When Sam died, our hearts broke. I still expect to see him sitting patiently by the kitchen door, waiting for me to get up and let him out. No barking or whining, just Sphinx-like mindful watching the great outdoors while the magpies get away with murder. I don't even doubt that he could have been trusted around our chickens, and he certainly would have protected Wendy and Syd from the fox but he left us before they came along. I didn't want another dog - how could he possibly be replaced? Even my sisters, who are definitely not doggie people, say he was the very best boy there ever was. And handsome! Out of a litter of golden tan puppies, he was the only black one with tan markings and the eyes of an Arabian prince. He picked me out, not the other way around, and we kept his arrival a secret until the DSPCA had checked us out and gave us the go-ahead. The staff told us they'd had quite the battle with a very irate Italian lady who also wanted him - a story that grew legs over the years, turning her into a kind of Cruella Deville who might come back and take him away if he got sick on the carpet ever again. Days could pass and he might not get a walk and still he would not complain, although those brown eyes bore into my soul and whispered 'for shame, mother'. No, Sam could not be replaced, but I did yearn to rescue something. And that's how Sam, even from his new home in heaven, stood guard and guided us towards a new adventure, rescuing chickens.
We literally did not have a clue about chickens when we arrived home with six battered and balding highly strung and stressed out girls. But we had an unused shed and we were compassionate, so we bumbled along and very soon fell head over heels in love. Chickens are the original crazy chicks; they really do have traits and personalities, some are clever, some are barmey, some get attached to us, some plot to kill and eat us. Before we built a run, we sat with them while they free-ranged and marvelled at their antics and the sheer amount of poo they produce; my own theory is that the food they eat (almost anything) travels at a steady pace right through them and is instantly digested. The fights they might have over a worm are less frightful - the poor creature will dissolve in seconds.
My daughters once saw Eleanor eat a mouse whole, while the others screamed to get a piece of it. Is it any wonder that they're the closest living relatives of the T-Rex? Mind you, Eleanor was a particularly bas-ass girl, who brought trouble on herself; she wasn't very high in the pecking order yet she continuously annoyed the others and we'd often find her bleeding with half her feathers plucked out. We called her Ellie Bellie when we were delighted with her and Smellanore when she was bold, which was all the time. When she got slower and fell asleep forever, it was in the food box, all the better to piss the others off.
When the chickies' laying days are over, I like to think of them running around with Sam, somewhere green and free; them annoying him for sport, him enduring it because that's the way of his lovely nature. At the end of the day, they sit together as the sun goes down and think what a fine thing the afterlife is.