For Juno

For Juno

I knew if I didn’t write this while it was raw I never would. So here it goes. 

On January 28, 2020 I composed the following, alongside Juno in her final moments. 
The cancer had won. Juno was tired of fighting for the past year after her initial diagnosis, although she didn’t seem to let up until after that full first year after being diagnosed, it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that she started to decline. But in just over one month’s time, there we were, saying goodbye. 

Her heart beating in overtime, to make up for her organs shutting down. Her short labored breaths, sounding not much different to those she took during a deep sleep on the couch as she kept my feet warm just 4 years earlier. The way she would nuzzle her head under wherever your hand happened to be so you would pet her in her favorite spots.
I regret not petting those spots more.
Not singing her favorite songs with her.
Not taking the time to just stop.
And slow down.
And just be - with her - with all of the animals.
It’s a lot for one person, and I do the best that I can, I know that, and I think they do too. They know that I am indebted to them and they return that endless love with a loyalty you won’t find elsewhere. Always protecting us. Always waiting for our return.

And that’s what makes this so hard.
For 10 years Juno always anticipated my return. Whether I was bringing her a treat, her food, mucking a stall in the barn, doing rounds in the fields, filling waters, coming out to just sit with her or play. But she hadn’t a care in the world or a look in her eyes when I would walk out to continue chores.
And now, as she gives me this look, like,
“where are you going? Please stay. I need you”. 
I crouch back down and lay beside her, reassuring her that; “I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere. It’s ok”. 
Because this morning, I could tell that she was getting ready to say goodbye. She needed me to know. She had made herself comfortable in the back corner of the barn. The same corner where she slept as a puppy. And I knew. While there is nothing on earth that can prepare you for death, after experiencing it so many times, you begin to develop a sixth sense, and I’ll never know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but from the look in her eyes, I knew she didn’t want me to leave until she said her goodbye.
I hadn’t even started chores, but I could tell she wanted comforting. I played some classical music and just laid with her. I was freezing. Shivering. I had taken my coat off in the other barn while bottle feeding the goats, but she needed me, she wanted me to stay. The dogs were barking outside at what sounded like a truck pulled over. But I stayed. After all of those times that I needed her, she now needed me.
So we lay together. In the same spot in the barn that we did ten years ago when we first brought her home. My head on her chest, she stretched her leg out to cradle my arm in between her. As if to say “thank you”. Her heart still beating in overtime, she was finally sleeping, calm and peaceful, snoring, now dreaming. 

The tears come and go as we reminisce on the old days - which really don’t seem that long ago - but her labored breaths say otherwise. I like to believe they can understand what we’re saying. As I remind of the time I chased her on foot, for miles, after she found a spot in the fence where she could crawl through and go chase the deer. It was that incident that introduced me to poison ivy.
I told her how I still have the very first pictures of her from our long drive to pick her out, and then a week later drove through a blizzard to pick her up with her big sister, Stella, who she would soon be reunited with, and all of her previous “guarded” goats.
I told her I forgave her for the headaches she caused me with her insane knowledge of how to climb through the top bar of any gate, how she knew that if she found her way to a cross brace in the fence that she would have something to plant her paws on and she was free to run the alleyway in the field. We talked about her hatred of chickens, and that there are no hard feelings now, but she better not start any trouble business if she sees them again. 

Things were changing. She was calm. The barn was quiet. Her pack and stock knew she was leaving us. One by one, the goats traipsed over, as if to pay their respects. Lingering just a little longer, saying thank you for protecting us for so long. The dogs came by, each under Juno’s guidance at one point in their life, as if they were acknowledging all that she taught them, and forgiving her for the times she put them in their place. 

Hours passed, and not once did she display any pain or suffering. If she had, we were ready to call the vet. But we felt, that she deserved to pass where she felt most at home. Her barn, surrounded by her friends and family. Especially since the one thing she despised most in her life was a ride in the car. At which point, I played her favorite song for her, singing the lyrics to hat once made her howl along to the chorus. Only, she wasn’t howling, she was drifting. 
Her heart, slowed, no longer beating in overtime and her breaths more shallow and spent. It was time. 
After all the time she spent waiting for me, she knew that this time I wasn’t leaving. My words, reassuring her, “it’s ok, I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere, I’m staying”. 
And then, almost as quickly as Dad and I said “that’s her, she’s the one”, ten years ago on a windy day in Michigan much like today, she was gone.  
Each of us no longer waiting. 
She was at peace, and I, took peace with knowing that I was there beside her in her final moments, both of us together, in a surprisingly peaceful descent. 
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