Doris was one of the great loves, gifts, joys, and inspirations in my life. I’ve been in such a funk since she unexpectedly died on Monday, August 18th, that it took me over a week to actually bring myself to write about her. On that morning, she awoke bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as usual, visited with me as I worked, ate some of her favorite food (grapes), and then died shortly thereafter. This is known as “sudden death syndrome.”
My hope for Doris was that she would be the one to beat the odds hens like her, bred for egg-laying, must face. Despite all of the diseases of reproduction that result from abnormal egg laying, I prayed each day she would somehow overcome the odds to live a long and healthy life. But, alas, she did not. She died in the prime of her life from yet another product of her breeding, which creates defects in hens’ hearts — weak hearts — that are prone to fail.
Doris will forever be in my heart and my thoughts, and I whispered that to her often as she lay peacefully in my lap. In fact, I made a point of spending quality time with Doris daily. My morning ritual always began with the joy of finding Doris already awake and ready to start a new day. She would follow me around until I sat down, and then jump up in my lap. She loved to be held close to my side, my arms wrapped around her, and she purred to express her contentment. When I would leave the house to run errands, she cried after me. Upon returning home, we couldn’t wait to be reunited, even if I had been gone just a couple of hours. Before Doris, I had never experienced such a special bond with a non-human.
As I grieve the loss of Doris, I grieve for all of the birds like her and all of the other farm animals who are routinely betrayed by their owners, who never knew a kind human touch. It troubles me daily to think about all the chickens like Doris who curiously and trustingly seek to know us, but instead receive only the callous treatment of farm workers, or, at best, are valued only for their eggs, when in fact they have so much more to offer — if only we would open our minds and hearts to them.
Emboldened by the strength of her lovely spirit, I resolve to become a better, more effective advocate to honor those we may never know, those who film director Liz Marshall so aptly calls The Ghosts in Our Machine. May they be discovered, understood, known, loved, and, ultimately, free.
As always, thank you for your continued interest and support!