The End of an Era
The past week has been brutal.
Boot City and I made the decision a couple weeks ago to end Pablo’s, our donkey, suffering. He’s been increasingly lame over the past few years and had gotten to the point of spending nearly half his time laying down. We had Pablo for 16 years, but we don’t really know how old he was when he came to live with us. He was given to me by a coworker who had to basically trap him to get him into a trailer and bring him over. It was another year before we could touch him and while he became quite affectionate, the moment he saw a halter or any type of “equipment” he became nearly impossible to get near. Someone had clearly been mean to him and donkeys do NOT forget.
So, Pablo was euthanized on a hot Thursday evening and a local animal cemetery (I call them the pet undertakers) picked him up.
Side note. People often comment about how idyllic our lives must be living on a farm. Let me tell you, it is not idyllic in the way that people who have never lived it think it is idyllic. We take our animal husbandry very seriously and believe wholly in making difficult decisions when it isn’t always the easy thing to do. We have seen a lot of death in the 16+ years we have lived on our tiny farm.
On Friday morning when I was doing my morning chores, I noticed that Jaguar was less interested in his breakfast than usual. I actually had been noticing for the past month or more that he’s had a smaller and smaller appetite. He had lost a bit of condition, but nothing alarming. He was showing some small signs of discomfort (not eating, standing in a corner, not as lively as usual) but these signs were not terribly obvious. I knew in the back of my mind that he was just getting closer to his time.
The moment my car crested the top of the driveway on Friday evening, my heart sunk and I exploded into tears. I knew before I got out of my car that he had been colicking and it looked like for quite some time. His face was scraped up from thrashing. He was covered in sand and sweat. His sides were heaving and his nostrils flared. He was exhausted and in a tremendous amount of pain and it was 105F. The next few hours were surreal. Calls to the vet. Calls to Boot City (who was on his way home). Calls to my Mom. It was an easy decision to end his suffering. The rest of the logistics that surround the death of a thousand pound animal are not as easy.
Our property is nearly solid limestone and doesn’t allow the burial of any of our animals. I’m grateful that I live in a place where services exist to easily remove a dead horse (or goat, or dog, etc.). The man who picked up Jaguar was incredibly kind and understanding and I’m forever grateful to him for doing that terrible job.
I didn’t feel like I could really grieve until his body was gone and even now, days later, I feel like I’m walking around with this clearly obvious gaping hole in my being. But I’m not, at least not physically. And people who see me don’t know that I’m grieving for a partnership that lasted three decades. I want to wear a t-shirt that says “I’m sad, my horse just died”, but I also want to be alone with my grief and not share it. I need the people I’m close to to understand just how hard it is to process this grief, but anyone who has been through it already knows.
And yes, I get it, he was just a horse. I understand that the love of an animal isn’t the same as the love of a human. I know that the privilege of having horses is a luxury. However, that doesn’t make my grief any less real. In many ways the loss of an animal is harder because it is a decision that I made. It is an accumulation of decisions I’ve made about the care and well being of my horse for the past three decades. I know I did right by Jaguar. I know that he knew to the very moment his life left his body that I loved him with all I had. His eyes pleaded for us to end his suffering and so we did.
The loss of Jaguar is the final stage of my grief for the loss of my Dad. Jaguar was the last tangible thing that was just between Dad and me. Of course I still have my Mom and my Brother, but it was different with Jaguar. Jaguar connected us in a way that was different from anything else and that connection lived on in Jaguar’s every nicker, his adherence to a schedule and to every new and different thing he was willing to try.
I am a better person to have loved and been loved by Jaguar Juniper, 1993-2022.
Michele JesterJune 29, 2022 at 4:33 pm (9 months ago)
I am so sorry to read this about your losses this week. that sucks beyond but you are a wonderful parent to those animals and you did the right thing 🙁
Also, remember all the happy memories with both animals and allow yourself to grieve for a while. Life goes on and you will feel better (not perfect but better) in a while. Hugs to you and your family.
I am so sorry! But they are both in better places now. Getting old sucks (as I watch my elderly dad struggle) UGHReply
Tara TJune 30, 2022 at 10:25 am (9 months ago)
Thank you so much! I greatly appreciate your kind sentiment. I just remind myself that getting old is a gift that not every living being receives.
CobJockeyJune 30, 2022 at 8:30 am (9 months ago)
Oh I am so sorry. Helping my mom grieve the loss of her three decade old equine partner was the same way you describe it, and I know it hurts. Hugs.Reply
Tara TJune 30, 2022 at 10:26 am (9 months ago)
Thank you! It’s crazy to think of what happens in your life in 30 years and sharing it with anyone/thing, horse or person, is a lot of time!
Jill Steiner JoyceJuly 1, 2022 at 6:08 am (9 months ago)
Beautiful expression of very real and raw human emotion. Jaguar was a part of your life since age 13. I’m sitting here trying to think of anything or anyone that has been a part of my daily like since age 13 and aside from closest family I’m drawing a blank. Thinking of you. Thank you for sharing so many of your adventures with Jaguar, Pablo, Boot City, and your little farm over the years through your blog. Much love, Tara.Reply
Tara TJuly 1, 2022 at 9:46 am (9 months ago)
Thank you friend! Were you still in MCMT in 1993? When I think back to all the life events Jaguar was around for it is kind of mind boggling. I was so lucky to have him for so long!
SusanJuly 5, 2022 at 8:28 am (9 months ago)
This is an ongoing process as you know. I’m still sorry. I didn’t realize about your Pablo. 🙁 The part about the T-shirt resonated with me. And I get the wanting people to know, but also wanting it to be private. You are strong. And brave to share these sentiments online. Still thinking of you.Reply
Tara TJuly 14, 2022 at 11:02 am (9 months ago)
roothJuly 7, 2022 at 1:46 pm (9 months ago)
I’m so sorry for your loss – wishing you peace and space to grieve and healReply
Tara TJuly 14, 2022 at 11:02 am (9 months ago)
Erin Gardner GayeJuly 13, 2022 at 4:59 pm (9 months ago)
Oh friend, I just saw this. I am so so sorry for the enormous losses that you’re grieving. I’m sending so many gentle hugs. ❤️Reply
Tara TJuly 14, 2022 at 11:01 am (9 months ago)