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In the past several years, I have dealt with the deaths of far too many beloved pets.

It always hurts – hurts like hell – to say “goodbye” to a loved one.

But I have learned, the hard way, that sometimes the pain is balanced by the incredible intimacy of being allowed the privilege of being with your pet at the very end. Of having every last second with them, and of witnessing their exit from this world. Of being the one to be with them at that moment.

You always wish that they could live forever, and deny that their time is coming. But, as it draws nearer, you eventually give in to the inevitable, and cherish the little time that you have left with them. Sometimes you don’t really know whether it will be months, or weeks, or days, or hours.

But eventually, a time comes when you realize that it is just hours, or maybe even minutes.

Sometimes, you don’t even know that the end is approaching at all, until suddenly, unexpectedly, you learn you have almost no time at all left with them.

That is how it was for us yesterday, when one of our two rescue goats suddenly went from having been a healthy 2-year-old girl, just the day before, to laying on our laundry room floor, dying. We still don’t know what happened, or how it happened, but when we went out to feed her and her mother yesterday, she was clearly very sick. She was jaundiced, and seemed to have a serious liver infection. And despite the vet coming right out, giving her antibiotics and vitamins, she was unable to pull through.

It was a shock, to say the least.

We had really hoped that she would take a turn for the better, and there was no reason to think that she couldn’t.

But she didn’t. And by late afternoon, it was clear that we would be saying “goobye” to her before the night was out.

By that time we had already brought her inside, away from the pummeling heat.

She was laying on the floor, and we sat with her. Eventually she pitched over onto her side, and I knew that the end would be soon.

We sat on the floor with her, telling her that we loved her. We petted her, and we cried, and cried, although silently, so as not to disturb her.

And then I just laid there with her, quietly, with my face near hers, with a gentle reassuring hand just resting on her, not moving it for fear of distracting her from wherever her focus needed to be.

My heart was breaking. But I was very grateful to be able to be there for her, and with her.

Her body would occassionally tense up, and almost vibrate, and then relax, and her breathing grew more shallow and ragged.

And then, she gave one last strong shudder… and she was gone.

Just like that.

If it has to happen – and it does, although in Blanquita’s case it was way too soon in her young life – this is the gentlest, most natural way for it to happen.

And it is one of the greatest privileges we can share with our pets – to be there for them, with them as they draw their last breath.

But it still hurts like hell.

5 Responses to “The Pain and Privilege of Witnessing a Natural Death”

  1. Esther says:

    This is so hard…. I often say I was raised by goats and dogs, and Blanca and Blanquita look like my darling Julie, who was the first animal friend I lost. Poor Blanca, she will be looking for her little girl…. Much love to you all, it really is worth the grief. Thank you so much for sharing her with so many.

  2. Leo says:

    It’s always too soon. The departures that sneak up on you suddenly without much warning seem even harder than those you have time to prepare for. I know where you’re at. Sorry to hear that it happened so suddenly.

  3. Dr.Mani says:

    Sorry to hear this, Anne. You took me back to a painful day in my past, too.

  4. Glen says:

    Anne, all I can say is Namaste – the god in me sees the god in you. We also had a sudden loss of our beloved pup – well he was 5years old but he was still ‘our pup’. We were given some very bad news about his gene trait for a bad spine and hips and had to make the most difficult decision of our lives in what seemed like just a few minutes. We too stayed near him, with him, part of him ’til the last. It’s been 5 months now and even typing this is difficult. Our thoughts are with you and all sentient beings during these most difficult of times.

  5. Dennis Galvan says:

    Anne, I too can understand your sense of loss. Over the years I have had my aging dogs reach a point where I have had to put them to sleep. It is never easy, and thinking back often brings the sadness to my eyes. However, the fun years are the points I try to focus on.

    Thanks for sharing your pictures and feelings. Enjoy your day.

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