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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. All images ar©Katherine Dunn.





Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hospice of a lamb



To see the slideshow of the all the photos from Hospice for a Lamb, visit this secure link.


She was just 4#. I had secretly named her Little Daisy, which is a mistake. One should never name a lamb before a few days, you learn that. But then again, maybe this one time it was important I named her. Maybe something much bigger than me, or Apifera, knew what was in store for that little creature and knew naming it would mean something to both the dying and the watcher of the dying.

Everything seemed fine at seven AM, roughly 19 hours after Daisy's triplets were born. While it is always exciting to see triplets, it is entwined with an element of dread. Many issues can arise with them - weak lambs, not enough milk, a weak ewe or milk fever. We've had a healthy set of triplets in the past from Rosie, but lost all six triplets in '09.

So with the triplets looked good in the morning, all milking a bit, tails wiggling, I felt okay. Daisy is an excellent mother too. Maybe that was one of my mistakes, not taking charge right away and tube feeding the tiny little ewe, only 4#. I check my lambs every two hours the first day for their tongue temperature, and if it's warm, I'm happy.

What happened from 7 AM to 9 AM is a secret of the universe, something no one will truly know. But I found her listless. The big boy was eating, the middle brown boy was sleeping. Sleeping day old lambs can look dead, believe me. So at first when I saw her, I didn't think anything was wrong. But I decided to give her another squirt of vitamin drench since she's so small, and her little body was like a slightly alive rag doll. I rushed her into the house, encouraging her to stay with me. I tube fed her and was careful not to get it into her lungs. I had initial hopes, but I knew she wasn't going to make it. And she didn't. She died surrounded by hospice team of an old one eyed pug, a concerned lab and a kitten that knew only too well what it meant to be saved.

After she died, I decided to tube feed both boys as a precaution, thinking it might be a milk issue. Arriving at the barn, the brown boy was now looking dopey, but better than his sister had. I thought I could save him. After tubing him, I knew he wasn't going to make it, so returned him to Daisy. He died soon after.

This is part of shepherding. I'm proud to say that I was calm and remembered how to tube a lamb without panic. I also told them to "go on now", which I think is a gift to the dying. I had tried and I knew they both tried as much as their bodies could.

The vet felt it was not a milk issue, said I did everything in my power and that triplet births can be stressful and create things you can't control. We played the 'If I had done this sooner" game, maybe they would have lived. Or maybe they would have lived and died a week later.

As the little lamb ewe lay near the fire, with her hospice team nearby, I went for my camera. I wondered if it was ghoulish to photograph the scene of near death. But I wanted to and wondered why I wanted to. I've been thinking of that all day- why did I need and want to document the moment, and was it worthy of her short life.

A creature of any kind, any kind, can touch a human life and reach deep into their best parts and say, "I know I'm little, and dying, but you cared to take pictures of my beautiful ears. You let me be warm. I could hear you too."

Her ears were so beautiful, much like the hair of one of my felted creatures.

20 comments:

tutto a posto said...

I am so sorry for your heartache. I hope tomorrow is a better day for you. Sheryl

Brandi Marie said...

So sad and beautiful. Which I'm pretty sure is the definition of heartbreaking.

Sharon said...

so sad to hear this news....i like the gift of the pictures...very dear. bless your heart i am sorry ...those triplet births are tough.

Juli said...

You, your hospice team, and the sweet babes who entered your world for such a brief time are all so beautiful. Love & Kindness to you.

Jeannie said...

A tearful post reading and my heart goes out to all that you do. Perhaps you wanted to share Little Daisy's life with us so that her birth would teach us all to take nothing for granted. Life is precious.

lars said...

She is beautiful. You truly honored her.

Zap said...

I know whe knew she was surrounded by love from so many friends...thank you for all you do and for sharing these...and for giving her a name...even though I know you shouldn't... I'm sure Giacomo will welcome her and watch over her while she runs and bounces across the sky...

XOXO
Pam

dragonflyreflections said...

Such a pretty baby - I'm shedding a few tears for her and for you. Hope tomorrow is brighter.

hugs,
Kelley

Jody said...

this is why what you do is so essential, so important, and why you are one of the 'mighty' ones. I wrote about you in one of my posts recently - you are a tender yet strong shepherd. You care. And we who follow you also care. The sweet lambs - the passing, the sorrow - we take it all in and weep and celebrate the circle of love and sadness and joy. Life. Lived on life's terms. xox

Tracie Lyn Huskamp said...

Katherine... She is so beautiful and fragile. I am very sorry, dear friend...I can't help but shed tears...a stream of tears keeping coming

Tracie Lyn Huskamp said...

Oh Katherine... She was so beautiful and fragile. I am very very sorry for your loss, dear friend. The tears just continue to stream down my face

Studio T i n s e l said...

Currently I am studying this very ethical type of dilemma in my Photo Seminar class: to take photos of the dead/dying or not. I do not think there is a right or wrong answer, Katherine. It depends on so many circumstances. I do not find it ghoulish in the least that you have taken the time to record this moment of the very essence of what it means to live and die. While I understand that some may view it most appropriate at times of death to have that moment to one's self, I also believe that this little ewe lives on now through what you have captured here with the other crew... and shared with the rest of the world. There is civility and compassion - amongst other things - in doing that. I am studying a photographer named Sally Mann for one of my papers. She documents death and decay in a book titled What Remains. I would recommend this book to you (if you haven't already viewed it).

Claire the Shepherdess said...

There with you and the hospice team, in heart and mind. I hope they are playing with my Kenzie, in the great green fields.

Suzanna said...

It is so touching to see the concern on the faces of the other animals...

turquoise cro said...

Yes, YOU can see the sadness in your hospice team, Little Daisy is in my prayers as your hospice team every night because I pray for animals every night! GOD Bless the animals! GOD Bless the shepherd too! My old Webster's Students Dictionary says this; Shepherd; 1. A herder of sheep 2. A pastor, to tend as a shepherd; to gather, guard, herd, lead or drive as a shepherd. Blow kisses to all the animals for me today Katherine!

Apifera Farm said...

Thank you everyone. It was a trying day, but there was a rainbow over the whole farm as I did barn chores late day. Much to be optimisitic about - like sunshine forecast for Sat.

Tante B said...

Oh this is so sad, I am moved and tears go by. It is so beautiful to watch the hospice team, what tender expressions they have. She was a perfect and beautiful little creature. Hopefully the next newborns will be more lucky.

Tish said...

Although death is part of life, it's always so sad, when they don't get a chance to live. The hospice team did their best, I'm sure she felt safe until it was time to cross over.

maccandace said...

She's beautiful, I'm sorry. And for her brother, too.

Patty said...

It's sad and full of wonder that animals stand watch while another animal is dying. We've seen this many times on our little ranch. It is an act of respect and caring that elevates them in my heart and mind.

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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 ~