Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Togther again: we lose Gertie



While this is a sad time, it is full of hope and possibility. A leaf falls and is eaten by worms, a father dies and his heart returns in memories and dreams, and an old goat dies and helps nourish the pumpkins. She whispers, "Go on, help someone else, you did your best with me."

Gertie has died.

I laid her to rest in the pumpkin patch next to her life time companion, Georgie, who died ten days ago. >

Gertie had fallen a couple weeks ago, and I knew her elderly days were numbered. I thought I was losing her then, but got her to rebound, and all this past two weeks, she was up and eating grass, getting around. But this past week, it was getting harder and harder for her to get up, and finally one morning, she didn't, and I found her struggling on her side. I knew it was her day to die. I've seen enough now to know it. I propped her up in a small corner she liked, and wrapped her in a horse blanket, then some hay to cover her since it was very cold. I surrounded her with two intact hay bales so she wouldn't be able to roll on her side. And then I waited. Three hours into the day, I felt it was best to euthanize her, since I knew it would be about 12 hours before she'd finally succumb to the inevitable- the rumen was unable to clear itself properly, the fluid was building up in her lungs, the heart and other organs were stressed, and eventually, she'd suffocate from fluid. It took Georgie 12 hours to die. I didn't want Gertie to go through it.

But all three of my vets, all at different clinics I use, were unavailable. I didn't want to put her through a bumpy drive into town. I checked her every hour, each time she was weakening, but still able to rally when I arrived, to make one sad, painful bleat- she was uncomfortable to say the least. By 4 pm, I simply asked the skies to take her, please, "You're going to take her anyway, let her go now." But the skies had their way.

I remembered the horse blanket I had in the barn, brand new, gifted for Giacomo, and never had the chance to use it with him. But for a 30 degree day in the barn, it was what I needed. Gertie was plenty warm from her hay and blanket, but the horse blanket kept us both warm together. I lay with her, literally, waiting, telling her stories, talking about how wonderful it was to have had her with us, and told her it would be okay soon. I was doing my best, I told her.

By 6pm, I felt her go somewhat unconscious, not responding to stimuli, but still breathing. I was freezing and went in to warm myself and have dinner. I returned around 8 pm, thinking she'd be unconscious and somewhat out of discomfort. But when Martyn and I entered the stall, she rose her head, and let out one last call, muffled in fluid. It was horrible. Foam was coming out her mouth. She was close to death, drowning. I cried, cried! "I'm so sorry! " and as she let her head fall into my one hand, I put my head to hers, and I gently covered her nostrils. She was dead in 30 seconds.

It was the hardest thing I ever did. It was the most profound thing I ever did. I felt very raw for hours, into the night. Just last week I talked to my equine vet about learning better ways to put an animal out of misery in emergency situations on the farm when a vet is unavailable. We ruled out guns. Overdoses are risky. There are few options left.

I did my best, little Gertie. She knows it. My only regret is I should have acted sooner. Even though I was with her, she suffered so much. What a soldier she was!

Oddly, a friend had come to visit the day after Georgie died two weeks ago and brought me two heart rocks for Giacomo's grave. She had no idea Georgie had died that day. So I told her I'd place one at Giacomo's and one on Georgie's grave. How prophetic it was she arrive with two heart stones instead of one, I told her. I hadn't had time to place the rocks, but when Gertie died, I realized they were met for these two little ladies, old, worn down and crippled, but very loving right to the last moments.

This morning, Old Man Guinnias switched places, and went to sleep in the corner that Gertie had died in.

Come Spring, I plan to adopt more seniors from New Moon Goat Rescuewhere Guinnias, Gertie and Georgie were from. To everyone who have sent animal crackers and donations in the past years to the Old Goats of Apifera, there will be more to come.

25 comments:

Cathy said...

I'm so sad for you, my dear. You did all you could for sweet Gertie, including helping her go. What a huge, brave heart you have.

Claire the Shepherdess said...

Just back from my holidays and catching up on your blog. So very sorry to read of your losses, but two dear old goats could not have hoped for a better home in which to spend their retirement days. they were so lucky to have been with you.

farmlady said...

You are such a fine person, Katherine. Your love of animals teaches us so much.
I'm so sorry about your dear old goats and hope that spring brings you new animals to love and take care of.
You are special...

~JANN ~ said...

My condolence to you on losing Gertie, she was much loved . I admire your loving/caring heart for animals.

SBD said...

The world of life and death on a farm is not for the faint of heart. I echo Cathy. You are brave.

Karen Deborah said...

You are an animal hospice nurse besides being a farmer. What a tender very sad post. I am sorry that death is visiting so frequently. They must have been very bonded to each other. I hope this day brings you some comfort.

Sandra L. said...

I am so sorry, Katherine. Your post brought tears to my eyes. We were faced with a similar situation when our rat, Pinky, died in October. We spent all night with him, trying to ease his passing, wondering if he would survive a drive to the vet's office. Finally, he left on his own.
You are very brave, Katherine.
May you and your beloved animals meet at the Rainbow Bridge. Right now, take comfort in knowing they are with St. Francis of Assisi.

Kim said...

Dear Dear Katherine,
I could barely read your post. I went through a similar experience when my 18-year-old cat was dying on a long weekend with no vets available. I didn't want to load her into a car (which she hated) for a long uncomfortable ride. So she died with her lungs filling with fluid and me not knowing what to do other than to just be with her and make her as comfortable as I could. I admire your courage, both for your compassionate action and your great big loving heart, as you go through these sorrowful partings only to open your heart and home to others. And for sharing your stories with all of us.

AnnK said...

I just starting reading your blog last week and now I feel as if I was sent by the Universe. I went through a very similar heartbreaking vigil with my dear long-haired Syrian hamster, Dumbledore, 3 weeks ago. Not many people really understood the depth of my feeling for him and how harrowing the last 24 hours of his death were for me. Thank you for affirming my feelings and for the care you are giving these precious animals.

Amber said...

No doubt the little goats wanted to be together. I would love any tips on how to humanely euthanize a very sick animal when the vets not available. That sounds terrible, but I've also had many goats have bad deaths and suffer longer than needed. When I know there is no hope I think it's the right thing to do. Can't wait for you to adopt some new friends. You are making such a difference at Apifera!
Hugs
Amber

Zap said...

I am so sorry Katherine...I am so glad you were there for her both these many months and today. I have seen many animals through to the other side, and know how hard it is...but you loved her well...

Mare said...

i send my love and healing energy to you and yours. Love is amazing and with love, you can do anything...

Ange said...

Beautiful posting, your love shows though, brilliant and huge, warm and wonderful, thoughtful and abundant.

Suzen said...

Here I am sitting at work reading this and choking up. I think that the most touching thing is that your heart is so pure and kind, Katherine. It's hard to hear your story without knowing how painful this must be for you. My husband and I are currently going through this with our kitty, Webster, who is fading fast. I just wish he would slip away because I don't want to drag him off to the vet yet another time. I keep alternating between he is going to have a miracle cure and I should not let him suffer anymore. He actually hauled himself down the stairs from his "guest room/hospital suite" last night and scratched at our door so he could go under our bed. (I thought he felt safe up there under the bed with his heating pad, night light and litter box.) Anyway he is all set up down in our room now and my husband is at home with him saying his goodbyes and keeping him warm and comforted. I just can imagine how hard it must have been to sit through all that hard process and finally put your hand over her nostrils. But I also think that nature has its ways and Gertie's birth into her next life was her own unique process. I know you would have done differently had there been resources for you. Love and hugs to you, Katherine. XOXOX Suzen

Tai said...

Oh Katherine. There are no words. To help an animal go, when they are in terrible pain, is the greatest kindness of all. Poor dear old goats.

As some have said above, I would also like to know how to humanely euthanize an animal...we find suffering wild creatures sometimes, and this weighs heavily upon me.

artistickitty said...

"♥" & tears....

Deborah Weber said...

Oh Katherine - sending much love!

Ima Weed said...

Some things in life are so hard, giving in to the death of those animals that we have loved and cared for can be agonizing. Helping Gertie along was a very caring act.

maccandace said...

I'm so sorry. You've had so many losses recently and you write about them all so beautifully. Georgie and Gertie wanted to be together. You're very brave, gentle, loving. I think you did a wonderful thing comforting her and ultimately helping her on her journey.

Apifera Farm said...

I want to thank all of you for such heartfelt messages. We're all just fine and although I miss those two old ladies hobbling around, they probably had a year they wouldn't have had. So you do your best. And to all who wrote above about their own losses,no matter what size animal, it's always hard - otherwise life wouldn't be so rich. Apifera sends warm thoughts.

Melly Testa said...

You are very good. Elder animals need people like you. Thank you and I am sorry.

Robyn P. Thayer said...

Thank you for this beautiful and courageous story. What a blessing for all of us. Sending peace, R.

Judith8Acht said...

Oh, so sad.... teardrops....
Hug you!

turquoise cro said...

Just back online and thought I'd visit the Apifera Farm! I am soOOo sorry for your loss again! YOU need a big old fashioned HUG ((((((((((Katherine)))))))))

Yarni Gras! said...

I don't know how you weave your love and thoughts into your stories the way you do. Tears are shed from an animal lover to a goat I never knew...but I know she had a great love in you. How lucky she was

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~