Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I will surely miss you, Floyd

I said good bye to my soldier today. Floyd began to show real signs of pain on Monday, but the pain meds seemed to help. What complicated my decision on how to proceed was he was eating, drinking [with my help] and although he couldn't get up on his own, he could stand with my help. I heard a lot of stories about animals recovering from being cast for days, or weeks. But they weren't old, and I knew in my heart even Monday what was coming.

Yesterday, I knew I had to help him move on. Sheep can be very stoic in sickness and even though he was still sort of eating, he was making more sounds indicating pain. He couldn't stand or even right himself with my aid. He had fought hard for six days and was tired, his lungs were probably filling, or eventually they could have collapsed. I have watched sheep die while being kept comfortable, and I've watched them die quickly in a death spiral-the latter is no fun to witness and leaves you helpless. Floyd's decline and signs of closing down were unusual for what my experience has been in eleven years of caring for elders and sheep, and it is one reason I have been guardedly optimistic these past days.

I had a restless night, but Floyd probably had a difficult time too, which was part of my restlessness thinking of his suffering. There was only so much pain meds could do. I could not get any of my regular sheep vets out yesterday, so one of my local equine vets was good enough to squeeze me into her farm calls today. I was so grateful they helped me out in a jam.

Yesterday, I felt off kilter all day, because I knew I had to wait a day for him to be put to sleep. I did what I often do, I created a farewell painting in his honor. I told him all about it, that he has rivers and sounds that he will recognize as home. I gave him wings not so he could fly, but so he could stay lifted up on his own free will. I finished it right before the vet arrived.

He passed very fast. He was worn out. So was I. But what a soldier he was! I told him again what an exceptional creature he was and though our time was short, I was just so glad I was able to give him a final home. He will be buried in the pumpkin patch along with many other Misfits. The barnyard and I will have a private burial tomorrow.

But let me tell you about Floyd and why his short time here will always be worth remembering with love.

I nicknamed him "The Couch" because he was...well, kind of like a couch. He was my shadow in the barn, moving right along with me, making sure he positioned himself right at my side. He came up past my navel and was a huge sheep. But his antics were never that sheep like. He was more like a dog. A dog couch. He truly seemed to adore me, and he just liked being with me wherever I was. He wasn't pushing around my pockets for food, he just liked leaning on me.

Every morning when he heard the barnyard gate open, he'd call out from the barn. I have so missed his calls these past six days. He never called out again after his fall last Thursday. Sometimes Floyd was so excited to go through a gate or stall entry with me, that the two of us would get sort of stuck since he is so big. Floyd tolerated anybody in the barnyard. He was not a fighter, perhaps because of his size he knew he didn't have to be. He put up with a lot from The Head Troll, who seemed to admire him and have a crush on him, but then could turn and smack him with her sawed off horns. And he just stood and took it like a man, not flinching.

I don't know his history, although he had a hole in his ear where a tag used to be-this could mean he was a working ram somewhere and then was sold, and became someone's pasture companion. Or he might have been a 4H project and they were unable to go forward with selling him. When he was elderly, he was relinquished to New Moon Goat Farm Rescue, where many of the adopted goat Misfits have first been taken before coming to Apifera. He was over thirteen, which is old for a sheep, especially a big guy. He arrived with arthritis and a bit thin, but put on weight and fit right in.

Floyd loved to have his cheek stroked, and I did this a lot in the past week. Today when he went on his way, he was calm and put his head in my lap and I stroked him off on his journey. I shed my tears yesterday, knowing he might be in distress. But today, I was so relieved for him. He is at peace and doesn't hurt.

But I will miss him. He had a big presence here. He was my right hand couch. I will always remember his eyes and his big old head and nose.

{If you want to help offset the vet call today, you can donate at different reward levels here.}

Monday, October 27, 2014

Massages for Floyd

This mid morning I checked on Floyd and he was anxious to try to stand, a good sign I think. This was his best standing moment since he fell on Thursday.

I always stand behind his rump [no comments, please] to support him, and usually his body sways a bit and he can lose balance and fall backwards. But this morning I decided to start giving him a back and hip massage. I did this for about 10 minutes and he felt stronger than he has in three days. Then I sat nearby and let him stand on his own for about five minutes. He then collapsed. He's not eating as robustly as he did early on though.

He also tried to do a back stretch when he was standing. I am going to give him three massages -standing, I hope-a day and see if this might help.

Put a donkey under your pillow

Just a garish self promotion that there are lots Raggedy Sewn items on the store, they are selling briskly as the holidays approach. Yes, I said the "H" word. I might do a bit of sewing today so keep your little eyes peeled on the store if you are interested.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Floyd, my soldier

It has been up and down since Floyd fell on late Thursday. Each day since, I have had high hopes, then he seems to fade. This could just be his way of going through what we call "the death spiral", but I am being fooled by the fact he is eating and drinking. Yesterday, I really thought he was fading, but mid day I helped him stand, and he took three steps. At night, he was upright and seemed stronger to me and I stood him up again and this time his legs weren't wobbling. But he still can't get up on his own, or walk on his own, and when he walked with me today, it is only with me holding up his rear end.

This morning, he ate, but not as well. But this is how yesterday started too. Still, I felt something shifted in him. I think he is tiring. I am torn about pulling the plug and am going to go through one more day and reassess. He is a good soldier, but I am the admiral and have to make the choice that is fairest for him. He is not lying there afraid to die, but when a sheep can't move on his own, has to be held up to pee, my job is clear.

So today, as morbid as it may sound to some of you, I will dig a hole for him. We talked about cremating him if he does doe, but the thought of having him hauled off upsets me-which is silly. But it is how it is. Martyn has warned me I must come to grips with how to deal with the larger bodies we now have in our care and what we will do with them. It is part of what I take on here, no whining, but just letting the many of you who see this place as all puppies and rainbows-it is not, never has been. Once you have to deal with a body of a large equine or other creature, you learn somethings you never thought of before-and why would you? It is part of this life though.

It has been pouring for days. I have Scooby Keith in the same large suite with Floyd, and Victor and Sophie too. A small, low window in the stall-which was created a long time ago when we first brought home Lucia, then a baby donkey so she could see out at night-allows light in and lets Floyd look out if he can, and Marcella can look in. As always the reverence of these times come through in the light of the barn, somewhat mystical for sure, and the bustle of the other animals goes on as Floyd lays in repose.

I will continue to get him up and down until I feel for certain that this brave soldier just wants to sleep on.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Trauma for Floyd...and me

It has been a very traumatic and exhausting twenty or so hours. It started yesterday at dinner feedings. I was going about my business when I noticed my shadow, Floyd, was not there as usual. This is unheard of.

We have had lots of rain-down pours for a good part of each day–for about four days. The ground is slick. I saw his large cast body by one of the gates that leads to the other Misfit paddocks. His usually off white body was pretty much mud colored. He was not moving even after I called as I ran to him. But he was alive.

He was shaking. And he couldn't get up. I got his rear up, but his front would collapse. I got his front up, and he couldn't lift his rear. You could tell by the ground he had thrashed and tried to get up. So I ran to the barn to get a packing blanket-to hopefully roll him onto to it somehow and thinking it would give him traction.

Floyd is a big, big guy, much bigger than my sheep. I guess he weighs about 250-300#. I tried for about 20 minutes and could not get him up. Man, I tried! My back was already strained and I knew I had to stop. I was completely soaked. I was able to get him on the blanket, and I ran and got one of the new pony coats someone just donated, and blankets. I have no idea how long he was down. It had poured from about 2 pm on, and I had last been in the barnyard at noonish. I had to get him to the barn, so I tried first roping his body and pulling, but I just didn't have the strength-and I'm no wimp. I knew we needed to strap him to the tractor somehow to get him up the small hill to the barn and I needed more man power.

To be honest, I was starting to get frantic. Martyn usually comes home around seven and it would be dark by about six thirty. It was near six. I ran to call Martyn and fortunately he was 25 minutes from home due to the rains. I then got some electrolytes and sheep drench in Floyd hoping to get him warmer.  I fed him grain-which he devoured–a good sign. Feeding a downed sheep has its risks, but I opted to do it because he was shaking. I stayed with him and lay on him to help with some warmth. I sang him "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", an odd song choice but its all I could think of do do at that point, waiting for Martyn.

Martyn arrived and I was sure we'd have him in the barn soon. But no such luck. First we tried together to get him standing. He just couldn't stand. Then we got the tractor and rigged up some roping. I held his head in a towel to protect it, and we started dragging. It was horrible to watch. We kept having to stop to adjust the packing blanket underneath him. And when we got to a certain point on the hill, he was precariously positioned, and slid back.  I knew we just had to somehow drag him together into the barn once we reached level ground, and we did. The mud helped the blanket slide, but it was still back breaking, even for Martyn.

I got more electrolytes and anything I could think of into him. He wouldn't drink warm water so I gave him propyl glycol. We positioned him so he'd be sitting upright. He did give me a few burps so that was good. His eye was swollen from his attempts to get up. Fortunately he is a wool sheep so though he was wet, his wool helped, and it was about 55 out so not too cold. But he was still shaking. I stayed with him for more than hour, watching, hoping he'd stand for me once calm. I'm sure it was a horrific ordeal for him.

But he never got up, and a couple times just wanted to lie on his side. Not good. I propped him up, stuffed hay all round him to try to keep him up, and then just let him be. I had done all I could and I talked to him for awhile before going inside about eight. I was soaking wet from head to toe and was shivering myself.

I went to check on him at 10 and he was upright, and his eyes looked good. He was breathing calmly. He had good color in his lips and eyes. But, I sensed a closing down. I stayed with him and he seemed to like having his face gently stroked, and then I went inside for the night.

I found him on his side this morning, but got him upright -he still could not stand. He ate well again and I dosed him with more electrolytes. His body functions are normal. I decided to put Victor and Sophie in with him in a private suite-it is Old Man Guinnias' old stall, and it is the stall where the sick and hospice patients go. It is where the lambs are held before harvest. It is a very special place, the light is beautiful there and I propped him up so he can see outside.

I have a vet on call, but right now we are waiting. Each time I have gone out, he has moved his position slightly, but still can't rise. I'm afraid feeding him while he is lying down [not cast, just lying down] will eventually catch up to him. But, it's all I can do. He doesn't seem to be in pain-no teeth grinding or neck stretching. And today I felt like he really wanted to get up. I am hoping that he will gain strength.

I don't know why this happened. He could have had a mini seizure and gone down. I don't know. None of the other animals had gone to him either, which I thought telling. But, I'm often wrong.

I think one clear realization for me is that I can't take on any more large animals. I have to be able to care for them on my own if Martyn isn't here or it is night time. We should probably invest in a fork lift for the back of the tractor, I could put a pallet on it and might have been able to get him on it. I wouldn't trade one second with Floyd. But when I couldn't lift him, I can't tell you how scary and frustrating it was, thinking he might be out there so long that he'd die because of it. Many animals on farms or the wild do die that way, at no fault of anyone. It is nature. But I told him as I held him in the mud patch, both of us shaking, "You are not going to die in this way."

So I will stay calm for Floyd, and he is safe now, and in a dry place. He knows I come out and check on him and he knows the sound of the gate opening. He does not seemed panicked. He might just be tired, and he is very old for a big sheep. This just might be his time. This is a very reverential time. I only hope to do the best for him, and what is right at the moment. I will keep you posted.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

"Henrietta, attention please!"

I train all my hens to stand at attention. I use this command strictly for photo opportunities, no other enslavement is involved. Of course, they don't all listen to me and the ones that do fall in line such as Henrietta here, only do it when they want to. But when they do stand at attention, especially against the background of a red barn, it is always pleasing, even if it lasts only a second or two.

At ease, Henrietta.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Autumn Fashion Show of Misfits

The Autumn Fashion Show of Misfits was a success, although quite exhausting for attendees and models not to mention the photographer who rallied against slippery mud and slippery goats to dress each one quickly to make it on the runway in time. The Misfits now have a great selection for the colder, rainy weather that might require outfits and we are all thankful for the generosity of our followers who sent us dog coats, pony jackets and old sweatshirts [which are remarkably useful on a farm].

If you don't see your coat in the fashion show, it is only because the models ran out of steam. And the upper barnyard of Misfits already had a little fashion extravaganza. I also have two now that will work for Victor and Sophie should they need them on top of all their curly wool some extra cold winter night. There are some very small ones that would work on Moose, or sick lambs if needed. Thank you, everyone!

So sit back, and enjoy the show!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Coats for goats, donkeys gone wild and other stuff

The rains and fog have been so comforting. Like old blankets out of a cedar chest, brought out each cool season with smells conjuring up old friends and a mother's scent from long ago. I needed that. The donkeys have been allowed out into the side sheep fields, which has never happened before. They have gone mad with joy, more hills, fallen leaves and other stuff that donkeys find irresistible. It was sort of an accident. I had rearranged some fence so I could have the sheep on Donkey Hill for the night, near Old Barn, and then in the morning could lead them more easily to their fields without running them down the upper drives where they always get sidetracked into gardens. I wasn't sure about this change-I like looking out the front of the house and seeing donkeys on Donkey Hill, a couple old goats aka Stella and Iris. But to see my flock up there under the old oaks, I really loved it. It is also good education for Marcella, as she knows how to get through Old barn to them and is learning to not chase running sheep.

Yesterday I got a box of caring. A woman sent me some old sweatshirts for the goats. She too has sheep and understands the need for a warm, functional cover up for old or young animals from time to time. I too have used sweatshirts and sweaters, and I think one of these will be perfect for Scooby, and Rudy, who seem to be having trouble finding the right fit in dog coats. Also in the box were some wool pieces-beautiful ones-from the sender and they are lovely ad I will use them somehow in my dolls, which in the end always help me, and the farm-and therefore The Misfits. I hope she is reading this, as I lost her email, and will get a proper note to her today in the post. Thank you, Mother Katherine in New York, and just so you know, Victor is doing very well again.

It's been a wild couple days. The article was well received and I continue to get really thoughtful emails from total strangers, from all over the globe, sharing their thoughts. I knew there would also be a cyber troll group that would trash my thoughts and parade their agenda in the comment section, and that's just the way of the cyber world.

And I awoke again to fogs, and my view of my working flock on Donkey Hill.