Watching Death

☆ December 17, 2011

I watched a death today.  It was hard to be sad and hard not to be sad – it was a fast death after a long and good life, but that still doesn’t make it easy.

Mike started his cow herd after his daughter died – he bought ten ten-year-old cows that were on their way to slaughter and having them, to tend and feed, made him get out of bed every day.  His herd has now grown from ten cows to close to one hundred, and all of them are descendants of the original ten.

Yesterday, two cows remained of the original ten.  Today, there is only one.  One of the matriarchs started a sudden decline about a week ago, hadn’t gotten up for days, was obviously at the end.  Mike had been taking her hay to eat while she was down but today it was clear that the most loving and respectful act would be to make sure she did not suffer on.

I knew it was going to happen today but I didn’t know when; Mike was out hauling hay and tending to other work.  The sun lured me out around noon and I walked to the far pasture where the cows were lounging – Daisy, Frisco, and Fiona, a few other calves, some heifers, and the two matriarchs.  Baby was resting at the far end, and the ailing cow was on the outskirts at the opposite end.  I walked down to Baby and climbed on him, stretching out on his back, soaking up his warmth from below and the sun’s from above.

I was roused by Charlie’s high-pitched yips – his voice carries very far – he was singing Mike’s approach and soon I, too, heard Mike’s diesel in the distance.  I was certain he would come directly to the pasture and I knew what would follow.

His truck appeared, slowed, then turned down the lane, coming towards me.  I watched from Baby’s back as he drew near and turned off his truck beside the old cow.  He stepped out, so entirely focused on her and the task he dreaded that he did not notice me watching him from atop Baby, fifty yards away.  He reached in his truck for a rifle.  No hesitation, no delay.  And before the sound was gone from the air he was back in his truck, backing out to the main road.  When he turned onto the main road he looked back to the cow, and I could tell that at that moment, he saw me.  He was too far away for me to see his expression but I could see his regret, his remorse for not noticing me earlier, for doing it in front of me. For me having to have watched.

He went off to check some other cows and probably smoke a cigarette and he switched trucks, leaving his diesel for a feed truck with hydraulic arms which he could use to move the cow, and he returned to the pasture and walked up to me.  Baby was standing at that point – he lurched himself up at the sound of the feed truck and was expecting hay; I stayed on him and was sitting, straddling him.

“I didn’t know you were here, I’m so sorry,” Mike said as he approached.
“It’s OK,” I said, “don’t be sorry.”  I told him I could have walked home when I heard him coming.  That I was there on purpose.  That I knew he didn’t see me; that I wanted to be there to give him support in the moment, even though he didn’t know I was there.

It’s harder for Mike than it is for me.  Most people wouldn’t believe that.

It was the right thing for the cow.  She was 24 years old, which is like 104 in human years.  She got to have a life that most cows never do.

She was there for Mike, in the beginning, when he needed her.  And he was there in the end, when she needed him.


104 Responses to “Watching Death”

  1. Cindy
    December 17th, 2011 @ 9:39 pm

    What a tribute. As always, your writing moves me. Thank you, Shreve.

  2. Patr
    December 17th, 2011 @ 10:49 pm

    Caring for others is a soothing balm to weary and heavy hearts. Mike did such a wonderful thing when adopted the senior herd for them and himself.

  3. Mishka
    December 17th, 2011 @ 11:26 pm

    So well written…you hit it right on the mark. We are so lucky and unlucky at the same time to be in a position to make that kind of decision for an animal we care about.

  4. Colleen G
    December 18th, 2011 @ 12:35 am

    Wow. I get it. I would have done the same thing if I were Mike and if I were you. She was one lucky cow and I’m sure you gave Mike lots of extra hugs and kisses for being strong enough to handle the situation. xoxo to all of you and RIP mama cow.

  5. Leah Adams
    December 18th, 2011 @ 3:06 am

    What a beautifully tragic tale. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  6. Suzy
    December 18th, 2011 @ 4:13 am

    Such a stunning tribute. The last line really sums up the beauty of what life should be.

  7. Eileen
    December 18th, 2011 @ 6:18 am

    This is such a touching story and so beautifully told. Thank you.

  8. Kay
    December 18th, 2011 @ 7:08 am

    Each day I look for and acknowledge thing in my life for which I am truly grateful. This story and the emotions it invoked goes on my list today. Thank you, profoundly.

  9. Lila
    December 18th, 2011 @ 8:24 am

    Mike kept his promise to care for these cows to the end. I am glad there are folks like him in this world.

  10. pam
    December 18th, 2011 @ 8:37 am

    another example of what a wonderful, humane person Mike is. and you too for giving him your strength and comfort by your mere presence.
    We are kinder to our animals than we are to people in their time of need at the end.
    my heart is with all of you today.

  11. poodlemom
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:00 am

    Having to put down an aging or ill pet or animal of any kind is traumatic. We had to do it one week ago; not the first time, by any means. Our hearts ache, as I’m sure Mike’s does.

    Having made the choice to stand up for his ‘special project’ cows, he did the most loving and thoughtful thing he could do for her. Thank you Mike, for looking after creatures whom others would have not.

    I am a Hospice volunteer, and pray for the day that we as human beings can do for our loved ones what now we can only do for animals.

    May absolute peace gently descend. ee cummings

  12. Linda S.
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:46 am

    Thank you for sharing this, Shreve.

    Condolences to Mike.

  13. Hawk
    December 18th, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    My sympathies for the pain; my respect for the strength to make the choice and end the cow’s suffering. It’s very, very hard, no matter what animal must be put down or what method we use to accomplish the task; no matter how long or how short the animal’s time in our lives. Hugs to you both.

  14. Donna
    December 18th, 2011 @ 11:46 am

    Even though I knew what was coming, I still had tears in my eyes, and yes I would of done exactly the same thing you did. What a wonderful life that cow had. I want to come back as one you and Mike’s animals:)

  15. Steph in Oregon
    December 18th, 2011 @ 11:57 am

    I’m not sure why you decided to share this with all of us out here, but I thank you Shreve.
    I am glad you and Mike have one another.

    I just wish the whole world would be so kind and considerate. We can hope.

  16. MJ
    December 18th, 2011 @ 12:42 pm

    Thank you. And Bless you both.

  17. Janet M
    December 18th, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

    The cow’s tale is bittersweet and beautifully told. It was wonderful that she lived such a long and pleasant life and inevitable that it would come to an end. My condolences to you, Mike and the herd.

  18. joyce
    December 18th, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

    Ending the suffering of an animal you love is never easy. I’m a city girl – cats and a dog, no cows. When I’ve had to make that decision, I’ve always had the comfort of reassurance of my Vet and his entire staff. Just being there while my Vet administers the shots is hard for me, I don’t know what I’d do if I actually had to do it myself.

    My lovely Lab turned 10 today, so this has been on my mind. The reality is we have more years behind us, than ahead. She’s the only dog I’ve ever had, and she truly is my little buddy – goes with me everywhere.

    My condolences to you, Mike and the Farmily.

  19. Rachael
    December 18th, 2011 @ 2:43 pm

    Condolences. For both the loss of the cow and for the loss of Mike’s daughter :(

  20. Karyn
    December 18th, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

    I am glad you were there for him. It is the circle of life, but it still leaves sadness. For Mike it is one more step in releasing his daughter.

    May the sunshine, however brief, warm you both from the inside.

  21. mlaiuppa
    December 18th, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

    I’m sitting here crying as I read this.

    I’m crying for Mike and for his cow. And I’m crying for my forever dog. And I’m crying for my dog that will be 8 years old in February and closer and closer to this time with each passing day.

    There is nothing we can do but love them and give them the best life while we have them. And when they have lived to their fullest and need us the most, then see that they have the best death we can offer; painless, swift, respectful and within loving arms. We are their caretakers and must be as responsible in death as we have in life. This is love’s true test. It is to be brave in the face of our greatest sorrow, not for ourselves but for those we love. We have to love them enough to let them go. It is the hardest act we commit, but it is not unexpected, because we know we have committed to it the minute we take responsibility for this life that is our companion for as long as we are allowed.

    My deepest condolences to Mike.

    I need to go hug my dog now.

  22. DonkeyTattoo
    December 18th, 2011 @ 3:58 pm

    Wonderful, moving piece.

    I am always and forever reminded of a quote from Terry Pratchett’s book The Wee Free Men.

    “We are as gods to the beasts of the fields. We order the time of their births and the time of their deaths.

    Betweentimes, we have a duty.”

  23. Diane Brown
    December 18th, 2011 @ 6:42 pm

    Thank you for a tiny glimpse into the soul of your world, and Mike’s. Blessings on his daughter and the lives he has saved because of her.

  24. Kathy
    December 18th, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

    Very sweet and poignant. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Torchy
    December 18th, 2011 @ 8:29 pm

    Even though I know grief is love that suddenly has no place to go, the urge is to make it stop instead of finding a new place for it. I hope all of you finds one soon.

    PS Can you make a “Hero” badge or cape or ring or something for Mike?

  26. Carrie Mc W
    December 19th, 2011 @ 12:05 am

    What a honor-for all three of you.

  27. Jeannie Ellis
    December 19th, 2011 @ 12:14 am

    It’s not always easy to do the right thing for the right reasons, but ultimately one must do what is required of them in order to live with one’s own skin. You and Mike have given so many fur-children such a good life. I’m so proud of you yet again. My condolences for your loss and my cheers for your good hearts.

  28. Cait
    December 19th, 2011 @ 7:02 am

    Sending prayers of peace and comfort to Mike.

    The kindness and the dignity in this story are good reminders on a sad day that humanity does have hope.

  29. Brandi
    December 19th, 2011 @ 8:21 am

    My sympathies. What a kind tribute to her, as one of Mike’s support group.

  30. CeeBee
    December 19th, 2011 @ 8:42 am

    Your post brought it all back to me. A week ago, last Monday at 3:30 p.m., my vet put down my oldest cat, a beautiful tuxedo. Rasputin was 19.5 years old (92 in human years) and had been my cat all his life minus 10 weeks after birth. Our house is a little bit quieter now.

  31. Lorrian
    December 19th, 2011 @ 8:49 am

    Tears in my coffee now. Thank you for sharing this glimpse of your life, Shreve. Making the choice to end an animal’s suffering is so hard…

  32. Alice
    December 19th, 2011 @ 8:54 am

    My sympathies to you & Mike, but especially to Mike.

  33. Maryanne
    December 19th, 2011 @ 8:57 am

    I’m sure it was a hard decision to make, even considering her age and state, but Mike still deserves respect for making it.

    Last year, we put down our 19-ear-old cat that we had from birth. I actually considered us lucky to be able to make that choice instead of waiting to let nature take its course. I thought we had an obligation to our friend to ease his suffering, and it was a small price to pay for a lifetime of love and companionship.

  34. Barbara Davis
    December 19th, 2011 @ 9:02 am

    I understand so completely. Yesterday We lost our der companion of 18 years. Red was a standard poodle, a big strong guy who had heard all my secrets, absorbed buckets of tears and given us so much joy ovr the years. He was the last of our animals who remembered our daughter and an essential part of our family. In the last week he had failed badly and couldn’t get up on his own. We were taking him to the vet this morning but he died quietly yesterday afternoon around 3. I was so relieved he didn’t hae to die in a cold vet’s offic. We buried him with a tennis ball in out in our woods close by our daughter’s headstone.Our lived are lesser with out his presence.

  35. Katblue
    December 19th, 2011 @ 9:19 am

    So glad you and Mike have each other. Thank you for sharing, I’m sorry for both of you for your loss.

  36. Ursula
    December 19th, 2011 @ 9:56 am

    So moving….thinking of you guys. That must have been so hard for Mike, but you are right… he was there for her when she needed him to be.

  37. EBFirelight
    December 19th, 2011 @ 10:36 am

    This is a gem. It is beautifully written and shows how much love and respect you have, not only for the animals, but for each other.

  38. kay
    December 19th, 2011 @ 11:05 am

    You have a life that allows for your animals’ care thru life and death in their own environments, by your own hands, whom they love and trust. That’s a good thing and I appreciate your perspective of it all.

    I wasn’t able to give my Oti that when he died, but his spirit is with me and understands and still we are bonded in love.

  39. Sandy
    December 19th, 2011 @ 11:22 am

    Losing a being that has shared your life is so sad.It is such a griping, remorseful intimate experience to hold their life in your hands and so very very hard to make that decision. I know in my heart that we all do it with love.

  40. Kay
    December 19th, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    As a licensed veterinary technician, helping people go through this type of decision is both heart-wrenching and an honor. It is never easy, but I always remind them that this is the last loving act you can give to your beloved pet. How unfair it is that our animals/pets cannot live as long as we do, but how beautiful it is that we can give them the most dignified and caring end to a life that has become intolerable. My thoughts today are with you and Mike. Blessings to you for giving all of your animals and pets such love and respect.

  41. Taryn
    December 19th, 2011 @ 11:26 am

    What a beautiful story. Thank you.

  42. Nathalie
    December 19th, 2011 @ 11:30 am

    Some things are better left unsaid, like you being there for him. Thanks for sharing this. It shows his love – and yours – for his animals.

  43. Janine
    December 19th, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

    You, Mike and your whole animal family are so very blessed. Finding each other has made all of your lives richer and deeper.

  44. The M Half
    December 19th, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

    Oh, this made my heart ache. Some friends of ours recently lost a beloved animal this way. We have only lived in “the ‘burbs” and so have only had housepets. Having to put down 2 of our cats was absolute torture. The looks on their little furry faces was payment in spades for the pain we experienced.

  45. Jenny C
    December 19th, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

    May you and Mike know peace in your sadness and snippets of joy today in the love of every member of your farmilies.

    CeeBee, you gave your beautiful Rasputin the greatest gift of all, a long and happy life and a merciful transition. Maryanne, may you have comfort in the memories of your 19-yr-old cat and, Kay, you and Oti truly are bonded in love. You carry a heavy burden, Barbara D., and I pray for ease in your spirit as you grieve for your beloved daughter and for Red.

    So hard to lose these dear members of our families, but as you so wisely said to Mike, Shreve, when Houdini made his dignified exit, it would be so much worse if they outlived us.

  46. Mamba1-0
    December 19th, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

    The kindest – and hardest – thing that a man can do for a beloved old friend.

  47. Nimbrethil
    December 19th, 2011 @ 1:48 pm

    It’s strange to me that any people at all would not understand that this was harder for Mike than you. It was Mike’s cow from the beginning, one that gave him a purpose following a personal tragedy. As much a part of his life as any pet would have been. Of course it was harder for him than you, that’s naturally how things would go.

    I’m glad Mike had you there, even if he didn’t consciously know it at the time. Even if he needs to believe for himself that it was worse for you. You’re the best partner Mike could have, I’m certain.

  48. Alex I.A.
    December 19th, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

    The title could have been, “Your Monday Morning Cry.”
    Peace and love from Oregon.

  49. carol
    December 19th, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    Takes an admirable amount of strength to end the suffering of a beloved animal. Sorry for your sadness. Here’s the thing that I find amazing about the event…..the bull you were lounging on couldn’t be less interested in the sound of a rifle shot, but was up and at attention when he heard the food approaching!

  50. Catherine Chandler
    December 19th, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

    I can’t imagine having to put down a loved animal myself. I’m sure I could if I had to, having grown up on a ranch and seen my pets get sick from various ailments. I never watched my stepdad shoot them, though. And regretfully, I didn’t stick around for my own dog to be put down…it was too soon after my father’s death to deal with.

    You are strong, Mike is lucky to have such support, and that cow was lucky to have such a family. Thank you for sharing.

  51. JenMarie
    December 19th, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

    THank you for sharing your story. As always, your words move me.

  52. Renee
    December 19th, 2011 @ 3:48 pm

    I don’t quite know what to say or how to say it, but I feel compelled to comment. All I can say is, what strength! Y’all are so fortunate to have each other to love. And Carol, thanks for the chuckle!

  53. TomT
    December 19th, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    That was very touching. I had to do a similar thing as Mike when I was a boy. It was only a pet lizard but I didn’t want him to suffer. It’s very difficult indeed.

    I also couldn’t help but think that what you wrote sounded like it could be out of a book (sequel?). Here’s to hoping!!

  54. Penny in Co
    December 19th, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    The worst thing about getting an animal is the time when you have to say goodbye. I am glad that Mike had so many good years with her, and had the strengh to be selfless in her passing.

  55. shreve
    December 19th, 2011 @ 6:33 pm

    TomT ~ no, but writing this was the first time I actually felt like I *wanted* to write another book, so…. here’s to hoping! :)

    Thanks so much for your words & thoughts, everyone.

  56. Claire
    December 19th, 2011 @ 8:02 pm

    It’s never easy to make that final decision to end the suffering of a family animal. I understand Mike’s pain. I had my beloved cat of 19 years put down a week ago. Max was such a loving, cuddly cat. I question myself that I didn’t do it sooner and just hope I didn’t cause him unnecessary pain. It’s had to let go. Mike did the right thing even tho it was hard on him. What a great life he is giving his cows.

  57. Kristan
    December 19th, 2011 @ 8:19 pm

    Oh geez. I’m in tears. This is… beautiful. Sad but so full of love.

  58. Debbie
    December 19th, 2011 @ 9:07 pm


  59. Nancy Dean
    December 19th, 2011 @ 9:23 pm

    What a wonderful gift you and Mike have with your animals. Thanks for sharing.

  60. wright1
    December 19th, 2011 @ 10:34 pm

    You’ve written before about how the farmers and ranchers in your area care for their animals, how they have a connection that in the developed world has become rarer and rarer. Mike’s commitment to this life that was in his care shows the ultimate strength of that compassion.

    To most animals, a painless death is not the smallest of gifts. I’m glad Mike could give it and I’m glad you could be there for him, both during and afterward.

    Your writing is simple and unapologetic, and continues to improve.

  61. Laney
    December 20th, 2011 @ 12:35 am

    Reading your blog is like watching a beautiful movie a few minutes at a time.

  62. Lesley
    December 20th, 2011 @ 12:40 am

    You always keep it real, Shreve and I respect and appreciate that.

  63. Leisa
    December 20th, 2011 @ 10:09 am

    And that last paragraph says it all.

  64. Wyoming Lover
    December 20th, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    I was thinking about Tracy the other day. I told my friend about her, and the memories I have. Suddenly I realized that I had been talking for over an hour, and had moved on to how different life is in Wyoming. It’s a place and a way of life few people really grasp. Your post here is just one of the my ways it seems time has almost stopped there. Most people wouldn’t dream of doing what Mike did, but it was the most respectful, loving thing he did for her.

  65. hello haha narf
    December 20th, 2011 @ 1:11 pm


  66. One Girl Trucking
    December 20th, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    Thank you for being the person you are Shreve, the world needs more who think as you do.

    Many blessings for you and Mike, so glad you are there for each other as well as the animals that own you both.

  67. Deborah
    December 20th, 2011 @ 3:05 pm

    I wipe a tear away as I write this. What was the cow’s name? I’d really like to know. I have been through this a few times with my cats and it is really, really hard.
    Ultimately, it is the most humane thing, but it leaves such a hole in our hearts as these creatures ask for so little, yet give so much… Back to the earth sweet creature…

  68. FK
    December 20th, 2011 @ 3:50 pm

    Tears are streaming down my face. You’re a beautiful writer, Shreve. I’m thinking of you both. xoxo

  69. Kim
    December 20th, 2011 @ 5:39 pm


    I have silently followed you for years, being inspired by how you live your life and secretly yearning for a return to my simpler days of being a stay home mom in Alaska. Those days are 25 years gone and I find myself in the “grown up world” of Southern California now. Working in a “grown up” job that I actually love, almost as much as being a mom. This is the closest I have come to publicly exposing my inner self, so thank you for such inspiration and may you be blessed for your courage and strength of heart.

  70. bumblebee
    December 20th, 2011 @ 5:58 pm

    Love, hugs and peace to both of you. This is just so very sad. :( Bless Mike for saving those cows’ lifes many years ago.
    You are both so very special and are perfect for each other.

  71. Joan
    December 20th, 2011 @ 10:44 pm

    I love this post. Thank you. Makes me honor Christmas even more.

  72. Mary R
    December 21st, 2011 @ 12:14 am

    A caring act for a steady bovine friend of many years.
    I don’t want to abuse this sadness but I am conflicted. Mike is a killer of animals- coyotes, elk, deer and probably others. How is it possible to draw a line between the killing of creatures that are not part of our own family as not being worthy of care or concern compared to the ones who are? Maybe it isn’t possible to articulate, but if you can, I would be grateful. People in my own life draw this line and I just can’t wrap my head around it. Respectfully asking.

  73. Gitta Wolf
    December 21st, 2011 @ 1:41 am

    Your respect for all life on this planet shines through everything you write. Honeyrockdawn is a spot of sanity and respite in a sometimes incomprehensibly crazy world! It’s also a super good read and the place I visit most on the web. Here’s wishing you and yours a wonderful 2012 and all good things for Christmas! xox Thank you!

  74. shreve
    December 21st, 2011 @ 9:34 am

    Mary R ~ Thanks for asking this question in the manner you have, and I’m sure you’re not the only one with these thoughts.

    “How is it possible to draw a line between the killing of creatures that are not part of our own family as not being worthy of care or concern compared to the ones who are?”

    This is the conclusion that some jump to, in regards to Mike, and it simply does not apply. It’s a leap of the mind that is totally incorrect. Mike never kills for no reason and never without feeling. He cares when it’s an elk, he cares when it’s a coyote.

    We eat meat, as does Charlie, and that is why he kills elk each year. I have sat in the snow and cradled these massive animal’s heads in my lap, stroking the fur of their face, thanking them. Mike gives thanks to the elk as he guts the animal, every single time. He has since he was a kid. There’s a great respect for the animal, and for his ability to kill the animal with one very well aimed shot so there is no suffering (this is why he refuses to hunt with bow and arrow – the animal suffers for hours. It’s also why I don’t eat feedlot-raised meat, the animal suffers during its life in the feedlot).

    When I shot the rattlesnake on the mountain this summer, I realized how intimately connected we become with the beings we kill. Even if we’re killing to protect others, not to eat. The intimacy I felt is impossible to describe to someone who has not done it. I brought it up with Mike over the summer when he came to visit and asked him if he felt this way and, while he hadn’t articulated it as I had in his mind, he knew what I was talking about and said that feeling was there, every time.

    Mike has huge love and respect for coyotes, and all animals. This makes him the best man for the job he has – he only kills a coyote to protect a lamb, unlike others in his line of work who kill as many coyotes as they can just to kill them. He is constantly under enormous pressure from his supervisor to “get higher numbers.”

    Killing a coyote to save a lamb is a “line”, too, and there is always that line. It’s there in the wild kingdom and we all make that distinction, every single day with our choices. Mike’s are just more blatant, and easier to point out and point at.

    This bums me out. Because those pictures of all the birds and animals drowning in oil in the gulf? WE KILLED THEM. You and I did that. No one is absolved, unless you live as a nomad, forage for wild-growing food, and wear clothing made solely from your pet sheep’s wool who forages for grass. Seriously. I wish people SAW the effects of their choices and actions and how much death occurs by way of those choices, right down to buying a cute cardigan made in a factory in China that pollutes the waterways, down to the building materials used in their house, the food they buy, or how they heat their house.

    It’s SO easy to point fingers at Mike. I wish everyone would analyze themselves in the same light: What animals and birds and bugs are dying because of my choices, my lifestyle, and my actions?

  75. Judy
    December 21st, 2011 @ 9:40 am

    Thank you for sharing such a personal, moving story of bravery, wisdom and pure love. Sending you prayers through my tears.
    Peace be with you.

  76. Judy
    December 21st, 2011 @ 10:00 am

    Another comment for Mary R. and Shreve (above):
    I look at it this way—-God has given us gifts of creation that we are supposed to be the careful sustainers and utilizers of, for are own well-being and continuance.
    When one of these gifts of creation steps out of it’s general environment and enters our personal environment, in this case a cow, the animal gets to experience something most animals never do—our love. This is what makes the difference.

  77. Evan
    December 21st, 2011 @ 10:40 am

    Shreve, your post (#73) is thoughtfully written and you ask questions that I have recently asked myself. Thank you.

  78. Mona
    December 21st, 2011 @ 11:18 am

    My heart sank but what can one do? That animal had a great life! You are both very strong and lovely.

  79. I Hermit
    December 21st, 2011 @ 12:05 pm

    Keep with your’e own being, the inner and outer self. Pain, grief, love, and above all the feeling of being interconnected to the whole world! Your epiphany came on a motor scooter, and then Shreve found Shreve. And the whole world opened. ALL of it, now you are in tune, and you share the vision with all of us. You hold to Hozho, or, beatitude. You lead and do not follow. Mike is the same way. You and Mike see the world as it is the nature/nurture paradigm. Your teaching touches all of us on a spirit quest. Death IS life and not to be hidden. Stories can and do give guidance and shared leave us not alone.

  80. Writerly Wednesday | Kristan Hoffman - writing dreams into reality
    December 21st, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

    […] “Watching Death” by Shreve Stockton I watched a death today.  It was hard to be sad and hard not to be sad – it was a fast death after a long and good life, but that still doesn’t make it easy. […]

  81. Angela
    December 21st, 2011 @ 4:02 pm

    This brought tears to my eyes. Earlier this month — 12/8 — I had to put my 17-year-old cat to sleep. It’s easy to do the right thing, but it hurts like hell.

  82. MJo
    December 21st, 2011 @ 8:38 pm

    I want to thank everyone who posts on this amazing blog. Thank you, Shreve for doing the hard work to keep it alive.

  83. Carolyne
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 5:43 am


  84. Katbalu
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 10:32 am

    This brought tears to my eyes

  85. gabi
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    Why didn’t he just give her an injection and let her go peacefully? Cows are so smart so I am certain the other cows and farmily had an idea of what happened there. I have to say I am a little surprised that he didn’t use a more peaceful method. Slaughter house animals know the smell of blood and screams of impending death and it terrifies them and stresses them out. You can’t tell me the other animals don’t understand that their friend was breathing one minute and bleeding the next and that the truck, gun and Mike won’t trigger a bad memory now. While I appreciate the respect you both have for the planet and all creatures and the connection you have, I just can’t understand why a peaceful injection wasn’t given and why you couldn’t sit with her during her moment. She gave so much to all of you and was a part of your family.

  86. shreve
    December 22nd, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

    G ~ When done right, the manner Mike used causes no pain and zero stress. And, laying out there with the cows (and on top of Baby), I can tell you they were not fazed in the slightest by the shot. Cows have a special hive-mind that is different from humans which I want to write about in depth sometime; I am certain they knew one member “left” in death, but there was no stress or anxiety surrounding it. And no residual stress from the gunshot.

    An injection on the other hand – that would have caused the cow massive stress. You’ve obviously never given a cow a shot, and I say that kindly. You can’t hold a cow down and their skin is half an inch thick. These two factors make giving a cow a shot (injection) a far different experience than, say, a cat or dog. Even a horse can be held with a halter – not so with these cows. The only way to successfully give a full shot to a cow is to have her in a squeeze shoot, where she is standing and contained, held, as it were, by the steel surround. It’s humane and comfortable for a healthy cow but would have been agony on this ill one. I have given and been present for a lot of cows getting shots, and when that needle begins to go in, they lurch, they yelp, they try to get away. It’s terrible. Frisco jumped – flat footed, with no running start – over a five and a half foot wooden fence to get away from a shot (I was on the mountain and there was no squeeze shoot). It would have been a terrible way for her to go.

  87. gabip
    December 23rd, 2011 @ 4:32 am

    I had no idea, and you are correct I have no experience in euthanizing cows and have only ever worked with domesticated animals; dogs, cats, rabbits and so forth. I didn’t know cows had such thick skin and no you certainly can’t hold them down. I have seen animals that fight death and we give them anesthesia prior to the injection to help relax them, but even then we had a rabbit that held his breath because he had so many surgeries he knew what the anesthesia mask was and hated the smell so learned to hold his breath until he finally had no choice but to take a breath and then he went under and we administered the injection so he could pass peacefully but in retrospect that particular case wasn’t very peaceful, I was cradling him and he kept trying to climb up to hide under my neck, he even licked me one last time, I thought I would quit that day for sure. Death is never easy even under the best circumstance, even with all the modern medical supplies, you never get used to it, you dread every one but you have to recognize when the animal has had every treatment possible and it is just time for them to rest. It must be a very difficult thing to do, shooting a long time friend and I imagine from the way you have described M, that it must have taken him a while to work himself up to the moment and I am sure he takes it very seriously and remembers always. I shouldn’t have judged, it just shocked me to read “backed up his truck, got out, shot her between the eyes and drove off….., It seemed so heartless and cold, cruel even, but now that I have a better understanding I see there really wasn’t another choice and she no longer has to suffer.

  88. Deborah
    December 23rd, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    I’m really appreciating the dialogue here in regards to Mike’s handling of the cow’s final moment. And Shreve, you certainly gave me lots of food for thought on my choices in what I buy! How can one know or be better educated in the things that we buy? I’d like to live a life such as the one you have, but my circumstances do not allow it st this point in time.
    Can you educate me/ us in ways that we can be mor conscious as consumers… Books, websites, etc?
    Thank you in advance and may peace be in yours and Mike’s hearts this Christmas.

  89. Angela
    December 23rd, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

    Plus, you don’t just “give a shot” to euthanize an animal. First, you give an injection of a sedative to calm/sedate the animal. Then you have to inject the ketamine mixture directly into a vein. It’s not like you jab it into muscle and push the plunger.

  90. Angela
    December 23rd, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    Deborah, there is so much information on there, if you’d just do a google search, or go to the book store, I know you’ll find what you need.

  91. shreve
    December 23rd, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

    D ~ I will compile! I’ll do a real post with some things I’ve found and like.

  92. Terry
    December 24th, 2011 @ 8:37 am

    I know it had to be done but it’s still sad :( I’m crying, but so glad you were there for him.

  93. Andrea
    December 24th, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    Here I am crying for people and animals I’ve never met. I can’t imagine the fortitude it takes to do it yourself and clean up afterwards. I’m sure it was especially hard given what this cow represented. (Virtual hug for you for you and Mike)

  94. Jackie
    December 25th, 2011 @ 12:26 am

    If she couldn’t get up, letting her suffer more would have been cruel as you said. It could not have been easy but it was the kindest thing to do for her.

  95. Deborah
    December 25th, 2011 @ 10:50 pm

    Thank you Shreve… in advance for the informational post on conscious consumering you will compile for me/us. I’ll be very eager to read it when you get around to it. Meantime, Merry Christmas and peace today… and everyday!

  96. Karen
    December 27th, 2011 @ 7:05 pm

    Thank you for posting this story, as it’s just as important to read about how the animals die as how they are born (Fiona!). What an incredible window we can look through, via your words, to experience Life at its most basic and pure…

  97. Craftcat
    December 29th, 2011 @ 3:26 pm

    as an animal rescue person I see the putting down of animals alot… Mike did what was right… we treat our animals a whole lot better than we do our fellow humans sometimes….he knew the shot was clean and the cow did not suffer at all from his kindness…. I thank him for this… and you for being there… her soul knew you were all connected in some way for a great purpose…love of one another….

  98. Amy Craft Ahrens
    December 29th, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

    A powerful post. I was left with tears in my eyes.

  99. Sherri
    December 30th, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

    This post has really touched a spot inside of me….Last month I stood beside my 40 year old pony when the bullet hit her brain.

    I couldn’t keep weight on her in the summer so I sure wouldn’t be able to in the winter. She was having reoccurring lameness issues and with each passing bout she was getting worse.

    A bullet to the head is the fastest and cleanest method to put down a large animal. They’re dead before they hit the ground.

    If you have ever witnessed a horse or other large animal being euthanized when it doesn’t go well. Take it for one who knows, it can be the most horrifying things to watch. There is NO comparision between a large animal and a cat or dog!!

    Hugz to you and Mike!!

  100. Della
    January 3rd, 2012 @ 1:06 am

    A loving tribute indeed. I grew up on a farm, and my Dad always said that shooting an animal was the quickest and kindest way of killing them. I still believe that. I believe that even with small animals, just as long as it’s done right and hopefully with compassion.

  101. Della
    January 3rd, 2012 @ 1:13 am

    PS. Our vet was so good at giving animals shots that even my young gelding didn’t flinch when the needle went in. He was standing relatively loose in a pen at the time. My Dad was super good at it too, but not able to give that horse the shot he needed.

  102. ABQ Annie
    January 12th, 2012 @ 11:01 am

    The cow must have meant a lot to Mike if he kept her till she was 24, she probably hasn’t calved in years (past 12 years old a cow looses a lot of reproductive ability) and a bullet doesn’t give him any money for her lose where a slaughter house would if he sold her at a younger age. Insteed he put her to pasture to live out her old days. So no I don’t think he was cruel and heartless to shoot her and drive off. A cow eats about 10 large round bales a year, that could be $500 just to feed her with no calf in return. I’ve know people to care less about their horses even after they helped them win lots of belt buckles, and send them off to be slaughtered in Mexico.

    We had an old cow, a red and white horned old bitch named Kim, that meant too much to be sent to auction, so we kept her. Last spring she went down and couldn’t get up. We had a vet come out to help her and she started to recover. I fed her oats, hay, and water everyday in pails and cleaned up the crap that built up behind her for weeks because she couldn’t scoot away from it anymore. I had to constantly fight off the magpies trying to eat her eyes and other parts, and chase the other cows away from her oats. Then an April blizzard came and she couldn’t get up and seek shelter with the rest of the heard and froze in her sleep, her head tucked back peacefully. It was painful to find her. She only got a shallow grave because the ground was frozen and a bear dug her up last spring and we reburied her.

    I think that city people who “love animals” and join groups like PETA really don’t understand how nature and life works. Like when you got bad comments about not nuetering your cat. I’m a wildlife biologist, there is no euthanizing an animal in nature. We lost several cows and calves to wolves last winter, and the wolves were not kind in their killing spree to us of the poor cows. I recommend that people visit a ranch and see for themselves how it all works before they judge. From your story I can tell that the cow was more an old friend to Mike than just a way to make money. It is hard to make any money off of beef after expenses, so the people who raise cattle do it because they love it, not for the money. Thanks for your story Shreve.

  103. Diane M.
    January 24th, 2012 @ 9:25 pm

    I’m so touched by this story and all of the loving, compassionate comments made by everyone. I thank God for all of the people who see the divineness in all living creatures.

  104. Charlie Derr
    January 25th, 2012 @ 12:39 pm

    Wow. Tears in my eyes reading this. Great stuff as always. Thank you for sharing,

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