Euthanasia is never easy, but it can be less punishing.
The secret is to focus on love instead of loss.
It’s a cold north wind that blows through
my ribs today. Like a stand of quaking
aspen, my bones are held together by
proximity and not connection. My heart
hurts and I am joyous. She was someone.
A rescue came here to die early last year.
Instead she grew fat, made friends, woke
us up to a braying serenade. She was tiny;
a small standard in donkey terms. A mighty
presence, defined by hooves and quirkiness.
Decades of holding her ground brought her
to this fair state, vision and hearing nearly
gone. The pain hidden for so long, undeniable.
It must stop. She needs a predator to come
for her. Perhaps some fearful moments but
then free. It would be a good trade. Her
long ears droop awkwardly, her eyes are
deep-still. Independent, she keeps a bit
off from the herd. Like I do, together but
apart. I hoped her ancient heart would let
her go but still she stands, shifting pain
from one leg to another. Fetlocks quiver,
can’t hold weight long. She lost her taste
for canned pears two days ago. Nature is
dependable, if not kind. The pain of saying
good-bye is equally balanced with fear of our
own passing. Pause. Sharing life with animals
means keeping death close; welcoming mortality
inside. She deserves calm breath, not selfish
tears. Dear old girl, I’ll be your predator.
I’ll come for you in the full warmth of the sun,
without regret. The vet bends quietly to feel
that ankle and gets a kick for asking. One last
profanity. My teeth catch the air with the precious
joy of knowing her. Cantankerous, I’ll keep
that part for me. With one hand on her halter,
one hand scratching her forehead, the way she
likes. Keep focus; her impossibly soft whiskers.
She leans to my side so slowly, the weight
grows just a pound at a time. It’s a moment
to cherish. She’s not trying to escape, she’s
trusting my strength to lighten the weight on
her old legs. In her way, she’s letting me hold
her. Then it’s time, we breathe together, and
both of us, just a pound at a time, release all.