Sunday, December 26, 2010
Good-bye, old lady
It is with shock, and sadness, that I write this post.
Georgie, one of Apifera's senior pygmy goats, died on Christmas night.
She was very old, and crippled, but just that morning I had filmed her, contently eating hay in her stall, for a holiday movie I had made for family. It's hard to believe she died later that night, for there were no signs of distress.
And it was Gertie, her compadré she was adopted with, who had fallen ill last Monday. Gertie rebounded, and we suspected an upset stomach. These two old ladies had neglected feet for years, so as they aged, their bodies became more crippled. If you take an animal that has been dwarfed, and then add a handicap of not being able to walk a lot, sooner or later, the rumen will get blocked, or the heart will be asked to do work it physically can't do anymore. We suspect that since Georgie walked very little, her body and organs just couldn't function well anymore, and perhaps her lungs had filled with fluid, and that would have also compromised her heart. There was no sign of distress that morning, no sign of pneumonia or bloat, no feed changes, no poison items about.
Oddly, when I look back on it, the day before she died, Gertie had spent a lot more time on her own away from Georgie, and even seemed to sleep away from her those last two nights. I think she knew. Animals sense death in another creature, if it is pending.
I came to the barn at 5pm Christmas night, and Georgie got up to take the handful of pellet I always gave her, but she fell, her front legs [usually her only working appendages] caved on her, and she went into a sort of a spasm. She could not stand. Within a half hour, I was able to get her to sit up, rather than lie on her side, and I massaged her sides which helped her burp. We checked her three times through the night, and all three times she was upright, looked uncomfortable, but she wasn't splayed out or thrashing. No teeth grinding. And she drank water when I brought it to her, she was not dehydrated. The only odd behavior, now sad to think about, was she kept making little bleats to me, and if I quit rubbing her head, she'd bleat again. To me it was a sign of stress or pain, but perhaps a bedside farewell to her companions. I considered bringing her into the studio where I could sleep by her all night, but I am believer that animals want to be in their familiar environs, and that large hay stall was her home, and her goat friends were there. The sounds of the sheep next door was what she knew. On my next trip to the barn, she was dead.
I believe in long weeping periods over a dead animal, if I'm so inclined. It's purging for me, and a way to show my emotional sadness at their passing. I sat with her little crippled body in my lap, and wept. Oddly, Gertie did not attend, but Old Man Guinnias did. I am so glad I spent time with her, and the others, each morning. She only had one year with us after we adopted her from New Moon Goat Rescue [where Guinnias is from too]and it was a honor to have her spend her final days here. Georgie was a sweet, sweet little goat, very kind and gentle, not bossy, not a trouble maker, just an old lady goat doin' the best to get to the feed dish.
I buried her this morning in the pumpkin patch. I saw Gertie there later today, nibbling on grass.