Last Days of an Old Goat

November 18, 2010

Olga is living out her last days.  Watching and living with another through end of life is hard but enlightening.  The conversations I have had with nurses, doctors, veterinarians, pastors, ranchers, hunters, pet owners and social workers who experience and reflect on the end of life of another often story about the unspeakable.  For each person the knowledge, feelings, emotions, and passion that well up seem the same, depending on their relationship,  whether the one living out their end of life is human, bird, deer, dog, cat, or goat.  While we watch and sit with Olga as she wraps up her life as we know it, we get to live through such reflections again.

Two days ago she had trouble getting up in the morning.  She got her back legs under her, but could only get as far as her knees on the front end.  With a little help she finally got her front legs under her.  With all four legs working, she was able to leave the stall and move to the pasture.  She ate awhile.  When she had her fill, she sat down in the grass and spent the rest of the day in the middle of the pasture with the sun shining on her.  Not bad for an old goat.

Yesterday she wasn’t able to sit up or raise her head off the straw.  She didn’t have much interest in either eating or drinking and that seemed okay with her.  Yet the morning got me to thinking about how to treat the next hours or days.  Euthanasia is always a choice.  Over the years we’ve had animals put down.  But I’m also of the opinion that as long as there isn’t any pain, living out death might be best.  After all, we all only get to do it once, and being allowed to live it out well should be an option for either animal or human.  So, yesterday and today is being lived out along the lines of hospice, with our goal of keeping Olga comfortable, out of pain, a good bed of straw, and should she want it, water and food.

I really don’t have a clue what might be gleaned from attending the last days of an old goat, but I have an idea it is a spiritual journey.

© David B. Bell 2010

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