One of my favourite things about my job is the animals. I grew up in the city and spent my childhood hearing stories about my parents growing up on farms. As a child, I tried to find ways to recreate those same farm experiences in my life. That usually meant playing lots of pretend in my room and soaking up every second I could get with any animal I could find. I yearned desperately for the day I would own a little farm with my own animals. Or, at the very least, have a job where I was surrounded by them every day. There is so much joy and reward to be found when working with animals. But there is a profound sadness we must experience as well. Whether you believe it or not, a deep connection can be formed between a person and an animal when they work closely with each other.
This connection enriches our time with our four-legged friends and greatly impacts our lives as humans. It causes us to become softer in the face of conflict, more generous with our love and encouragement, and prioritize what we love. This relationship we form with our animals shapes us into better people. Still, it also comes in the face of a stark reality: there will come a day when we will outlive our furry friends. When we work with animals long enough, there is always the inevitable decision that we must make to let our animals pass from this world. Whether that choice is brought about by old age, sickness, or injury, it is never easy to make. We can continue with sometimes drastic life-prolonging treatment to spend a couple more days, months, or years with our beloved friend. Or we can choose to let them go on a good day with the sun in their eyes and our hugs and kisses on their necks. At the heart of every person who works with livestock, our desire is to provide for the needs of our animals to the very best of our ability. Even if they need to move on from this life… especially if they need to move on.
It’s never an easy decision – and one that I’ve made more times than I wish I had to – but it is one of the most loving things we can do for our dear animal friends. It can be tempting to try and keep them around for just a little longer, but is that for their benefit or for ours? It hurts to let an animal go, but the pain is only amplified when we wait too long and see that they begin to suffer more. It’s okay to feel heartbroken and torn in two when you have to make that tough decision; I feel that way every single time. And it’s also okay to cry; in fact, it’s important that we cry. Cry for these beautiful creatures when their time comes to leave this world. Cry as you remember the special memories you had together. And cry for this bittersweet moment because losing a friend is never easy, and that moment of heartache should be honoured.
What can we do to stave off the dread of losing our beloved companions? Enjoy your time with them. Wake up and give your dog a big snuggle and a smooch on the forehead. Throw the ball again, because their lives are short, and it’s their favourite thing to do. Spend a bit more time grooming your horse, really showing them how much they mean to you. Add a couple more horse cookies to their feed because you love seeing how happily they munch on them. Treat every day as a beautiful opportunity to create new memories. And hold your animals lightly in your hands, knowing that any day could be their last, so every day you get to spend with them should be treasured and celebrated.