I watched two horses die today.
Euthenized by the vet because they were old and infirm.
I knew both of them, though only had spent time on the back of the male, Gotch. It was quick and surreal. The vet called it, “Blue juice”, concentrated (phenobarbital) that stops the heart within “three breaths” delivered in two doses. The first is an anesthetic, the second, the heart stopper.
Reba, the female, was calm as she was lead to her resting place, a giant hole gouged out of the ground by a backhoe. She seemed to know peace was at hand; the promise of no more pain. She flinched only slightly when the needle went in and her ears twitched. As the blue cocktail was administered, she raised her head and ‘grinned’. The vet barely stepped away before her hindquarters began to falter, then collapse. I watched the life go out of her eyes before she hit the ground. A part of me cried, another part marveled at how fast she went, and another … business as usual. Gotch was a little different. He seemed unaware even though seeing his fallen companion was inevitable as he was lead to his killing ground. As the needle entered his vein, his eyes widened and he stepped to the side, though only slightly, and he became the picture of alertness.
Maybe realization came too late, or perhaps it was just his male need to fight. His body began to collapse even before the vet was finished injecting the blue liquid, but there was resistance, not a panicked sense of desperation, just a refusal to go without a fight. Gotch hit the ground hard, a loud ‘wuff’ of air exiting his lungs. For only a moment, all was still, then he blinked a half blink and began twitching. Over then span of about a minute, he huffed out three more spasmodic breaths before his life fled completely and his body relaxed into the dust.
There really is no adequate way to describe how fast it happened or how temporally displaced both deaths seemed. Nor are there words to explain the sensation, and lack of, of watching two creatures go from alert living beings to empty vessels. The closest analogy that I can come to is the scene from “The Matrix” where the betrayer begins unplugging the characters from their chairs while in the construct, their avatars go flat in the face while slumping to the floor.
And like that, it was over and time to return to work.