Here I am again.
It’s not a bad place to be. It’s kind of beautiful, although there is a longing in me as well… a sadness at my own frailty…my inability to solidify what I sense and see and hear beyond the physical realm. I know she’s not that far away. I can feel her here next to me, just beyond the veil. But I can’t see her anymore–I can’t touch her. I hear her voice, but it has an ethereal quality to it, not like the laughing bleat of her earthly voice.
Hootenanny is gone.
After thirteen years by my side, my naughty little goat has crossed from this plane to the next, and I can’t see her anymore. I will never catch her butting defenseless roosters, bullying horses out of their food, sticking her tongue out at the pigs as she refuses to let them enter their own house, gleefully eating produce freshly donated by Wegman’s, playing tricks on volunteers as she follows them around “supervising” their work, or sleeping peacefully after a long day of mischief in a soft pile of hay, her head resting on her beloved Ruckus.
I never believed in the maxim that we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead. Hootenanny was a naughty goat, sometimes even a bully, and I plan to speak of her that way. I loved her maddening antics. I can’t tell you how many times Hootenanny outsmarted me over the years, and I found myself running in circles as she dodged and jumped and narrowly escaped me while I tried in vain to get her to go hang out with the other goats and stop harassing the rest of the peaceful animals at Indraloka.
I remember one time, about five years ago, there was a teenaged boy cleaning the barn. I went to check on him, and found Hootenanny, a broom in her mouth, chasing him around the barn! Shaking with suppressed laughter, instead of coming to his rescue, I quietly backed out to get my camera. Alas, by the time I returned, the volunteer had managed to get his broom back and was busily trying to pull Hootennany’s head out of the feed bin, where she was gorging on sweet feed.
So you see, she was not a good goat. And she was certainly not a gentle goat. Hootenanny was a funny, fierce, stubborn, clever, naughty goat. A goat not easily forgotten. That was my girl. My maddening, ridiculous, lovable little instigator.
A few months ago, Hootenanny fell ill. Despite the valiant efforts of a team of vets and round-the-clock care here at the sanctuary, she fell into a vicious cycle, improving slightly for a few days, and then coming down with new symptoms over and over again, growing weaker every time. Ruckus, her best friend and lifelong companion, spent many an hour grooming and comforting her. Their love for one another was complete, all-encompassing, and unconditional.
On the first full day of spring, in the quiet of the afternoon as the cows and horses napped in the breeze, Hootenanny called me to her side. She fell silent as I knelt beside her, collapsing in my arms. Bent over her with my arms beneath her head, we made close eye contact as I said, “It’s okay, baby. I love you.”
The Anishinaabe death song welled up from deep inside me. The Anishinaabe people say that during the fourth stanza of the death song, the spirit crosses to the star world. And if the eagle comes soon after, we know that her spirit has safely arrived.
I looked her in the eye, cradled her gently, and sang with love, concentrating on her ease and comfort through my tears. As the song began, her eyes flickered for just a moment with her old spark. At the fourth stanza, the light in her eyes faded and her spirit gently lifted out of her body. I cried a bit more and laid her to rest.
Less than an hour later, an eagle swooped down all the way to the barn door, circled the pastures a few times, and then flew high into the sky, fading from sight.