“I can’t find Pikachu.”
You wouldn’t think those words would strike fear in a woman’s heart but oh, let me tell you, they do. Pikachu in this case is not a Pokemon character from the long running children’s series. No. Pikachu is our pet goat. He was a gift to our then 5-year-old son from my mother-in-law. That explains his name. We were heavily into a Pokemon trading card phase at the time.
On that note, I would like the record to reflect that when people say “how do you find material to write about?” I am always confused. It seems that when you have in-laws who believe that livestock make great gifts, you are never at a loss for words.
When he came to us Pikachu was fat and brown and of indeterminate age. That’s about all we knew — or know — about goats. He made a friendly weed wacker and a very beloved and playful pasture pet.
In all our years together we have never been unable to find Pikachu. He’s like a dog — ever present and comes when called. Thus, when Mr. Wonderful announced that he could not find him, Boywonder immediately grabbed his coat for a long, cold trek around the pasture. Girlwonder pulled on her boots as well.
Mr. Wonderful shook his head and said, out of her earshot, “coyotes.” I knew what he was thinking. I had been thinking it too. As much as he needed assistance in the pasture search, the last thing he wanted was for the children to come upon what he — and we — feared they might see.
Here in the country we accept that coyotes have a place in the world. Circle of life and all that. We simply prefer that the circle not close in our own backyard and certainly that it leave our pets out of it.
The children reappeared moments later, our son wiser and nervous, our daughter, young enough to think that perhaps Pikachu had just wandered off, and thus more upbeat. I sent them out on the search while I suited up to join them, thinking I would walk the fence line and look for a possible break.
Within minutes the search was halted. I was met on the porch by my sobbing daughter. I could only say “did you find him?” Her mute, nodding answer that told me all I needed — but did not want — to know.
She had found him lying by the creek, just a few steps from his barn. He appeared to have gone peacefully and without violence, his body covered in a blanket of overnight snow. The coyotes were in the clear, but the shock was still great.
I hugged her and struggled to answer her plaintive cries of “why?” This is the downside of animal ownership. If you are lucky, you outlive your pets. Having no answer beyond “it was his time” was of little comfort to my animal-loving girl. It was of little comfort to me.
My daughter and I wandered out to watch, uselessly, while the boys brought the tractor around. I shielded her eyes as they struggled with Pikachu’s earthly remains.
There is no way to pretty this up. A goat does not fit neatly in a shoebox padded with cotton balls. There is no quick toilet-bowl memorial service and one fast flush. This is real life. Sometimes it’s just a whole lot of hard work when you least feel up to it.
As we stood in the pasture, feeling that we could not go in, but somehow unable to move up that hill and see it firsthand, Boywonder came trekking back down the hill. He headed for the barn, returning with a shovel.
Ever the mommy I suggested, gently, that I should go help Daddy finish the job. I reached for the shovel but he shook his head, vehemently. He said, quietly, “He was mine.” Then, trudged stoically back up the hill, saying under his breath, almost lost to the wind, “I can do this.”
I have watched with pride and joy as my son excelled in ethics, athletics and academics. Yet, I can honestly say that I have never been so proud in all his 13 years as the moment he trudged back up that hill — committed to doing a hard and awful thing. Committed to following through on his last responsibility to someone he loved.
Then I was crying too. For Pikachu, of course, but also for the realization that in the blink of an eye the willful toddler who once stamped his feet saying “I can DO it!” when he clearly could NOT, was a young man now.
One who said “I can do this” and meant it — and did.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt wishes pets lived as long as people and children stayed forever young. She welcomes comments c/o Lifeoutloud@comcast.net; P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460; or www.KymberlyFosterSeabolt.com.)