Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Draft #2: Taste for Warm Blood

Before my grandfather died four years ago, my family kept about fifty sheep on our cattle farm (a concession to his days as a shepherd of over three thousand). They sheltered in the rickety sheep pens nearby his house. Cattle are big, hardy, and capable against most predators; sheep are lower than mice on the food chain (and IQ scale).

When I was about sixteen, an older, somewhat-of-a-vagrant cousin came to stay at the farm for a while. She brought a large, friendly-seeming Rottweiler with her; naturally the dog had plenty of space to wander.

Weeks later -- Dad checked the sheep one morning as usual. Fresh blood coated the sheep pen. The adult ewes were packed in one corner, as though some invisible antagonizer corralled them. Lamb corpses, most split in two, littered the ground, and what few lambs were still alive had missing ears and marred faces.

Dad immediately went to the grandparents' house. He found my cousin and said, "There's something you need to see."

My parents told her to put the dog down. Though she initially agreed, she instead sold it to a family with small children. Mom was furious. I heard her one day muttering about the similarity between a lamb and a child. Mom, surely the dog would be able to tell the difference, I suggested.

She stopped washing dishes, looked at me deadly serious, and said, "Once a dog's tasted warm blood, there's no going back. It will kill again to get it."

* * * *

Now I'm sure that dog was doing just fine on dog food and scraps. Certainly it wasn't missing out on life. We've had docile, domesticated dogs for millennia. Yet once it slaughtered a lamb, it wouldn't resist going for something a toddler.

So what things are there in our own lives we don't need but, once we've tasted, can never do without?

What's your warm blood?