Life on the farm is full of beginnings, blessings, and the sometimes harsh realities that come along with endings. As a mother I want to protect my children from the heart wrenching moments each of us at one time or another face, but I am aware these moments are just as much a part of life as the sweetness we are gifted with.
A few weeks ago, while my son was wrestling in the Divisional wrestling tournament, we received a call from our daughter, Em, alerting us Olivia, our pig, was in labor. I was shocked a 13 year old was so confident and knowledgeable on the signs of impending birth.Even more surprised that she new what it meant for "water to break" and "contractions to begin." I was at a total loss to these terms even as an adult facing the sure arrival of my first child, and realized that being raised on a farm may have it's advantages for my daughters. Em and her Papa were watching over Olivia, and wanted us to know piglets would soon be breathing their first breathes of crisp Montana air. Em was confident she and Papa could handle things until we could get back to the homestead. Handle it they did, and 7 little lives made their way into our hearts and farmyard. Yes, this place we call home is of life, hope, and little ones.
Sadly, the very same week the 7 new lives made their way into the world, we lost our beloved Katie Maye. She came into our lives while Seth was away, over Valentines day, 2 years prior. He was attending a wrestling tournament across the state. After years of marriage, I still have certain expectations of Valentine's Day, and my husband half a state away was not in my plans. They say blending lives in a marriage is like blending two tribes. Seth and I have found our "tribes" of origin are very different. So, this particular Valentine's day I found myself choosing between several little Aussie Mix puppies, as a gift to myself.
My son, Kaleb, and I held each cute little bundle, talking over the differences. Katie was hiding behind a desk. The owner said she had crawled behind it and would not come out after her favorite litter mate was given to another home the day before. I had to see this puppy, as she seemed pretty smart and aware for being so young. From the first moment I saw her beautiful blue eyes, I knew she was the one. Kaleb bundled her little six week self up in his shirt and she snuggled right in. For the next two years I came to realize that our pets often times choose us. While she may have been a gift I was getting for myself, her heart belonged to Kaleb.
Katie faithfully waited each day for his return home. She loved jumping into his arms and learning the tricks he was so patient at teaching her. It always seemed Katie was wise beyond her years. The fall before she left us, our dogs began barking frantically. Seth went out to check what was in the barn yard. When Kaleb went to put his shoes on and join Pa, Katie became frantic, placing herself between Kaleb and the door, hair raised, seemingly pleading with him to stay within the safety of her protective watch and the indoors. We soon discovered a large black bear was treed just outside our house.
Katie's loving and protective nature extended to two pups my other daughter, Lili, had brought home. Katie never left our farm yard. She was faithful, patient, and knew what the boundaries were. As the pups grew they began to wander, and she followed them across the highway as had become "Houdinis" at escaping the confines of their kennels and she was not ok with them wandering off . From the moment the two vivacious and rather large puppies came to live with us, Katie adopted them as her responsibility. The dogs disappearance was immediately discovered and my family went after the them, to get them back to the safety of home. Sadly, Katie, knowing she was not allowed by the highway and seeing the family coming and calling, she darted back across without making sure the way was clear. She was hit by a dear friend. Katie Maye was surrounded by her loved ones as they said goodbye and she died in "her" Kaleb's arms.
Life is full of harsh realities but with the bitter comes the sweet. Katie Maye was with us for such a short period of time yet filled our lives with the love and happiness only a four legged faithful companion can bring. Yesterday, when I walked to the barn to "show off" our cute little piglets to a friend, I felt a stab of loss because I knew Katie would have joined us, wanting to watch over "her people". Everyday I get out of the car I miss her happy howling welcome. Each time I turn out the lights I am reminded I will not have her to pat on the head during my nightly ritual.
We buried Katie on a hill over looking our beautiful valley. My children have said their goodbyes. As I write this I am profoundly grateful for the place she held in our lives and our hearts. She will never be forgotten. I will live each day in thankfulness for the gift of Katie.