I’m not even certain I will publish this post … If I do … for those of you prone to deep sorrow perhaps skipping to the last paragraph is best …
We lost our sweet Bella this week. She developed an intestinal blockage that we were not able to cure … I’ve become familiar with the sadness of saying goodbye to our flerd members. Their lifetimes are short. Though they sure leave a big footprint on our hearts for the time we do share.
It is the choices I made this week that have weighed me down in anguish. On Tuesday I noticed that Bella was in pain. She was not eating or drinking. She would lay down and roll and grunt … and then I saw the telltale sign of her motioning to her belly. Donkeys are stoic creatures. When you SEE signs of distress they’ve likely been in pain for a while and are now at a level they cannot hide.
We have a wonderful veterinarian who was here within two hours to help. He strongly suspected she was blocked up. After giving her a sedative he gently fed a tube through her nose to her stomach. Using a hand pump he fed her some laxative, some stomach coating meds and some oil. He gave her a shot to manage the pain. Then he took the time to talk to me about possible prognoses. Most likely an intestinal blockage. But possibly a urinary tract infection … or an ulcer. He gave us medications to intervene in all three – a scatter shot approach to try to make her more comfortable. We were to watch her overnight and then contact him with our observations. Within three days we could see she was continuing to go downhill. Pain meds were the only relief. Our vet is a caring, down to earth individual. He gently warned me against extreme interventions that only ended in the same result.
With a heavy heart I called and made an appointment to have her put down … here at home … surrounded by her flerd mates … Although my heart was aching I knew we had reached the point that it would be a kindness to let Bella go.
The vet who arrived was not our regular vet. He was away for the next four days … and I knew Bella would not last that long. As I explained our week so far he loaded up the syringe he would need to give Bella a fatal dose. When we arrived in the paddock I gave him the milk carton which she would see as a sign he was there to brush and love on her. True to her nature she pushed her head into his arms and he experienced the magic of a Bella hug. A hug that seemed to say ‘Help me’. That was our undoing.
He could not see past her youth and her social disposition. He could not understand that her acceptance of him was part of her training – that people who sat on that carton were ready to brush her. To soothe her. In his mind Bella was selecting him as the special one to save her. He was suddenly very hopeful that if we could just get her down to their clinic he would be able to fix it all. Not 100% certain … but very hopeful. My heart leaped – even though my logical brain was buzzing a warning. It now seemed to me I had to try. What if a hospital stay did cure her? How could I not …
This is how Bella and I found ourselves in the care of a very earnest … and … arrogant man. I do believe he felt he could do this. Of course HE could. If HE had been here on Tuesday … she wouldn’t be in this condition today. (That was a direct quote.) I had loaded my car with a sleeping bag, pillow, clothes, food and water. I was determined to stay right by her side while she was there.
Bella was a cooperative patient – which broke my heart in stages as I watched and helped through the process of three more tubing episodes and countless attempts to start IV’s. We were mostly left to our own devices – camping out in the stall at the clinic. I was in touch via text with the on-call vet. He was charming, and talked non-stop. But with every treatment I sensed more and more that he knew what to do … but did not have the wisdom to know when to stop.
His was a focus on winning the battle … mine was on a loving care for Bella even if the end result was a sedated death. I slept on the floor of her stall that first night. Every hour or so she would paw at my sleeping bag – asking for an ear rub. That was her special soothing relief. By morning we were not in a good place. Pain meds again made a difference … but not nearly enough. Bella’s last hours were frantic. We were both alone together and helpless. Her death was not gentle. And my heart broke not being able to help her. When the vet returned to close things up he called to me, “Have a nice evening” as he left. Wow… just wow …
Everything was wrong. I drove home without her. Rosie would not have closure and would be searching for Bella for a very long time … I had done exactly what our dear vet had warned me against. I’ve been awake with shoulda – coulda – woulda’s. What I DO know … is never again. I have many more flerd family members to care for – in life and in death. With the next departure I will follow my heart. There is no shame in calling quits to pain and suffering. I will speak up. I will make clear my request for a sedative – a gentle goodbye – and an end to the struggle. Here. At home. Surrounded by love.