No one is rich enough to do without a neighbor. — Danish Proverb
(Continued) As we called and searched for the lost chickens, I learned more of the story from Dave. He had gone back to work after supper only to find the neighbor’s large dog in the barn in the midst of the massacre.
This dog and its companion always barked viciously at us whenever we were out in the orchard, which bordered the neighbor’s property. Though never harming us, their aggressive behavior always made my heart jump when they came tearing at me full speed, barking ferociously. And now one was attacking our animals. Dave had no problem summoning a voice that told the dog Dave was in charge and not to be messed with. The dog quickly submitted as Dave yanked its collar so hard it came off when he dragged him toward the door. He yelled at it to get home and began the walk to the neighbor’s door, his emotions swirling.
Though we had met the neighbor previously in our orchard, we had never been to his house. It’s a hard thing when the first time you knock on the front door is to tell him his dog just took out your flock of chickens. I’m sure it wasn’t any fun for him, either.
He came by later and gave us some money. It was generous of him, but it just covered the cost of replacing the chickens, and didn’t take into account their feed and all the time and energy put into caring for them. But we appreciated the gesture. However, it was not the last time we found the dogs
in the barn. Thankfully, at those times the chickens were secured in the coop. But it made me mad. We wrestled with how to be firm, and yet keep our neighborly relationship in tact–neighbors are important out in the country, and we cared about our rapport with him. But protecting one’s property is also important. If we couldn’t have free range chickens, he shouldn’t have free range dogs. Over time things have worked themselves out and his dogs stay in their own yard.
We never did find the lost chickens, though we searched for them early the next morning. So when adding them to the body count, we lost 28 chickens at once. We expected to lose a few here and there to a hawk or raccoon. But not so many at one time and from this unexpected source. Sweet Molly through her tears said, “Remember James 1–to count it all joy. And we can be thankful it wasn’t our cats. And that they weren’t older and already laying eggs.”
We were concerned that by the time we ordered some new chicks and received them, they wouldn’t reach maturity in time before the days shortened, setting us back months in egg production. Thankfully, a friend mentioned that she had seen chicks at Rural King that were about 3 weeks old. And because they weren’t the new tiny fluff balls, they were on sale. We went immediately and bought some. They weren’t the same breeds that we had originally so carefully chosen, and we had fewer than we had started with, but at least we had chicks again. Their cuteness and the care they needed helped us to forget our sadness. But this time, I toughened my heart a bit towards them, and tried not to name them.