One of my greatest joys is taking photos…of everything but especially my animals, family and friends. I say in that order because the animals are here, on the farm, while family and friends are a ways away.
Shadow, our Rhodesian Ridgeback, loved to let Abigail, our rough coat Jack Russell, do the work while Shaddie stood watch. They loved to dig out groundhog holes but, never quite, managed to dig out the groundhog. Every now and then, they would catch one out of its hole and then it was woe to the groundhog! I’ve spent entire mornings driving a deceased groundhog up on the mountain but no, I wouldn’t dig a grave. My attitude was, and is, regarding groundhogs…the coyotes have to eat too.
We have our share of blessings, more than we deserve, but we have our share of sorrows as well. This month has been one of sorrow…TC our beloved white cat passed away earlier this month and yesterday we, deliberately, lost three more.
Shadow, our Rhodesian Ridgeback, passed away of old age. She was frail yet full of good health and vitality but her body had begun to fail her. Her rear end was weak and she’d begun, more and more, losing her balance and falling. It was painful and embarrassing and while I could overlook her embarrassment, I could no longer endure her pain. She was falling down stairs and even had begun to fall while simply walking across the rug. My last gift to her was to hold her while our kind and compassionate vet, Dr. Anne, administered the injections. Abigail and Grace, our Australian Shepherd x Corgi, helped me give plenty of comfort, while I shed copious tears and whispered words of endearment as we said our fond farewells.
91, our calico cat, also old, frail and beginning to lose weight had a growth around the left jawline that had begun to grow at an alarming pace. Surgery was out of the question due to age and how the growth had attached to her facial bones. We knew Dr. Anne would administer injections for 91 and for Shaddie but what happened next was, somewhat, unexpected.
Bandit, the young kitten wandered in and out of the room, not quite sure what was happening. Over the past couple of weeks, Dave and I had begun to have some concerns about Bandit. He wasn’t gaining weight, he was puny, his limbs seemed loose and floppy, he wouldn’t play but spent his time resting and he was “not quite right”. In general, he was having trouble just being a kitten and would mew pitifully when he was picked up or would get his paw twisted. All those things normal to being a kitten, just didn’t seem right with Bandit. For more than forty years I’ve kept cats and kittens and have racked up plenty of experience. I told Dr. Anne all these things, and more, and said, “I don’t know but there’s something just Not Right.” She watched as he strolled away. As usual, he would wobble a foot or two then stop to rest. Dr. Anne gave him an examination while I watched as her eyes got big, “oh no, that’s a big Not Right!” Bandit seemed to have no musculature or, at the very least, very little musculature. His little body just wasn’t hinged together with muscles, apparently only with bone, sinew and skin. We’d already had several close calls where we’d find him hanging from a claw from the furniture, crying as if all alone in this old world. We’d rescue him and it would take him a while to physically recover. This seemed so cruel so the decision was made to put Bandit to sleep along with 91 and Shad.
These decisions are hard on the owner but hard, also, on the vet. A vet, like the doctor for people, is trained to save lives and putting an animal down goes against the grain; especially so when one is as compassionate and kind as Dr. Anne. It was a dark day for all involved but we have an aging household and farm. Tempus Fugit and as time marches onward, we all get a day closer to our end. As hard as it is to realize, our oldest horse is twenty, our oldest sheep are a decade and half and Abbie and Gracie are, at least, twelve each. Actually older but as they were foundlings, we’re really not sure. Miss Kitty is our oldest cat and even she’s had surgery for cancer. We can but do our best for each one and, when the time is right, get a puppy or puppies to bring new life into the household. Life and death are a cycle and, I believe, the best way to honor one who has passed is to give a new one a chance.
Dr. Anne bore all of this stoically but it was hard on her as well; for that I am deeply sorry. For me, grief is such a personal emotion and I tend to forget how events can affect others, especially during such a time as this. She was a complete professional yet so full of kindness and compassion. Dr. Anne…my heart is so full of gratitude for you. Thank you seems so inadequate and words fail me but do know this…I am looking forward to bringing a puppy into this household and taking care of her together…you and Dave and I.
Right now, Gracie is grieving the most and is having the most difficult time. Abigail goes with me as I do my chores and is therefore better able to work through the grief. Work has always been my solution for all of live’s ills and the death of my beloved companions is no exception. It’s always easier for me to deal with grief when I fall into bed each night and sleep deeply from exhaustion. Abigail, even if she doesn’t understand my motives, is still with me as I go ’round the farm and she, too, sleeps deeply. Gracie is having a more difficult time and I’ve had to cajole her into coming inside in the dark, wee hours. When the weather is warmer, she’s permitted to sleep outside but when it’s this cold, I want her inside during the night. The one thing that lets me know she’ll be all right, eventually, is she still has her appetite for meals and treats. Still and all, we must be allowed to work through grief in our own time and season; for some, it’s a longer process than for others. That’s okay as there’s no timetable to grief. There might be five steps, as Elizabeth Kubler Ross said, but there’s no timetable.
There are some who believe animals will not be in heaven or, specifically, pets or companion animals…as they are known here at Thistle Cove Farm, will not be in heaven. I believe those people are right…their animals won’t be in heaven but mine will. Every single last one of them, even those who didn’t live long enough to be named, they will all…no, they ARE all in heaven, waiting for me to join the happy throng. The same gracious God who has allowed me stewardship over my animals will allow us to be reunited in heaven to sing His praises throughout eternity.
Hebrews 12:1 says, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us…”.
Heaven is full of people who knew me, who were testamony to me and others of God’s great love, grace and mercy. God’s Word says if we, His people, fail to tell of Him, the trees and rocks will cry out. How much more will those who have voice cry out? And they do…every day. During the day, I live without radio or television so I can listen to God’s creation. So I can hear the birds of the air, the beasts in the field, my beloved companion animals tell of His excellent greatness. When those huge flocks of Canada geese fly over, crying out to each other words of encouragement, words that tell of His excellent greatness…I join in. I call out to them, to Him words of encouragement, sometimes my pitiful cries beg Him to soothe my wounded heart, to heed my prayers for loved ones. I cry out because if He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground, He surely knows my heart.
To those who have a smidgen of doubt, let me assure you, “cast your cares upon Him for He careth for you.” I Peter said it, I believe it and God is a God of promise. He cares for me, I care for His animals and we’ll all be reunited in eternity, the other side of the veil.
Won’t you, please, join us? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Blessings ~ God’s promises ~ Shaddie ~ 91 ~ Bandit ~ Canada geese ~ Dr. Anne ~ great cloud of witnesses ~