I woke this morning to the sound of footsteps coming into my room. I could tell it was my 12 year old by the quick steps and taps of the soles of his shoes on the hardwood floor. And then I heard him crying as he sat on my bed, his breath held in, then releasing out in quiet whimpers.
"What's wrong sweetie?" I asked.
"One of the chickens is dead," he said as he continued to cry.
"On no!" "Did the chicken get left out last night?" to which he replied that it had. But really, he wasn't sure.
"Was it attacked?" I asked, hoping for that rather than it freezing to death.
"It was half eaten," he said.
Let me explain. Our neighbor up the hill has a bunch of chickens and for years Danny has been watching over them when our neighbors go on vacation. Our neighbor loves her chickens. They are her children. Unfortunately we live in a semi-rural area with coyotes and raccoons anxious to get their chops on her children. To mitigate those risks, the chickens are in a caged area and have a little shed for the nights.
Danny's job is to let the chickens out in the morning and feed them, and then put them back in at night to keep them safe. Last night time passed us by quickly while we were making dinner and discussing the day. When I noticed it was already dark, a surprise to all of us, I asked Danny if he had done the chickens. He hadn't and hopped up, went up the hill and returned shortly with his chore complete.
Whether the ill-fated chicken was alive at the time Danny went up the hill, we'll never know. It was dark when he penned them in. It might have escaped his view, or it might already have been dead in the corner. All we know now is that the chicken is dead. And Danny was supposed to be his caretaker.
My poor boy. It is such a difficult lesson to learn. The responsibility of taking care of someone's pet and have to have it die on your watch, possibly due to your error. To have to make that phone call, to confess your error. I wish with all my might that I could make it go away. To make my boy's pain go away. I want him to know the weight of responsibility, but I don't want him to feel the weight of it. I wish I could carry his burden, but it is his alone. All I can do is hug him and love him as I help him through this.