Presiding Over Death

Artemis in her younger years.

Artemis in her younger years.

It was bound to happen, this winter or next. My ‘old girl’, Artemis is showing her age.

She’s been coughing for a couple of weeks. At first I suspected lung worms, as she was due for a worming. But a drench didn’t help. Then I thought she must have pneumonia.

But when the vet visited today, she diagnosed heart problems. Artemis is just old, and her heart is starting to give out, allowing fluid to build up in her lungs. No injection or pill is going to fix that. The only thing we can do is keep her as comfortable as possible.

In a way, it’s almost a relief, to have a goat dying of old age and not any one of the myriad ills that have befallen my other animals. But it also makes it that much more difficult to face the farewell I know is coming. She’s been a fixture in the paddock for nearly eleven years—it will seem bare when she’s gone.

Until then, my job will be to fill the remainder of her life with treats and scratches. To keep the bedding where she spends more and more of her time thick and fresh. And when the time comes, to make her passing as painless as possible.