I wrote this after my beloved companion Tiger passed, just a few weeks ago. Though I have provided euthanasia support for others as part of my Animal Chaplaincy, this was a Rite of Passage and an initiation for me, as I had never had to make this decision for any of my animals before.
Tiger’s passing made it very clear to me that when the time is right, we really are offering compassionate release, and that when the time is right, the animals are aligned with the outcome and journey ahead as we are.
Dear Beloveds and Friends of Tiger and I,
Tiger transitioned into his spirit body on Friday, Dec. 16th, after a very long and heroic fight with laminitis in his RF hoof. He made it clear to us that he was ready-after 4 years of being a willing patient, he’d systematically rejected every intervention, one by one. He was heard loud and clear, and lived his last month out eating grass and hanging with his buddies Bekin and Sky Girl, having buckets of grain, and showing me, his human, how much he appreciated being heard and having a seat at the table of his life and ultimately, his death. He had many conversations with me over the past month about life, death, companionship, connection, love, joy, beauty, exhilaration, adventure, creativity, and most of all, what it feels like to have a stilled heart.
His last week was prolonged with pain meds, his thick gel insert and his orthotic boot which he lived in since Feb, and a very doting Anne who couldn’t wait for the dawn to come so she could go outside and make sure he was ok-then calling me to let me know.
His extended team included everyone who loved him but especially, towards the end, Anne, who served Tiger like a saint, above and beyond anyone’s expectations, Jimmy our farrier, who tried everything to get as much rehab out of Tiger’s deformed and dying hoof, and our beloved vet Sara Lynn, who saw Tiger’s greatness of spirit and grieved his departure as much as Anne and I.
I’ve spent the last month in meditation and prayer with his spirit, helping me get my head around what was up ahead; all my animals have died on their own-I’ ve never had to make this decision on any of them.
I spent last Thursday next to Tiger, talking, singing, praying, loving and marveling at the beauty and miracle of our interspecies journey over these blessed years. It seemed fitting that the rain was pummeling and the wind was deafening-and we were huddled together in the back of the shed, both of us wrapped in horse blankets, freezing, but loving.
Equally fitting that Friday, the brilliance of a cleansed palette of nature and the bluest of sky marked his day to go. Time stood still for us that day.
There were magical moments. Tiger really seemed to knowwhat was up ahead. At one point, after his last bucket of mash, he picked his deformed foot up and placed it ever so gently on my thigh, as if to say, “I know what we are up to, and why, and that the road has come to an end. I’m ready.” There were even some funny moments too, which wove in and out of the day, so obvious that we could not help but feel the rightness of this integrated event.
His last mash was rich with a tea of long-life pills from the Dalai Lama, mixed with herbs and ashes from many sacred beings. I anointed his body with another mix of protective grains, shards of relics from my lama, sacred oil and honey. I treated his body with acupressure and massage to open up the energy channels so his spirit could depart freely.
It seemed that he died before even hitting the ground. It was so fast I barely tracked it even though I was just feet away. Anne and the vet were amazed-not a twitch or a spasm, gone, gone, gone beyond, beyond the beyond! As the Heart Sutra mantra says, “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate, Bodhi Svaha!”
After sitting with Tiger’s body for an hour or so, I wanted to walk around the mountain, to open to any little pearls of connection Tiger’s spirit might have for me. I didn’t have to walk long to receive the first message, which now has become a goal of this New Year for me.
“You must remember what it feels like to have a stilled heart. You know how to still your mind, but a stilled heart is different.”
I remembered a few days ago, Tiger and I looking across the creek to where a few of his deer friends were coming through the trees. I had the thought “I love looking at what you see” while standing on my tip-toes to put my eyes at his level. He looked sideways over at me and to my surprise, moved his whole head sideways to place his beautiful warm Arabian head on my face, cheek to cheek. I heard a little message inside saying “remember this moment.”
This was the feeling of a stilled heart. To be, just be, not do. To be, just be, with the beings around you. They are called beings for a reason, not doings, but beings!
Tiger, fly free. You were my heart horse and I vow to keep all those qualities you embodied alive in my life.
Thank you all for loving him and loving me.
May we all commit to finding joy and beauty in our lives!