She was in her 17th year. We brought her into our cabin several months ago to winter with us because she was so old and winter was so cold. She looked like she was pretty much done with life and we expected her to pass on in a matter of days, or a week or two. That was 5 1/2 months ago.
After a few days indoors she apparently began to trust that these were her new, luxurious living quarters and that life was good. She perked up. She explored. She ate with great interest (we must admit that we did feed her the tenderest juiciest morsels of a variety of treats). She took long, long naps ensconced on several layers of soft blankets on a heated floor. When she woke and struggled to her feet, her nose led her directly to the kitchen and the refrigerator. She was very surprisingly quick for someone who could barely walk, see or hear. Unless, of course, she wanted to … Several times when I opened the refrigerator, a roast was snatched before I could catch her and it was quite a big deal to get it back. A lot of determination.
We put her out for a few hours each day to get fresh air and she soon learned her way to the pen and back – mostly back. Then she began to discover that as we guided her back and forth, if she wandered a bit, we indulged her and she began to take advantage of it. Because she couldn’t exactly wander fast or far, or do much damage to anything, we were able to give her a freedom not possible when she was more mobile and alert. She took to wandering all over the ranch, we keeping an anxious eye to retrieve her in case she got into trouble as she was a bit “Alzheimerish”. Her very favorite wander was to the chicken run where she would stand on her rickety legs for hours watching wolf television.
All the indoor animals respected her age. Boychuk the German Shepherd; Talkeetna the malemute who took to giving her little licks on the nose, and even Cucumber the Bad Little House Wolf who had moved in two years ago and refused to leave. She would gladly have done in Talkeetna as a rival female, but was patient and accepting with Windsong. It was partly her age, but also because Windsong had always been a gentle soul. Not something to be said of Cucumber for example!
She settled smack in the center of the living room and into the center of everything, making it very clear that she had no intention of ever spending the night in the roomy cage we had placed there for her. She was stubborn in her old age. Very stubborn. She developed a look I have seen in elderly humans – a sort of not-to-be-deterred will as they wander their homes, cane like a warrior weapon, determined to get everything they can out of life. Some older beings get spiritual, some concentrate on eating and bodily comforts. That was clearly where Windsong was focused. I don’t mean to imply that there was little spiritual life – just that the focus in her old age was clearly physical enjoyment – she was going to get everything she could out of this unexpected windfall, and thoroughly enjoy all physical pleasure available to her during her last days on earth.
She left three days ago, unexpectedly. We got used to the idea of her wandering around so long that on some level we believed this was the way it would always be, fluffing her blankets, feeding her treats, retrieving her from corners of the property. Her energy is still here, but there is a void …
Windsong was Earthfire’s sister, one of a litter of seven that moved me; directed me, to found the Institute. No more will she raise her muzzle and sing to the winds of the earth. But we have these lovely images of her running and playing with her six brothers and sisters who left before her, the full pack once again reunited in joy. And we have Earthfire Institute to honor her and carry her voice onward to any humans willing to listen, be moved, enriched.
by Susan Eirich, Ph.D.