Monday, April 7, 2008

Death and life

We decided to have the vet put Addy down on Saturday, March 29. It was a hard decision to make, but I appreciate everyone's comments. It made it a little easier. One side of me felt that I had to do everything to save her, but the other side of me felt that it would be wrong to put her through all sorts of medical procedures to extend her life a few months. We buried her in the front yard, and I'm going to buy an evergreen to plant above her grave. I was terribly distracted for several days and kept thinking about doing things for her -- feed her, let her outside to potty -- before remembering that she was gone.

Of course, life on the farm slows down for no one. In the midst of all this, we found a dead lamb in the pasture. It looked like a perfectly beautiful, fluffy white ram, so we have no idea why it died. It was probably only a few hours old. I wasn't particularly sad when my husband told me he'd found the ram. Obviously it was sad to learn that the little guy had died before he even had much of a chance at life, and I wondered if we would have been able to help him if we'd found him sooner. But since I didn't know him personally yet, I didn't have the profound sense of loss that I had with Addy.

Then I realized that our relationships with people and animals have a lot in common. Sometimes, friends ask how I can handle it when animals die, since we face it so much more often than people who don't live on a farm. I always felt kind of weird telling them that you don't get too sad most of the time. Why don't we usually get sad? I should have realized that -- just like when people die -- how you respond to an animal's death is totally dependent upon the relationship you had with them. Many year ago when we lived in Florida, a neighbor died. I wasn't particularly sad because I hardly knew her. I think a lot of our animals are kind of like that neighbor. I see them almost daily, but we don't have much of a relationship.

There are other animals, however, that are like Addy. You have a relationship with them. You have shared special times, and you are close to them. When my goat Dancy died, I was devastated. I cried for days whenever I thought of her. I fell in love with her from the moment I brought her home and was convinced there was something terribly wrong with her -- why would anyone sell such a wonderful goat? I had her tested for every goat disease imaginable, and it all came back negative. Why didn't her three previous owners realize what a gem they had? I'll never forget the day that I was a little late milking, and Dancy somehow got out of the pasture, walked up to the kitchen door and called me! I got the milk bucket, and when I walked outside she followed me back to the barn and jumped up on the milkstand! For that reason (and many others), I called her Dancy Darlin, and I still cry when I think about her -- like right now!

When her daughter Carmen dies, I'm sure I'll be equally devastated. Although Dancy gave birth to Carmen, the little gold and white doeling became my baby immediately. I found her soaking wet, ice cold, almost dead in the straw only minutes after she was born. Her brothers, who were twice her size, were already nursing when I walked into the stall and almost stepped on the tiny little doeling. Dancy probably thought she was dead. Carmen became my first house goat, and I knew I'd never be able to let her go, even accepting the fact that she'd probably be a tiny little runt forever. She fooled all of us, however, when she grew up to be a beautiful girl. She's my first home-grown master champion, and she has even earned her advanced registry milk star -- again our first goat to accomplish that goal. She and I have shared so much together, both good and bad. I hope she is with me for many, many more years.

1 comment:

ivy said...

You made the hard decision, and it was the right decision. I have had poodles and poodle mix all my life so I am partial to the breed. But regardless of the breed, any family pet when loved deeply is really family. It is heart bearking to have to put one of your pets to sleep. But it is merciful at the end, especially when she was starting to suffer with pain. I think if she could say anything, she would thank you for all you did. That is the beauty of love. Love transcends death.

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