Posted on Aug 21, 2015
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of our beloved llama, Duchess. She lived a happy life here in the Barn for eight years well beyond her life expectancy. Although she was proud and private, she had a very special bond with King, the llama with whom she was rescued, and one special volunteer: Ginger.
Our vets came out to examine Duchess because it seemed like she was losing weight. They determined based on her teeth that she was at least fifteen years old, had few teeth left, and needed to be on a soft diet as she could no longer eat hay. They said that she would not live much longer. This occurred eight years ago! Since that time Duchess has maintained a perfect weight and has been loving life.
Last Sunday it was 108 degrees. Knowing that many of our animals are seniors and older animals don’t thrive in extreme temperatures, we have been keeping a very close eye on them. On Sunday Duchess seemed fine, and when we tucked everyone into bed Sunday night all was well. On Monday morning we awoke to find her not wanting to eat or stand up and we knew right away there was something wrong. We called our veterinarian and he said that given her age and the high temperatures it was either something systemic which we most likely would not be able to correct, or, it was just heat exhaustion from the previous day. Dr. Molnar instructed us to bring her inside into the air conditioning, give her sub-q fluids, and anti- inflammatory medication, and hopefully, it if was heat exhaustion, she would regain her strength by the end of the day.
By Monday night she was still not eating and still lying down. Clinging to any hope we could, we thought that with a good night’s sleep in the comfy and cool Sun Chlorella Healing Center perhaps she would be stronger by morning.
Tuesday morning she would still not eat. She was very comfortable, however, and not in any pain or distress. We gave her more pain medication and fluids to make sure she remained hydrated. Ginger is a woman who visits every Sunday and she has developed a special bond with Duchess. The two of them seem to speak the same language and have a real affinity for each other. Ginger is a Reiki master as well. We thought it would do Duchess some good to have a visit from Ginger and get some healing energy too. Ginger was kind enough to drop everything to come be with Duchess and the two of them enjoyed a wonderful day together. Ginger read to Duchess, sang songs, and talked to her. Ginger also gave Duchess some of her powerful energetic healing. Duchess seemed to perk up, gain strength, and walk around the room looking out the window at her animal friends and family.
Ginger left late that night. After finishing up a board meeting, I headed out to the barnyard to kiss Duchess and the other animals goodnight about an hour after Ginger left. There was something about the expression on our other llama’s face that made my heart stop. He didn’t seem sad or upset, he just looked more mature all of a sudden, and alone. His face looked as if he was telling me she was gone. I ran to the infirmary and sure enough in the hour between when Ginger left and I came Duchess had layed down, spread her wings, and gone home.
At first, I was devastated. I felt so sad that I wasn’t with her and that she left alone. I also could not imagine the barnyard without Duchess. She was so dignified, so strong, so regal. It’s like a castle without its queen. Then I remembered how proud and private Duchess was, she probably was waiting for Ginger to leave so she could cross over. I also remembered that we had eight more years with her than we should have had. Duchess was twenty-three years old and she graced all of us with her presence here. My sadness quickly turned to joy and gratitude. I feel so extremely grateful that Duchess was here with us in our barnyard and that we all got to know her and feel her powerful spirit. I feel grateful that she was comfortable and pain-free before she passed. I am grateful for Ginger and her good energy. I am grateful that Duchess left easily, peacefully, and quickly, and that she left on her own time, in her own way.
We will forever remember and miss Duchess, her grace and glory. We will have many conversations with her partner, King, remembering her. We will feed King extra bananas for awhile; although, he seems fine. I think animals have less spiritual barriers than we do. King is probably asking us, “What do you mean Duchess left? She is right here sitting next to me?!”
Written by Ellie Laks
Founder, The Gentle Barn