The sweetest old Suffolk Sheep passed away today on her own, but not until after the vet was on her way to help. I am not surprised and it isn't the first time that the call to the vet prompted either a recovery or a passing. I'm convinced that the animals wish to pass on their own terms and we try to allow them that dignity as often as possible. Dogs have died in my arms at the vet as the room is being prepared.
Odie, our 34 year old Tennessee Walking Horse is our most laughable case. He is OLD and many times he has appeared to be unable to rise after lying down. A horse's gut can only take so much down time. We get up to three people pushing and pulling, trying to assist him and sometimes it just doesn't happen. I can't tell you how many times I've told people "Odie's really getting close this time." We know the time will ultimately come, but for now we laugh. Twice I've called the vet to come administer "pink compassion" only to have him immediately rise. Once he had been down for nearly 24 hours and the second time, he laid in the pond with his nostrils just out of the water. All in his good time. I think he feins as he has realized his frailty scores him special priveledges, such as unmonitored time at the feed cans and free roam of the front yard. For those who have been around a while, you know he would sometimes come to the front door, as if asking to be let in. Now we tell him, "Odie, I'm going to call the vet!"
Without looking, I'd estimate that Woody and I have experienced close to 60 passings since Chance and Bliss called us to this work. It's been an interesting journey.
I lost my Father in 2003 at the age of 59 to cancer. It was the only time I had been present when a person passed and the feeling in the room immediately lifted. It was palpable and my Mom and brother felt it, as well. Surreal. It caused me to really contemplate death and do some reading, such as "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. I came to understand that death is an important metamorphosis for our soul and that it can be quite beautiful. What a gift to be with Pop at that moment.
Euthanasia is such a unique and difficult issue. I've long held appreciation for the ability to administer such relief to a suffering animal friend, but now I see that it can often be a mere convenience. The dying process can be difficult to witness and we almost always utilize the talents of our animal communicator for insight. Only TWICE have animals asked or agreed to that end. They want to do it in their time, their way.
There are circumstances that call for intervention, of course, but it is such an individual and minute by minute decision. We are BLESSED to be seven minutes from a 24 hour clinic. Another reason our location is so important to us.
The insight from Sophie Wednesday afternoon via Jane St. Croix was that she was FIGHTING to stay here. We honored her. We got her up, fed her, spent time with her. At midnight last night, I fed Sophie a banana and grapes and she literally drank from a 16 oz water bottle, using her lips and tongue to manipulate the water flow. Amazing. But I knew she wasn't getting up again.
The seizures are a clear marker for me. Maybe its a convenience to prevent me from bearing witness, but that's my bottom line. There are people in our circle committed to hospice work who hold firmly that there is no such thing as a humane euthanasia as it relates to the larger picture for the being, but I disagree.
Team Bliss, as I like to refer to us, doesn't always agree about details (imagine that!), and another case, Windsong, has tested my beliefs. Windsong is a mare in her late teens who has inoperable cancer growing in her left eye. It was removed by UC Davis in 2008 and came back mid-2009. For a while, it was an ugly pink mass protruding and Rachel and I argued to call the vet on several occasions. But lo and behold, it somehow changed directions and is completely contained behind her lid. Her eye waters and itches, but doesn't appear painful by the head rubs I get. What's more is that her body condition and attitude are excellent. Jane's insights reveal that it does take energy to maintain and that she is sometimes tired, but it doesn't show. She has friends in the herd that she clearly adores. And she enjoys being adored by Atlas, just recently gelded. Obviously, this isn't indefinite, but her quality of life for the time is clearly good. I'm glad we didn't make the call.
So Sophie's choice to pass in the 30 minutes between the call and the vet's arrival was not surprising at all (if we need help sooner, we go to the clinic as opposed to a ranch call). I tried to coach Sophie last night that it was okay to let go of her failing body. Why did she want to stay? She'd already lost her two lifelong pasture mates, Abby and Nina. That's not mine to answer and Sophie may not have been able to stay as she desired, but Sophie certainly made a point about the way she chose to go.