The Saddest Sunday of My Life
Warning: This is a troubling blog. It contains a graphic account. Please do not let your children read this.
It was a rainy day. The kind that is overcast and chilly enough for a lightweight jacket. I almost wore my rain boots to church but opted for leather heeled booties instead. I dressed in black. It was appropriate. I just didn't know how appropriate.
I hadn't slept well the night before. I don't remember dreaming. I was tired when I woke up and had overslept. I still did my farm chores before getting ready and leaving with Bryan. Abby, my usual helper, was away with her Nana in Birmingham, so I almost skipped loving on our goat kids for a few minutes. But, their little bleats and wagging tails slowed down my productivity. I fed them, scratched all of their little heads, gave a few kisses (yes, I kiss my goats and am weird like that), and I secured their pen. They watched me leave and called to entice me back.
When we came home from church less than two hours later, our little farm was still. It was my first warning sign, but I missed it. I was trying to unload our boys out of the truck in the rain. I was thinking about getting lunch on the table, because Bryan had an important meeting to return to soon. Everyone sat down at the table after a few minutes, and I went to the fridge to get a drink and looked out my kitchen window.
The chickens were out in the rain but scratching around the yard. That was my second warning. I missed it.
That's odd I thought. I saw the rooster flapping his wings in warning and followed his gaze with my eyes. Then, I saw it. A huge dog trying to get into my goat pen. Bongo was blocking him with his body.
That was my third warning. I had missed it. Bongo hadn't greeted us at the truck when we got out earlier.
I called for Bryan, started putting my boots on, told the boys to stay inside no matter what, and Bryan and I went to contain the dog. He approached us somewhat leerily but not threatening. We enticed him into the chicken pen and locked him in.
I called the police. Animal control doesn't work on weekends. This was not our first encounter with stray dogs, and I knew they were unpredictable.
While still on the phone with the police, I walked around to assess and make sure everyone was ok. Bryan started to return to finish lunch.
I cried out in terror. Our 13 year old bunny's cage was ripped apart and off its stand. The poor rabbit was mangled to the side of it and dead. I started yelling for Bryan, he turned around, and started yelling for me to look around. I saw her.
Behind the goat fencing was another dog covered in blood. It wasn't her blood. My heart sunk. I approached the fence looking for my goats. The dog bared its teeth and snarled at me. I lost it. I sobbed on the phone with the operator and begged for help apologizing for crying before hanging up.
I saw the bodies of all of my goat kids lying in blood in their pen. Their killer lay down beside their small bodies panting with his red, blood soaked muzzle and wouldn't let me enter. I sobbed and wailed. The grief that overcame me is impossible to describe. To see my kids like that after their mothers had suffered a similar fate was so terrible, so raw. I had been with most of them since birth.
They were mine. They were so helpless and gentle. How could something slaughter them in their pen? The fact that the dog wouldn't let me enter to even remove their bodies was too much. I recorded what I saw on my phone to ID the dog. My hands were shaking too violently to take a photograph. Then, I saw that some of them were breathing. They were so still that I had missed it.
I started screaming for Bryan and hoping against despair that there could be some redemption of this moment. I needed to get to my babies.
Bryan returned with his gun, and when the dog turned on him, he shot it in the head to kill it. I rushed in weeping to move my goat kids to their sleeping pen- that is the ones who weren't already lying dead in the pen. While I was moving their bodies, the dog got up and turned back towards me. Bryan started yelling at me. I pulled the remaining kids in with me and shut the door and locked it.
From that point on, it was a blur. The police arrived. The dog was shot to be put out of its misery. There was so much blood. Blood on my hands, blood on my shirt, blood on my jeans, blood on the hay, and blood on my babies. Now, blood on the white kitchen towels I was using to try to stop the terrible bleeding.
I sobbed feeling certain that they would all be dead soon, but I couldn't leave them. I sat in the dark pen with my dying kids and let the tears flow. I cried over the dead ones. I cried over the living ones. I cried that the dogs kept coming to kill what I love.
Friends from church arrived, sat with me in the barn to care for the wounded, and eventually helped me take the injured to my dad, because we couldn't find a livestock veterinarian to help us. We lost Jinn, one of the survivors, to her injuries. She suffocated to death in my arms as I wept. She had been the first goat kid I rescued in January when her mother was attacked by another set of dogs. I had saved her then, but I was helpless to save her now.
Two goats survived, our precious Finn and Padme. After my dad helped slow the bleeding, we took them home. Another veterinary visit the next day to a wonderful livestock vet in Lucedale, the support from an emergency goat group online, and many sleepless hours later, my goat kids have finally stabilized.
Goats are herd animals, so this loss is impossible to describe. After 48 hours, the survivors were strong enough to walk, so I let them out of their pen into our pasture to see if they could graze. They were afraid to stay in the barn. They kept looking where the bodies of their siblings had been. They searched bleating for the others. When we walked everywhere, they knew they were gone and settled down again to rest. Goats are not mindless creatures. They are sensitive, intelligent, and caring. They knew they had lost their family. They felt their tragedy.
We are heartbroken. One of the happiest seasons of our life has turned into one of the darkest. We had finally moved into our house after working so hard on it. We were almost finished unpacking and settling in, and our sense of security has been threatened. This is the third deadly dog attack since December on our street. I'm not even counting the ones we have prevented. Animal control knows where I live when I call without me giving them my address. Something has to change.
We have suffered a terrible tragedy. We dearly loved the animals that were killed. We are deeply grieved to watch the recovering ones suffer. It is an awful thing for your 3 year to ask you if the bad dogs will come again and only be able to say, "I don't know." It is bitter to watch your children cry and grieve, because death and terror has become their reality. We have seen our Eden wrecked and ravaged. It isn't right.
Where there is darkness, it is easier to see light.
We have been immeasurably blessed. We are suffering this tragedy, because God gave us a beautiful land and a home to live in here in this city. We know deep loss, because we had the gift of raising 5 bottle babies and loving them well. We are sickened by death, because we have seen the beauty of life. We have been hurt by the sins of others, but we have been blessed by those who have not allowed us to suffer alone. We have watched our friends and family get covered in blood, mud, sweat, and tears beside us. It has cost us financially, and they have bore some of that weight with us. We are not alone.
Where there is evil, God's grace abounds. One day, all things will be made new. Jesus will walk this earth, order will restored, and peace will be all we know. Until then, we look for the mending. We move forward knowing only a fool thinks he can prevent tragedy. We prepare as wise soldiers, shore up our property where we can, but we know that God is ultimately our protection. I look to Him and still have hope.
I share my story for two reasons.
One, I believe the Enemy meant this situation to destroy and silence our family. We are doing a good work in a tough part of a city that is lacking much hope. We are praying big prayers, because we serve a big God. We are seeing them answered. We refuse to cower in fear and pack up and leave. We are here to stay, because God wants us here. He will provide for our needs. He is ultimately our safety.
Two, I need your prayers. We are hurting, grieving, and I believe in the power of God. I have seen it. I can feel it. I know He has the answers we don't have. We will be writing letters to our city to ask for our leaders' help in solving the dog attacks we have experienced. I don't think there are any easy answers, and we don't want to hurt anyone in our community by seeking half-baked solutions. We do need help. Pray we are wise beyond our years and sensitive to those around us and their needs.
Thank you for being on this journey with us. May the Lord bless you.