Maria and I decided this morning that Jake was suffering and was showing no signs of recovery, we decided to euthanize him. We talked about how to do it, and I said I wanted to do it, and she said she wanted to help. So we did it this way:
She picked Jake up and carried him away from Ma, his sister and the Pole Barn and down into the far pasture, across Lulu’s Crossing. We agreed that Maria would carry Jake to the pasture, tie him to an apple tree, say goodbye there. I told her I did not want her present for the shooting – I used my .22 rifle – Maria is plenty tough, and she has been through a lot, but I think she would dream about shooting a lamb for a long time, it just wasn’t necessary.
I think it is more humane for animals to die where they live is possible, and at the hands of people they know. I feel it is my responsible to help them leave the world if it is possible to do so.
Maria didn’t want me to have to do it alone – I was more attached to Jake and his sister than any lambs or sheep I have known, they were profoundly spiritual creatures, their attachment to one another was moving – but I prefer to do it alone. I have done it before, it is a part of the contract, the life I chose, an authentic life with animals. It is a part of it all.
So we came down together, I very much wanted to take a photo of her carrying Jake, but she asked me not to, and she was correct in that, I put the camera away. I brought Red, he is present for everything that happens on the farm. Maria hugged Jake, spoke privately to him, then tied him to the tree with a blue rope. She went down to the gate where the donkeys were standing. I waited until she was out of sight, loaded the rifle with four bullets and released the safety catch.
I told Red to lie down about 20 yards away. Jake was very weak, he struggled against the rope, called out once or twice, and then collapsed on his side. I shot him three times quickly through the heart, he died instantly, there was not even the usual reflexive spasm.
Maria heard the shots, came back to the tree, picked Jake up and carried him out into the deep woods behind the farmhouse, she found a clearing and left him there. I will be honest and say that this one is hard, but I know this the life I live, the life we live together. I was very pleased to have pulled Jake out of Ma and seen and photographed him, he touched me deeply
Maria’s emotions are close to the surface, she laughs, cries and angers easily. Mine are buried deep in the cobalt of my heart and they appear slowly and indirectly. I learned to hide them early and bury them deep. Jake brought them out, for sure. Maria had to go out, and Red and I took a short walk. Writing is healing for me, I still wish I had taken a photo, I had to let one ever get away. I am grateful for the chance to help ease the suffering of a lamb.
We stood together, the two of us, briefly, in the great silence of death. Why did you come to me?, I asked him. There was not yet any answer. Tomorrow is our fourth wedding anniversary, and I am spiriting Maria off to an inn in Vermont, as we usually do. We will be there for two days, it will be a good time to get away. A lot of important and wonderful things are happening in my life now. I am working on my new book “Talking To Animals,” I am preparing to publish my e-book “Who Speaks For the Carriage Horses: The Future Of Animals In Our World” and my blog and photography are becoming more and more important to me and central to my life.
I believe the horses have entered my life and stirred it up. They are calling me to new work that I love and care about. Life is filled with crisis and mystery, lambing is such a metaphor for the human experience. Life and death, joy and sorrow.
For me, shooting this sweet little creature was a gift, an act of mercy. I brought him into the world, I helped him leave it in peace.