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

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mr. Bradshaw's final nap

Mr. Bradshaw has died. But do not mourn this fine feline! He lived a long life, a good life here at Apifera - well over eleven years which is a long time for a once semi feral stray.

I knew he was dying last night. When I finished barn duties I saw him curled up outside the barn in the compost area. This in and of itself was not normal for any of the barn cats. I reached down to touch him and he didn't move, I nudged him, no movement - also not normal. So I carefully picked him up and he let out one little meow as I carried him to the barn. I wrapped in hay and put him on top of a hay bale and talked to him at length. I asked him if he could stay in the barn to die so I would know for sure of his end, rather than have him creep off somewhere like most of the cats have done. His purr was very weak.

I reminisced with him at length - reminding him of how he first showed up at Apifera back in our first year, 2004. Back then he was not the same mellow fellow he became. When he arrived he was at least one or more and a bit of a bully. In fact, I wasn't that fond of him as he was always picking fights. But over the next couple years, he softened, perhaps realizing he didn't have to fight for food or higher position. He had a warm barn full of hay and there was ample room to avoid confrontations.

In time, he would be part of the gang and would rush out to greet me at morning and night feedings.

So when I said my goodbyes last night, my only wish was he remain in the barn to die.
The next morning I slept in a bit and got to the barn a bit later than normal. I quietly peered into the hay barn first to see the spot where I had left him, but he was gone. Upon entering the hay area, I saw his body on the floor right below where I'd laid him the night before. His mouth was still warm so he had obviously just died.

That part makes me very sad - if I had gone out earlier, I could have held him in those final moments. But he's an independent thinker and like many cats wanted his space. It is we humans who over dramatize death.

I was happy he had such a long life and relieved I finally had a stray that died in eyesight - not knowing exactly what happens to them is hard, so this was a gift. But when I laid him in his grave, I talked to him some more and cried. I wasn't really crying for his death - I was crying because if Mr. Bradshaw died, that means all the Apifera cats are getting closer to their final barn nap too. The youngest of the cats are gong on nine and the elders are older than Bradshaw. His death felt like a turning point of some kind.

Martyn consoled me - "There will always be cats coming and going from here," he said. Maybe not. Maybe Apifera is a place that appeared for me to learn and grow and then one day it will retreat from sight leaving me to move on too.

I took these photos of him, as homage. His body was still soft and all around him were the sounds he knew so well - chickens cooing and scratching, goats chewing and in the distance the ears of a red horse.