I had fallen asleep thinking that he would be dragging around his creaky old bones and tripping over small stones for another day or longer, that Lucky would never really die. He had been fading for about a month and we watched as the progression of age crippled him. Like wind eroding stone, you can’t see it happening, but over time, it’s devastating, debilitating, deadly. It seemed so sudden, but in retrospect, it had taken some time, a rational amount of time. He was slowing down, tripping, resting on his “knees.” But it still comes as a surprise when Death arrives.
Beginning at dusk, Dave sat on the floor of the stall that Lucky shared with Ramona. Lucky rested his head in Dave’s lap while Dave stroked his neck and spoke soft words. Romana sat in the corner, present, alert, aware. Dave and Ramona held vigil. Just after midnight, Lucky’s breath became too shallow to register, his heartbeat too faint, too slow to count. Dave wrapped him in a cozy old blanket and carried him to a small room across from their stall, the room where Lucky’s previous companion Penelope, had died in my lap years before. Poor Ramona was left alone and Dave walked back to the house to tell me that Lucky had died, but I was asleep.
In the morning, I helped Dave carry the stiff goat corpse out of the dank little “death room.” How could a pygmy goat, such a diminutive animal weigh so much? Dave carried the hind end and I gripped under his front shoulders. Lucky’s nose peeked out from his woolen shroud as if to sniff to ascertain who was carrying him. As the blanket began to slip more, I could see half of his eye, the rectangular pupil stared at me, an unfeeling cold marble. Carrying the dead body of a goat is difficult enough, but add a single slippery step and the result is injury. Just one slice of wet wood along the lip of the step down onto the floor of the barn, and I was sitting hard and askance, sure of the bruise to come. Awkwardly sprawled half on the step, half on the floor, my body pulsed with dread in anticipation of the pain that would come once I could take an inventory of the damage done to my body. I had fallen, and I had gotten up. And in that, I had not released my grip on Lucky. I sacrificed my own posterior for the sake of his deathly comfort. We hoisted is rigid remains onto the back of the quad.
Dave drove the ATV and its cadaverous cargo up to the north end of our property, beyond the big rock next to the pond, past the stumps where the huckleberries grow late in summer, behind the propane tank that hides under the giant maples, to the pet cemetery. A variety of lost loves lie beneath the ground here — Penelope the goat, our cats Abbey and Alfie, Leo the golden retriever who live to a golden age, and more. A clear concern ran through my mind as Dave decided on a burial site — what if he ran into the bones of another? We had never clearly denoted plots with enduring markers. There were remnants of small stacks of sticks, and maybe some mossy rocks that had scattered when the tractor came too close, a vague idea of where some of the bodies were, but nothing definitive. Dave dug, determined that his designated space was vacant.
Dave dug. He cleared away a foot of snow and attacked the freezing ground with his mattock, loosening the earth in order to dig with a shovel. He never once insisted that I help, though he made clear the offer stood if I wanted to. I didn’t want to. Dave made a big hole and he filled it with Lucky’s little body. And this time we marked the grave.