The last sunrise…
There was nothing too remarkable about the sunrise on January 20th of this year. The sun rose in the east as she always does. At first, just a hint of her coming as she peeps above the horizon, and then her fiery halo cannot be denied. Making no mistake that it is now our turn to rise too and reminding us that each new day brings the promise of new beginnings.
But little did we know that today would be the end of one.
As dear Bertie was gently righted and assisted to stand, a common duty we now perform for many of our elderly sheep folk, he shuffled off to see the glory of the sunrise. His companion Mark shuffling off too just to his rear. Two grand old veterans of the ovine world doing what so few sheep ever get to do – grow old. Indeed animals – and in particular sheep – share much in common with us human folk. None the least growing old and an appreciation of the natural world.
But today was different. For Bertie shuffled just that little bit slower, as his side bore the undeniable hallmark of a pressure sore as pain became his each step. And as the day marched on, dear Bertie failed to do likewise. It was clear that his pain medications, lotions and potions, even at the maximum of doses were not fulfilling their promise. And so we were called upon to fulfill ours, something we had done every single day since that late August evening of 2005 when Bertie came into our world – and that was to give Bertie a life truly worth living.
Such is the heartache for everyone who shares their heart and home with an animal. Knowing that in the scheme of things the day will come, that despite as much (or sadly in the case of some animals, how little) autonomy we allow them to have over their lives, we have taken the responsibility for the control of pretty much every aspect of their life. From what foods they shall eat, who they will hang out with, where they shall live, whether they shall engage in sex, what activities, enrichments and opportunities their day will hold for them, and ultimately how and when they will die.
The latter is the greatest of quandaries, for when is the right time? But on this day, we knew. Bertie was suffering, and now with no longer a feasible way to stop or even mitigate this, we could see, despite the tears in our eyes, it was time to grant our friend the kindest of dignities. And as the sun set that evening, retreating as she always does into her inner world, so too did we, with the fond and tender memories of a sheep named Bertie indelibly hoof printed on our heart.
Closing the door behind us we were reminded of an old slip of paper that had recently come to the fore, having been hidden for some 15 years or more. It was the story I first wrote of dear Bertie, penning that the very sickly Bert (Bert was his original name, the “i.e.,” coming soon thereafter sealing the deal of his endearment to his caregiver) had been surrendered along with his even sicker buddy Ernie. Ernie sadly did not make it through the night. Waxing lyrical about the stoic Bertie and how he beat the insurmountable odds that almost claimed him, it concludes
Such poignant words that have been heartfelt by all who were fortunate enough to come to know dear Bertie. And we sincerely thank all those who ensured Bertie’s years were all they should have been; long, happy and healthy, even into his final ones. But most of all we thank dear Bertie for humbly being himself and reminding us of the simple pleasures of life, like seeing the sunrise. For every time we shall now see one, we shall think of him…