Monday, April 16, 2012
Old Man Guinnias has gone on
It's a very sad day for me. Old Man Guinnias was the first old creature to come to Apifera at age 15, crippled from foot neglect [we adopted him from New Moon Goat Farm]. But he just kept on ticking. Those of you that know me well, understand that this was more than a goat - he was a muse, a friend, an inspiration, a first. Every old man I ever knew or loved was wrapped up into that goat. He will never be replaced. He will never be forgotten.
One dances through life with various muses, tapping a two step or lingering shoulder to shoulder to a love song. But in the end, one has to take the final dance alone. And so Old Man Guinnias quietly danced off last night without me. He was going into his twentieth year.
As I walked to the barn this morning, the usual sounds greeted me - the donkeys brayed, the horse nickered, the ducks spoke and I could hear the chickens flapping their wings in their coop anticipating the new day. The Head Troll was already up and out, and Professor and Stevie slept near the entrance to Guinnias' sleeping chambers. The pig was still snoring, only a few feet from the Old Man. And there he was, my beautiful old goat, on his side, eyes open but dancing far, far, away.
While I gasped as I saw him, I was prepared. In the last two weeks he had been getting weaker on his legs and falling frequently. He was losing weight and I couldn't keep it on him even with various supplements. On Sunday he couldn't get up without assistance and throughout the day he fell four times. I would hear him crying and I'd find him splayed out on his side, unable to right himself. A goat or ruminant is in trouble if they are on their side too long, especially an old fellow. On one fall, he had somehow turned his neck backwards. His uncrippled left side was simply unable to hold him up anymore. Thankfully I was in the barnyard all day working, so was able to rescue him each time, and with each incident, I held him and spoke with him about...everything.
He was no longer safe, nor could he do simple things he enjoyed - walking to the gate to meet me or standing in the sun. They say one will "just know the right time" to put an animal down. I have found that not always to be true. But yesterday, I knew.
And that inner knowledge was a gift, because it let me and Guinny have a day of goodbyes. I spent long spells holding him and telling him how special our journey was together.
"You were meant to be here, Guin, there will never be another goat like you, never," I said.
I sat in the stall and sang to him. His body pushed into me, unable to stand on its own, his head was on my shoulder. When I looked in his eyes, I saw dignity and a goat that was tired, and ready. I cried with him, his were invisible tears. Most importantly, I was able to tell him it was okay to go on, and I told him I'd do right by him and wouldn't let him suffer. It was time to let go.
When I put him to bed last night, I secured him in his stall so he would have less chance of falling. He was resting peacefully after his dinner. I had planned to call the vet this morning. But The Old Man did it his way. And I can't help see it as his final gift to me.
"She needs me to help this time," I felt those words from him this morning.
I am so appreciative I was with him so much, and especially yesterday. It was a beautiful, clear day and he had sun in his bones. Martyn offered to dig the grave but I needed to prepare it. It's my last gift to him, my last act of care. He will rest near Aunt Bea and Rosa's lambs and come summer pumpkins will shade him. He's wrapped in my first horse blanket that has kept so many other old goats warm in times of need and a small sheep and donkey will be his companions until he is settled. The animal crackers are from his special lady friend who loved sending him cookie care packages all the way from Connecticut. Their presence in his grave will remind me and him how far his love went, and how he made a difference to other old animals in need. The feather will help him float on days he might feel tired.
No more, "I love you's", no more blog posts tagged with his name, no old face waiting at the gate, no more sun breaks with Guin...but he's everywhere I go on this farm.
And as I documented in "Misfits of Love", I will honor Guinnias's request, when he said one day as we harvested pumpkins,
“Please face me toward the sun, and place my ear tips in a way so I can hear the sing song of the barnyard.”