Last week I made a tough decision. The decision to put my old mare Flurry down.
Flurry was 30+ years old (best guess), blind in one eye, had a heart murmur, and had an old leg injury which bowed out her left front leg and hobbled her up pretty good. Still, she seemed comfortable enough and got around OK, and my Thoroughbred Jasper was just absolutely smitten with her, so I let her be.
However, last week she came up lame in one of her hind legs. When I picked around, I couldn't find anything obvious, so it seemed most likely just the strain of walking nearly three-legged finally got to be too much for the other legs. Poor old thing could barely hobble around. So I arranged with the vet to come out Monday. Today.
And he did. He came out this morning and we led Flurry into the back yard, at first keeping Jasper in the barn. However, this proved to be too distressing to both of them, so we let Jasper out into the field so they could see each other. She immediately settled down, though Jasper was pacing the fence-line, clearly worried about his wife.
The vet gave her a sedative to calm her a bit, and after a few minutes, put an IV into her neck, and injected the drugs. Within seconds she dropped sideways onto the ground, and breathed her last. Pretty peaceful end for her, and the right thing to do, but that didn't keep me from crying. As I told the vet, just because it's the right thing to do doesn't mean it's easy.
Who I feel most sorry for, though, is not Flurry, not myself, not even the kids. It's Jasper. Though we had only had Flurry for about two years, he just adored her. Once she dropped, he began whinnying and running up and down the fence-line. He couldn't understand why she wasn't getting up. As the vet knelt next to Flurry, checking reflexes and listening for a heartbeat, Jasper was beside himself.
The vet left and I began the wait for the "knacker", the person you call when you need a large dead animal hauled away. A number I don't want, but unfortunately need to have in my rolodex.
I went inside for the wait because, as always, I have things that I need to do. Today is Bella's birthday, and I have gifts to wrap and banners to hang. As I busy myself inside, I can see and hear Jasper out in the pasture. He is screaming his agony as he runs to the fence and peers over at her lying there. His ears are forward, his nostrils flared. He stares at her, then screams, then in a panic gallops off to the opposite fence to look for her elsewhere, not wanting to believe, I guess, that that is really her lying there. But when he doesn't see her anywhere, he gallops back and repeats the whole process. As I consider what he is enduring, my teardrops fall onto the tissue paper of the gift I am wrapping.
As time passes, though, he is beginning to settle down a bit. His panicked gallops have become agitated trots. His head is carried lower than it was. Instead of running to the highest part of the pasture to survey all the fields, he is heading to the corner where the neighboring geldings are gathered, to receive their condolences.
I have just come back in from wrapping up with the lady responsible for hauling Flurry off. You want to think that the knacker is a hunch-backed toothless scruffy looking sort. But her name was Janet and she wore a monogrammed fleece and had a short blond bob. Nice woman. She commiserated with me and shared stories of animals she's lost. Some of the pain is already diminishing. For Jasper, as well. Though he is not quite back to absent-mindedly grazing, he is no longer galloping. No longer trotting. Simply walking back and forth, head held low, looking over the fence and then away again. No one can ever truly understand what an animal feels, thinks, knows. But to those who say animals don't have souls, or can't love, shame on them .....