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.