A Herd’s Farewell
by Holly Peterson
I have had to put several animals down over the years, but I’m not sure I ever truly thought about what they went through until this experience. It has forever changed the way I let my animals go:
He went more peacefully than he lived.
Delivered to heaven, with his 'Mom', trainer and vet by his side.
The oldest knew first.
Winn's head came up and he started towards us, steps determined, ears pricked, nostrils flared. He stopped several yards away and just watched; waiting.
His very first friend Mac, his buddy, his playmate noticed next. Mac cautiously approached his friend, his steps tentative, his head low. Tentative touches with his nose as he moved around his friend.
The rest of the herd noticed at this point.
Ares came marching in, the others a little slower.
Ares reached him next as he marched right up to his nose with no hesitation, sniffing and touching His head and neck; pushing the humans out of his way as he moved to stand over his herd-mate, his best friend, the only one he'd share a flake of hay with or make room for at the water tank.
Blossom, the herd protector, was next.
She sniffed at him, then bit his ear.
She chased Callie off then pushed at his head and bit his ear again.......asking him to get up.
She did this several times. Chasing off the others, protecting him, while nudging and nipping at him, trying to get him up, until she finally just stood a few feet away; ears back, head low.
Callie quietly touched her nose to his in silent farewell then stood over his head, quieter than we have ever seen her.
Baloo provided us a brief smile as he snorted and ran away. Obviously distressed, back and forth, snorting...
He then ran away and hid behind Mac, peeking at him over Mackeys butt (for anyone who knows my horses realizes the humor in this as Baloo is 16.2h Mac is only @14h).
Stable mates for less than a year, he eventually overcame his fear to say goodbye.
Stash also quietly made his way in and bid farewell to his herd mate, though not as attached to him as the rest as they had not been herd mates long.
The first to notice but the last to come near, Winn finally came in, put his nose to Ivan's and squealed, just as he did when they first met.
They all stood silent watch over him for the next hour as the hole was dug. Ares making his way to his friend several times before we took him away. Not until the backhoe had left the field did they leave their watch and file quietly back into the field.
I know my words aren't adequately conveying the power or emotion I know the three of us felt watching the herd say their good-byes to their herd-mate, each in their own ways. To watch Mac, normally very bold and outgoing be hesitant , while Ares, the biggest of weenies, marched right in to stand over his friend, or Blossom do everything she can to protect him and try and get him up....I feel blessed to have been a witness.
They Feel. They Love. They Grieve
RIP Ivan Feb, 2013