Rachel gathered around the dinner party table last night, had an excellent last meal of roasted chicken, and this morning I watched her wobble all the way under her favourite pine tree and curl up, getting ready to die. I have seen this behaviour in countless nature documentaries but I had never witnessed it first hand.
Selfishly, I had to get her inside the house and let her go the way I would want to. On her comfy bed, with me next to her, and Ottie and Portia hanging around, more comprehending that I am willing to give them credit for. Eyes already glazed over, responding only to a gentle touch of the head, she let me knew my presence was appreciated by blinking every so often. I stayed with her, whispering sweet words, while her breathing became more laboured, getting up only to call my surgeon neighbour, who promised to come over straight after his hospital shift to administer euthanasia if needed. I didn’t want her to get through the night in that state.
But all it took was a couple of hours. I knew immediately when she took three very long breaths, stretched her limbs and released herself to the other side. My hand on her belly felt her heart beat for a few more minutes. I stayed with her until even her spirit was gone and then our sad procession to the grave that had already been prepared could commence.
Last Sunday Rachel took a happy walk in the canyon. Yesterday, she was still barking at strangers, intimidating nobody. Last night she feasted with my guests. Not a bad way to go.
The thing is, who is going to stare at me so intently tomorrow morning while I brush my teeth?