Rest Well Zelda

Zelda yesterday

It was the email from Mother Katherine that got me thinking.  She wrote to Jon that she’s a shepherd too, and feels that shooting her sheep is the last act of stewardship she can do for them.

I don’t know much about Mother Katherine, but Jon has told me about some of her emails to him before.  And a few weeks ago she sent him a beautiful handwoven scarf with a scrap of the sheep’s wool it was made from that won a blue ribbon at her local fair, to give to someone who could use it.

When we decided to euthanize Zelda, we questioned whether Jon should shoot her or if we should call a vet.  I know I wouldn’t want to shoot Zelda even if I knew how and I didn’t want Jon to have to do it either.

But this morning, I thought of how important it was for me to be able to dig Zelda’s grave.  And I could see that it might be equally important for Jon to be able to do this last act for Zelda.

It’s also true that dying by a gunshot would be less stressful to Zelda than having the Vet come, him having to restrain her and put a catheter in her leg for the injection.

I went out to the barn to give Jon some time to think about what he wanted to do.  When I got back to the house, he had the rifle out and we talked about separating Zelda from the rest of the sheep and getting her into the pole barn.   I knew I could easily do this since she was willingly coming into the barn all summer for grain.

When I went back out to the barnyard, Zelda was laying inside the pole barn, by herself, as if waiting for us.   This was so unusual it felt like an affirmation of our decision.

I didn’t want to watch Jon shoot her, but didn’t want to go too far, so I waited in the back yard, gathering the little green apple that covered the ground under the apple tree by the Dahlia garden. I also picked a sprig of sage.

I heard the shots and while Jon put the rifle away, I sat with Zelda for a bit before dragging her to the hole I had dug for her.

Next to the hole, she seemed bigger than I thought she was, so I dug it out a little more.  When I  rolled her into the grave, she fell perfectly, fitting snuggly, her feet under her, her head resting on her shoulder.

My plan was to feed the apples to the sheep and donkeys, who were watching the whole scene from under the apple tree in the barnyard.  But when I saw Zelda in the grave, I sprinkled them around her instead. Then I place the sage on top of her and Jon and I filled in the hole.

It really all went so smoothly  From Mother Katherine’s email to Jon and me figuring out what to do and how to do it.  And all of it with, what seemed to be, Zelda’s participation and acceptance.

6 thoughts on “Rest Well Zelda

  1. So beautiful–the picture and your words. I was in favor of the vet doing his job until I read Jon’s explanation of how easy and quick and compassionate it would be for him to be the person who moved her on to another realm. My heart hurts with you both, but I feel so much better now that it is done. I loved your description of the quiet walk in the woods afterwards–so meaningful.

  2. This was so beautiful, as was the photograph of Zelda, that it brought tears to my eyes. The image of Zelda lying in her grave with her feet under her and her head resting on her shoulder was like she was just going to sleep. I think what you did with the apples and the sage completed the picture. I know it is difficult to lose an animal one loves, but when it is done with that very same love and thought it becomes so much more meaningful.
    You and Jon are teachers at heart; I’ve learned so much from you.
    Thank you.

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