it wasn’t just a fluke.  There were paw prints, too big for a fox, and just a little bigger than a coyote.  Beside the paw prints were claw marks, from a chicken trying to survive.  I followed that prints around the fence outside the coop.  There were more prints and more claw marks in the snow.

Following the paw prints, I made my way around toward the paddock and back toward the corn field behind our house.  There were scrapes before the paw prints as though something was keeping the animal from walking a full gate.  I walked in the corn field behind the paddock toward the back corner of our property.  I saw claw marks, small drops of blood, and more feathers.  At the very corner of the property I found the body of one of our Buff Orpingtons.  We don’t know which one it was.  It might have been Squaters, Jessica, Water Drinker, but we don’t know.  It had been completely disemboweled.  Whatever killed it hadn’t even had the decency to eat as much as possible.

I tracked the animal through the corn field behind our property.  At several points the tracks split off, and I followed watching multiple sets.  I noticed, eventually, that one set of tracks was coming and one set was going.  I followed the paw prints through the field and I saw in the distance a dark mound lying in a patch of grass.  As I approached, still following the tracks, I found a dark red haired dog asleep.  I yelled at it, waking it up.  It growled.  I asked it if it killed my chicken.  It growled again.  I took two steps and asked it why it killed my chicken.  It didn’t answer.

The dog stood up and took a few steps to the east.  I tracked its movements.  It watched me and I watched it.  We walked together for another two tenths of a mile.  There was a bloody mass on the side of its head and its tail was matted with fecal matter and completely immobile because of it.

I walked, it walked.  It growled, I asked questions.  The cold was getting to me.  It turned toward the woods, limping, growling, limping, struggling.  It turned to look at me.  I pulled out my gun.  I hesitated. I wanted permission.  It killed our chicken.  It was cold, injured and desperate.  I raised my gun and fired.  It yelped and I fired again and again until it stopped.

Killing, no matter the reason, no matter the justification, no matter the whys and the wheres, should cause one to stop and think.  It should cause one to hesitate, to pause.   If we believe Colossians 1, then God is reconciling all of creation to himself through Christ Jesus and that includes that which does violence upon those we love.

Thankfully, that also includes me.  I did violence to that feral dog.  I don’t feel guilty, but it caused me pause.  This is a part of living in creation and partnering with God in the reconciliation of creation.0303-161020 0303-161027 0303-161033 0303-161038 0303-161115 0303-161120 0303-161123 0303-161132 0303-161231 0303-161238 0303-161243 0303-161301 0303-161351 0303-161424 0303-161448 0303-161456

Eating as Sacramental Holiness


“The industrial eater is, in fact, one who does not know that eating is an agricultural act, who no longer knows or imagines the connections between eating and the land, and who is therefore necessarily passive and uncritical – in short, a victim. When food, in the minds of eaters, is no longer associated with farming and with the land, then the eaters are suffering a kind of cultural amnesia that is misleading and dangerous.  The current version of the ‘dream home’ of the future involves ‘effortless’ shopping from a list of available goods on a television monitor and heating precooked food by remote control. Of course, this implies and depends on a perfect ignorance of the history of the food that is consumed.  It requires that the citizenry should give up their hereditary and sensible aversion to buying a pig in a poke.  It wishes to make the selling of pigs in pokes an honorable and glamorous activity.  The dreamer in this dream home will perforce know nothing about the kind or quality of this food, or where it came from, or how it was produced and prepared, or what ingredients, additives, and residues it contains – unless, that is, the dreamer undertakes a close and constant study of the food industry, in which case he or she might as well wake up and play an active and responsible part in the economy of food.”  (Wendell Berry, “The Pleasures of Eating” 1989 article republished in Bringing It to the Table: On Farming and Food)

In this amazing passage  Berry offers a critique of eating without consciously understanding the ingredients, origins, and full context of what is being eaten.  The dream offered by so-called scientific advancement is a dream that offers static, flat, and lazy food enjoyed by none, but efficient.  Except that it is not.

One of the amazing things about Holy Eucharist is its medicinal quality.  It is a particularly powerful medicine of the Holy Spirit that binds us together and feeds us as the Body of Christ and it doesn’t do it efficiently.  According to the scriptures the bread is the body of Christ and the wine/juice is the blood of Christ.  It is a constant and blinding reminder that we are not called to the convenience of letting God’s creation fall apart.  Rather, we are called to the death, suffering, and damnation of Jesus Christ; we are called to partner with God in the reconciliation of all things (Colossians 1).

We are invited to the table to be consciously aware of who Jesus is, who we are as people called to be the body of Christ redeemed by his blood.  It is slow and we never do it alone.  This is communal medicine, for the whole body.

This should affect how we eat other meals as well.  Now, don’t hear me saying these things as one who has attained such a grand accomplishment.  Like holiness, it is not easy.  It might begin with a sort of revelation, but it does not end with said revelation.  It is a slow process of recognizing that whole foods sustains us more efficiently (for our bodies, not our schedules).  Local foods don’t just heal our bodies and the bodies of our families, but they heal local economies (while money spent at national chains only returns 13.6% of revenue to the local economy, money spent in local businesses returns 52% to the local economy).

Slow food, grown locally, bought locally heals the body, the community, and the Body.  It is a Eucharistic endeavor that should push us all to do a little more.  Take the next good step.