Sometimes we forget that pets are wild at heart. Where there is amnesia, there lurks a vacuum that fills with reminding— grisly, bloody, senseless reminding. Such was the case when Blacky the chicken was murdered this past August by a Labradoodle named Cooper. He was 20 (in chicken years).
Blacky shared an urban coop in Ballard with Marshmallow, a "gorgeous white bantam," in the words of their owner, Rick Hennessey. The two birds were virtually inseparable—eating together, sleeping together, and when predators entered their midst, soaring together. They loved to take bubble baths and play mah-jongg. They had a subscription to InStyle, and considered Gwyneth Paltrow to be the most photogenic of the stars (Wanda Sykes ranked a close second). The chickens knew Katrina and the Waves to be cheesy, but they walked on sunshine anyway. Their bond was so forceful that the birds were immune to outside criticism.
Every once in a while, the birds would play a prank on their owner called "peck-a-boo." Hennessey, a hyperactive technology salesperson, is a notorious snorer. They tolerated his raucous snoozing habits for a short while, but then made a pact to do something about it. "Something" meant picking worms up with their beaks, climbing in bed with Hennessey, and depositing said worms in Hennessey's open mouth. If Hennessey didn't immediately awaken, the birds would proceed to peck the innards of Hennessey's nostrils until the pain was so excruciating that he was roused from his slumber. Unfortunately, "peck-a-boo" never served to deter the Ballard businessperson, who keeps right on wheezing in his sleep—and has the peck marks to prove it.
Blacky was the alpha chicken, defending the more docile Marshmallow at every turn—shooing off squirrels, lizards, and large rats that shimmied their way into the coop. Then one day, Hennessey brought a dog home—a Labradoodle named Cooper (the Labradoodle is a designer breed that results from a golden Lab mounting a standard poodle or vice versa).
At first the wacky-looking pup treated the chickens as chums, chasing his tail for their entertainment, and occasionally, chasing them for his. One night, as the birds hibernated, Cooper unlatched the coop's door and began nudging Marshmallow with his nose. Blacky, ever protective of his friend, woke up and pecked Cooper on his fleshy undercarriage. The dog promptly spun around and sank his teeth into Blacky's neck, whipping the chicken around like a rag doll to the point of decapitation.
Cooper, now a murderer, entered Hennessey's room with Blacky's freshly removed head in his mouth. Hennessey was mortified and considered sending his curly-haired companion straight to the pound. But then Hennessey thought, "What would Blacky do?" He cupped the bloody chicken head in the palm of his hand and carefully cleaned it in his kitchen sink. He went to the coop, comforted Marshmallow, and removed the feathers from Blacky's cold, dead body before storing the remains in his basement freezer.
Then Hennessey offered his Labradoodle the ultimate gift: forgiveness. Today, Cooper and Marshmallow are, like Blacky and Marshmallow once were, the best of friends. When Hennessey sits on his porch swing at sunset, sipping pink lemonade and listening to Morris Day albums, he knows that Blacky lives on—in the wind.
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