Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Used To Wonder

 I used to wonder how well I would handle having to put down an animal of my own. Slaughtering I can do; it's easier, mentally, to do the task since you know you will be putting meat in the freezer. But I wasn't sure how I would do with using a rifle to dispatch an animal that would not be used for meat. An animal too sick, or too old, or too "something" (imagine your own circumstance), to put it in the freezer. I've been lucky for a long, long time. I usually either found animals already dead, or found them minutes away from dying; so I never had to face that moment of loading a gun and putting something out of it's misery.

  Actually, I take that back. I've just been a coward up until now. I've had animals that needed to be shot, but I was a wimp and made either my dad or my older brother take the poor thing down and out. Yay me. Not.

  My memory is a funny thing... When I decide to forget something, then that's pretty much it. I forget it. I've got a "permanent delete" button in this ol' noggin' of mine. A couple weeks ago I was morbidly doing a head count of my animal losses this year (gotta' have something to think about while washing the dishes!), and it was the hardest thing trying to remember everyone... Last year was excellent; I didn't lose a single animal. But this year has been marred and scarred by multiples happenings; the cows had their issues, Peaches, the heifer, killed a bunch of goats, and then there was Trigun.

  I shot Trigun. It was the last day of July, early in the morning. My day had started out gloriously, my grandma and sister-in-law were over for a visit, we had our day all planned out, and I was busy taking care of the stock before breakfast time. Then I found Trigun. Laying down on the cool dirt floor of the barn, with all of her insides grotesquely on her outside. In short, I had before me a goat with a severe prolapse. Seriously, it was gross, and I do not get grossed out easily. The entire goat herd had gotten out 48 hours earlier (sigh... Goats are amazing fence crashers) and Trigun had made the mistake of eating foxglove, which is a poisonous plant. Normally this causes cardiac arrest, but for some reason it made Trigun prolapse. My first thought was to put those organs, intestines, and what-have-you right back inside the goat (it was early morning still. I really have no idea how I would have done that. Give me a break here), but that idea was quickly shot down as I looked at the mass of tissue protruding from her. It was filthy and completely covered in dirt, and dry; there was no way to fix that problem (no, I couldn't "just wash it!"). Poor Trigun was in a bad state; breathing shallowly, groaning softly in pain, and fading before me. That goat just wanted to die.

  And it was then and there that I felt my clear, semi-calm (you can only be so calm when you're looking at your herd matriarch in a state like that) decision. She needed to be dispatched. NOW. I read about folks who tote their livestock to the vet to be euthanized, or hear about having the vet come out to do the job. There was no time for this; not when my goat was in this state and the vet was an hour away. Sometimes the most humane way to end an animal's life is to do it immediately. So I ran inside, and told someone (I think it was mom?) that I needed the gun. I can't for the life of me remember if I went and got the gun, or if someone brought it to me... All I remember is my sister-in-law appearing to come help me with this task before breakfast. Bless her heart, my SIL has put up with so much over the years, but somehow I don't think she ever expected to have to witness/help the dispatching of a goat. Eh, there's a first time for everything.

  Turns out that the firearm for the job was our sleek, compact 9mm handgun. I had never shot this thing before... I knew how powerful it was though, and knew that it would do the job. I think my SIL came along in case I broke down and couldn't shoot my lovely Trigun. This was the sweetest goat... She milked 2 gallons a day, never shoved the other goats around, never escaped; she was a good, old girl. She was old too; almost 8 years, which is a ripe age for most goats. Walking back to the barn, there were those thoughts of wanting to fix her, wanting to postpone this. But once you saw her, you knew there was no way around this. She needed to go. She wanted to go.

  In my haste to help Trigun, I completely forgot to consider ear plugs for myself. I guess since I had never shot this particular gun before, and didn't know how loud it was, it didn't come to mind... My SIL didn't think of it either until the very last moment, but was at least able to plug her ears with her fingers.

  I used to wonder how I would handle having to put down an animal of my own. Now I know. You just do it. Turn your brain off and do it, knowing that this is the best thing.

 I aimed the gun; back of her head, right where horns would have been, the muzzle pointed straight to the nose. This causes instantaneous death with small livestock such as sheep and goats, whose heads differ from cattle and hogs (where you draw an imaginary 'X' on the front of the face).

I aimed.
Said I was sorry.

 Trigun dropped. Quickly, painlessly, instantly.

 I was totally unprepared for the impact of the shot's noise on my eardrums. Holy kohlrabi. They weren't ringing. Or, if they were then I sure couldn't hear 'em. In fact, I couldn't hear anything! Shucks, you could hear things underwater better than this. Turns out that I didn't have my full hearing back for another two days. Lesson learned.

  Dispatching livestock is nobody's favorite job. But it sometimes has to be done. For three months I've kept this story to myself, but tonight I wanted to share it. Not because I'm feeling morbid. But because I know myself well enough to know that I will forget Trigun eventually; and this is my way of recording what happened. It's also to give some of y'all a peek into the harsher side of this lifestyle. Not many people like to write about graphic problems like this because not only is it NOT pleasant (and who wants to read an unpleasant blog when you can read a hundred "very pleasant" ones on the web?), but it's also because we know that there are plenty of animal rightists and PETA members crawling around the place and they certainly don't like stories like this. But someone has to share this stuff. Someone has to be the brave (or foolish. Take your pick) soul to tell the truth that there are still hard days. And shucks, this one little moment can't be anywhere near what the ranchers in South Dakota are going through as they deal with their dead and dying cattle. So with that in mind, this is my story. I shot my goat.


Emily S. said...

Wow. That is hard. I haven't had to put down my own animals (except meat chickens, but they're different), but I did take one very weak goat to the vet to put down. We brought her in case she could be saved, but she couldn't even lift her head and her temperature was very low. It was very hard. I understand a little of what you have had to go through.

MedievilMaiden said...

Thank you for having the courage and conviction to share this. This is the side pf farming that the glossy picture books DON'T show - the reality of death.

Well done on an informative and inspiring blog. The combination of posts is compelling reading.

Take care

Illinois Lori said...

:-( So sorry, dearest...but you told her story well. Beautifully and tenderly shared. And bless your SIL :-)