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“Autumn is the time of year when Mother Nature says, ‘Look how easy, how healthy, and how beautiful letting go can be.’”
– Toni Sorenson  
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  Volume No. 15 Issue No. 9 September 2018  

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Bill Radford

  By Bill Radford

   Longtime local journalist Bill Radford and his wife, Margaret, live on 5 acres in the Falcon area with ducks, chickens, rabbits, dogs, cats, two noisy parrots, goats, a horse and a blind mule. Contact Bill at
   “It's time,” the vet said. “You've done all you can.”
   And, with that, the decision was made. The decision to end a life.
   We had almost made that decision a year earlier. Molly, our old, blind mule, had lost weight and we were worried about her suffering through the cold of winter. But then she packed on a few pounds and grew a thick, winter coat, and we decided winter's sting would not be too painful for her.
   We got Molly a few years ago after her previous owner fell ill and could no longer care for her; she's been a pasture buddy to Nikki, our horse. I wouldn't say they became best friends, but Molly did typically follow Nikki around –- and Nikki on occasion would try to get Molly to romp and race around the pasture.
   Molly became to show signs of vision problems, such as being startled when someone would come up to her. Last year, our equine vet declared Molly to be completely blind. But she still got around fine, still followed Nikki. Still welcomed my wife petting her and grooming her.
   But things changed this year. Maybe Molly had not been totally blind, and now she was. Or perhaps her hearing was going, too. Or perhaps it was mule dementia. But Molly no longer wanted to be touched in the slightest; she would run off whenever someone approached. That meant no more grooming. No visits from the farrier; it was too dangerous for the farrier and too dangerous for Molly, who was determined to escape any way she could. No way to get a fly mask on her once fly season began, with stable flies swarming all over her and biting her.
   She began to shed weight again, too. She might embrace a certain food for a few days or weeks –- fresh, green grass or a new type of feed –- but then would reject it. She grew thinner and thinner.
   Yet, she still trotted out when the door to her pen was open, still seemed to munch on the grass amid the weeds in the pasture. There were still, it appeared, tiny pleasures in her life.
   But our equine-savvy neighbor Shirley, on seeing Molly's desperately thin frame, said it was time to put her down. The vet agreed.
   And so, at midday on a Saturday, the vet and her assistant came. My wife, after wearing Molly down by chasing her around her pen, was able to get a halter on her. The euthanasia medicine was administered and, with a gentle push from the vet's assistant, Molly fell to the ground. And was gone.
   Andy Penrod, who lives in the Falcon area and works with area vets in handling "large animal removal," soon arrived to take Molly away. I interviewed him a couple of years ago, not knowing that I someday would need his services.
   He arrived with the converted stock trailer that he uses to haul the bodies away; Nikki, who had calmly watched as Molly hit the ground and then sniffed the body, reared in excitement as Penrod arrived. She knows what horse trailers look like and probably figured a horse was coming to visit; instead, her pasture buddy was being taken away.
   We were worried that Nikki would be distraught that evening, but she didn't cry out, didn't pace. The only change in behavior we've noticed is that she's spending more time in her stall and less in the pasture; the day after Molly died, Nikki kept looking in her stall, thinking perhaps that she was hiding in there.
   We've said farewell to many animals over the years. Since we moved to the country, we had Gadget, the ranch dog, and Willie, the cat, euthanized after finding both were riddled with cancer; on Christmas the goat was euthanized after suffering a massive infection that medications couldn't conquer.
   It was not a tough decision to euthanize any of them; their suffering was clear, as was their ultimate fate. It was trickier with Molly, but we believe we made the right decision. It would have been cruel to delay, to wait until winter's chill had gripped her.
   And we look at the years we did give her. There were sun-drenched summers in green pastures, a secure barn and plenty to eat and an equine buddy.
   A good life.
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