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

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Monday, November 09, 2009

Huck reporting for duty

Of all the animals at Apifera, there is one that spends almost every minute of the waking day with me, but he is the one that probably gets the least attention on the blog. It's Huck, known in some circles as the chocolate lab named after a pie and friend to the pug with one eye.

When I take 2 steps to the left, Huck takes 1.5 steps. If I move 1 step back to the right, Huck doesn't budge. This allows him to be as close to me as possible without falling over.

Huck sleeps on the couch - yes, the couch- and in the early dawn when he senses the proper amount of daylight is present, he starts yawning. Not little girly yawns, but big manly yawns that an old farmer makes lying in bed, stretching. If he does come to the bedroom, he sits at the threshold, yawning. He's much to polite to come in without an invitation. "Come on in, Huck," and he bounds in and sits yawning at the bedside.

I unabashedly love Huck. His chocolate ears are like velvet, irresistible to my lips. I usually kiss Huck's ears in the morning long before I kiss Martyn.

Each animal has a purpose here on the farm, be it a job of pasture maintenance, laying eggs, or providing a strong back to haul something. Just as we two footers need a sense of purpose to remain healthy, so do these animals. I'm not sure what job the old goats have, or the one eye pug, but seniors can do what they want. For awhile Huck was lacking a job, but he now as two important tasks. When Stella and Iris break out of the fencing, which is pretty much daily as you all know, we say, "Come on Huck, goat duty!" and he rushes to the door. He escourts the goats back to their proper pasture, and returns to the house with a beaming expression. This summer I trained Huck to recognize the sound of raccoons or skunks eating at the cat food bowl on the front porch. Both have distinctive sounds from the cats. Every time I heard a coon or a skunk at the cat food, I'd just say, "Who is it Huck?" and within days he understood it as "Me Huck, must scare off critters." Now he runs to the door on his own when he hears skunks or raccoons.

I've been wanting to get back into pet therapy visits, like I did with the One Eyed Pug back in Minneapolis. My real goal is hospice work with a dog, and I 'm not sure if Huck will be right for that, but he might be great with group visits, or 'reading to kids' programs. He's trained pretty well, but he's led a sheltered life on the farm, so I've been taking him out to public stores to get him acclimated to new surroundings.

This weekend I took him to Lowe's. Lots of sounds, crashing boxes, electric doors, carts on wheels that were a good test for us. He did really well, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I really saw something in his eyes that made me swell up. It was like he was saying, "Yes, I can do this! I want to meet people, I want this job so much." It was a turning point for both of us. He was so happy to be there with me, doing something, anything, with me and for me. He obeyed and sat on command, and except for a bit of pulling, was a gentleman. He also got lots of admiration which was good for him, since the donkeys get all the attention at farm days. As people of all ages asked to pet him, I beamed every time someone said, "He's the most beautiful color." On occasion, he looked up at me as if to say, "It's going quite well, don't you think?" Perhaps the biggest accomplishment for him was he didn't have gas. Huck's admiration for kitty poop, preferably rolled in mud with a dusting of dried leaves, provides him with ample silent gaseous explosions. If you see me in a cold winter downpour, driving with all the windows open, you can be sure that Huck is in the car with me.

The dream I had long ago of one day living on a farm with a barnyard full of animals has come true. But I forgot how much I love working with dogs too. Huck and I will venture into some kind of pet therapy visits and I will of course keep you posted. And, I can't keep the secret any more - we are bringing home a little Huck, a puppy born this weekend from the same sire. The breeder told us it might be one of her last litters, and well, I took that as encouragement from the pet therapy guides above to get one. I'd been contemplating it anyway, knowing I wanted a hospice dog. The breeder has placed many of her dogs into service work, including hospice, so stay tuned. While I advocate bringing senior dogs into your homes, I felt I already have my senior dog who is 12 and has his own heart/eye issues. I decided I deserved a pup, and am really excited to work with him, and continue to work with Huck. And I think Huck deserves this too. Billy can't play with him anymore. It's sad to watch Huck's brown eyes sag when he attempts to get a game going with his senior friend.

Taking Huck and the new pup out for visits will bring stories and inspirations. It will be an honorable way to spend some time with my dogs.


Sharon Stanley said...

I'm so excited to hear you are getting a puppy! If that doesn't stir things up at Apifera, nothing will! Think of the barnyard stories you will have to tell...

Anna said...

Huck is adorable. My dog Princess is a therapy dog. Well, was. I need to get her retested since I didnt renew it. She use to go to a nursing home and visit seniors to make them happy. I would love to get her retested and take her to hospitals. Give Huck kisses and hugs. :)

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Thanks, Sharon. Yes, puppy! I had a few senior dogs I asked about at Old Dog Have [labs] but none were really good fits we thought...Then I was on a list for a senior pug, but they blew me off [I shall not name the Seattle Rescue place that takes in pugs, but they took $12 app fee and that was about it!]....SO everything kept leading me back to this litter.

Anna- I never was certified in Mpls, and hope i can get Huck to some places to start out without it. But for Hospice i suppose I will have to be. I've looked into the 2 well known ones, but also found another I'll look at.I hope Princess can get out there again, but she's already done a lot it sounds like!

Cathy said...

Huck is so sweet, and such a gentleman. He's looking very handsome!

I'm sure he'll be thrilled to have a little brother.

Editor52 said...

The seniors have jobs on the farm ... they lend wisdom, dignity and perspective to the youngsters! Kind of like some of us (aieee!)

Teresa said...

Hi Katherine!
This comment may be a bit long...I feel the inspiration coming on...hope you don't mind!
As you may or may not know...I have recently created a blog which reflects my life here on Bainbridge Island. In doing so...I dabble here and there most everyday in the big blogworld! There is much to read. Some are my favorites...some are just passer byers. Much of what I read I do find interesting and do enjoy. Mostly I read about home decor...baking cookies...a bit of fashion...and furry friends.
Whenever I pop over to visit Apifera Farm...following lots of reads...there's always a bit of my heart that just melts...unlike on anyone else's blog. When I read other blogs...I read with a sense of interest...when I pop into your world...I'm quite simply CAPTIVATED!
This tells me several things!
First of all...You have created and do live (in my eyes) such a charmed, sweet, pure life on Apifera Farm. I'm well aware of the heartaches and trials you must face...if you didn't...your life would not seem near as enduring. I also realized...because of the way I feel when I visit...what a spectacular writer you are. Your words...alongside your pictures....bring Apifera Farm to life in such an intriging way. It quite simple amazes me the way you describe your world...your furry friends in ways that shoot them straight to the heart of the reader.
Lastly...I realize that...the truest, rawest, most tender bit of my soul yearns to one day live life as you do! Awaking to my furry creatures everyday...believing my sole purpose to be...nurturing and caring for all that lives and breathes around me. Thank you Katherine for sharing your world in such an enduring way! I adore the opportunity to pop over and visit for awhile!
Now...let's talk about HUCK! What a handsome...loyal true BOY! Your words describing the trip to Lowe's were just precious...I can see him now striving to please...to show you..his BIG chance...to be such a GOOD BOY! Oh...and I can relate about the pulling! Doogan has been in Canine Good Citizen/Therapy Class for 8 weeks and when he gets cranked up he can PULL like the dickens! He takes his big test in several weeks! I am DELIGHTED to hear that you are going to indulge in some puppy JOY! Can't wait to hear all of your stories! What a sweet meeting that will be when the new pups meets big bro HUCK! Oh do write about it! What a lucky little pup that will be! All of your creatures are blessed Katherine! You are wonderful!

Teresa said...

I hope I didn't just publish TWO comments! I thought I lost the first one and then had to rewrite...if so...just delete the first! Woops! XXOOXX

Teresa said...

Katherine...It's me again!
Do you happen to have a button I could add to the sidebar of my blog...oh it would delight me so!

Barbara said...

Huck is beautiful, and I am sure a new puppy will bring him a lot of happiness :)

Dogz11 said...

I am so excited for you...how wonderful to be bringing a mini Huck to the farm...and even more wonderful that you want to do pet therapy/hospice work.... Animals work wonders in those situations, it never ceases to amaze me. Way to go Huck!! I look forward to lots of new adventures! XO

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~