T.S Elliot wrote in the poem “The Hollow Men”, ‘This is the way the world ends/ Not with a bang but a whimper.“ I am not sure if Elliot was right when it comes to how the World will end as a whole. But I can attest that my own personal world ends in a whimper, and I was the one that would choose how quickly it end.
The choice was laid out in simple terms 1) take him to the Animal Hospital and confirm the diagnosis or 2) euthanize my best friend. If I went for option one it very well might end in euthanizing him, but it would mean confirming the Vet’s diagnosis and the added cost of taking him to the Equine Hospital. There was also the concern about trailering him in his current state. Between the sedation as well as the Banamine we had a tiny time frame in which we could transport him. But when I had moved him to this facility, he had fallen in the trailer and couldn’t get up for a time. That was on a day he wasn’t sedated, how would he trailer feeling like he was? But option two meant saying goodbye, when I hadn’t even processed what the vet had told me.
So I did the only thing I could think of, I called my mom. Maybe I was hoping she’d have some new perspective, maybe I just didn’t want to make this choice alone or at all. She listened as I haltingly told her what had happened and what our options were, I tried not to cry as I told her. She was comforting and supportive, but did say what the deepest part of me knew “you know honey, I think it’s just his time.”
You know that feeling, when you’re about to cry your eyes out? But you’re fighting that urge? The pressure that you feel behind your eyes, the tightness in your throat, the gathering wetness, and yet you just don’t want to cry at least for now. So you fight to get the words passed your tight throat, fight against the tears. My mom seemed to know, and waited patiently for my response. Then she offered to make the choice for me, and it would be so simple to hand over the phone to the Vet and let them come to a decision, difficult choice out of my hands.
But even as I considered it, it felt wrong. Like leaving him before they put him down and not being there, alone around strangers more or less. Easy for me, I get in the car and go. I could pretend it was my own Schrodinger’s Cat, a paradox in my mind where he could be both alive and dead as long as I never opened the ‘box’. Welcome to stage one of grief: Denial.
But how could I leave him? He’d always been there for me, now when he needed me the most I was considering not being there. It felt wrong, so with everything I had I told my mom no I needed to make the choice, and I needed to be there for him. Hanging up I walked over to the Vet and the Barn’s owner with a weird calmness I gave my answer and asked what would happen after. There were many options for burial, we could bury but since it was out in the hill country it wasn’t always ideal since the ground was hard. There were companies that could come pick up the remains and dispose of them, but I remember reading an article about rendering and parts used in some make up products. That was a hard no for me. The final option I was given was cremation, the crematorium would pick him up and deliver the ashes to me. I didn’t even pause, that’s what I wanted. The vet nodded in sympathy and let me know her and the owner would figure out the best place to do it and set everything up. They would give me a moment alone with him. They would come get me when they were ready.
“He might be feeling ok, because of the meds if he wants to graze let him.” The Vet said as she held open the gate to the covered arena. I nodded shallowly and led him to a patch of grass under the trees that he always like to graze at. I was feeling numb, and to be honest don’t remember much of the time when we were waiting. I remember hugging his neck, and calling the BFF to let her know. I had started teaching her to ride a few years before, and Peps had been the best teacher. She already knew he’d been sick as I was keeping her updated. I thought she should know too, that I had made my decision. She cried over the phone, excused herself from the winery tour she was doing on her vacation. But told me to call her if I needed anything. I didn’t right now, the numbness was making me slow to respond. I was in survival mode, but as I typed this I wish I could have been more present. After all these were my final moments with him, I wish I could remember if I even spoke to him.
Before too long the vet tech came over to get us to lead us to the spot. Way from the barn and paddocks but still accessible to the road for the pick up when it was all said and done. I walked him over and the vet handed me some treats to feed him, as she talked me through it.
“What I am essentially doing is overdosing him. He’ll be gone before he hits the ground, but I will warn while I’ll try and guide him down sometimes they do fall hard. But he’ll already be gone.” She kept telling me, not sure if it was true or if she was just trying to make me feel better about the whole thing. I kept mechanically feeding him treats while trying to keep my eyes on him for one last memory. Don’t let him falling down be my last memory, I prayed. Instead I noted how he stopped eating the treats and looked around at the unfamiliar area. How he held the treats in his mouth, eyes alert, ears pointed and the tension in his neck. But beyond his obvious stress, I also noted how the sun shined on his coat, highlighting the red in his bay coloring. The richness of the black in his mane, even with mud caked into it. I remember thinking that I never did get to clean him up, like I told him I would. I wondered if they’d let me get a brush for him. But by then the vet was taking the lead rope from me and directing him a little bit away but still close. The barn’s owner came over and wrapped her arms around me as I did the same and I noticed that she had tears in her eyes too. I was grateful for her support at this moment.
The Vet’s attention was on Peps, quietly talking to him as she prepared to inject the fatal dose. A quick puncture of a needle, I watched as my world ended. Eyes rolled back, jaw went lax, and legs gave way to the sound of the vet whispering “shh good boy, easy boy”. The world should end with a bang, the sound of my best friend leaving this world should have been loud, but my world ended in a small whimper let out involuntarily by myself. A small “oh” was all that marked his passing.