My first close relationship with an animal was with Scamper, a Scottish Terrier I grew up with from birth. I remember crying my eyes out as a 4-year-old when it occurred to me for the first time that he would die someday. I sobbed with those initial thoughts of a life without my best friend.
A handful of years later he had a stroke and held on for another few weeks thanks to the intervention of my parents and our veterinarian.
I remember thinking that I would do absolutely anything to keep him here on earth so I wouldn’t have to face life without him.
My relationship with animals and their nearing end-of-life care has changed drastically since then, and this was tested just last week when it came to a vet visit for Bob.
Bob is a senior goat here at the sanctuary and is the animal I am most closely bonded with. He started to decline shortly after his 12th birthday back in March. He was losing weight, losing his appetite, and becoming less and less spirited over time.
He’s had vet care between then and now, doing blood work, dental work, and had some medications to see if he can bounce back. Last Wednesday Robine, Kelly, Jeff, and I took him to the vet because he was continuing to decline.
We knew that anything could happen at that appointment - anything from a quickly identified medical ‘fix’ to spring him back to his old self, to potentially deciding not to let him suffer anymore.
While that was a difficult thing to face, it was beautiful at the same time. All four of us were clearly focused on Bob’s well-being. His quality of life was our absolute number one priority, and any of our human feelings and attachments were secondary.
It’s an honor to be a part of this kind of decision-making. I feel like I’m a steward of Bob’s physical experience, and I care deeply about him and choosing the best outcome for him.
I’ve never experienced anything like this particular vet visit, from the way the veterinarian cared for Bob and talked with the four of us about our choices, to the conversation between Robine, Kelly, Jeff, and me. No human emotions clouded the conversation or got in the way of consciously choosing an outcome we felt was absolutely best for Bob. It wasn’t about us, it was about him.
In the end, we decided to go ahead with two minimally invasive procedures that gave Bob the best shot at bouncing back. All four of us were in agreement and felt that it was the best choice for him. We also agreed that we don’t want to prolong his suffering if he ends up declining again.
These are challenging experiences, while also being so heartwarming. It reminds me of how multiple things exist at the same time. Human Tracey is saddened to think about going to the sanctuary and not seeing Bob’s smiling face. And I have enough reverence for his existence that I would never put my needs ahead of his. And I feel so much gratitude for my relationship with him over the last three years. And I’m preoccupied with thoughts of little things that could make him more comfortable. And I want him to be able to peacefully exit this life when he chooses, surrounded by love and comfort.
All these things exist, and all are reflections of the deep love and care that radiates through every volunteer and care decision here at Harmony Farm Sanctuary. Thank you, Robine, for letting me be a part of this heartbreaking, beautiful, sad, loving experience.