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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Old Rudy passes on with grace

Old Rudy has died. It was sudden but graceful death. There was no indication in the past days that his time was coming. He did have trouble keeping weight on all winter and into summer, despite medications and vitamins, so who knows what was going on inside his thin body. But he spent his last days like any other, napping wit some casual grazing after breakfast, more napping and evenings in his favorite spot-the duck hut.

When it feels right, I capture these pre-death scenes in images, as I did last night. I like to share them as an homage to the life passing, but also to the death entering. Death is the balance of life. I think we humans are so out of touch with much of real life-that is, Nature–that of course we can't imagine death. I always am struck by the beauty of the animals around death, they simply acknowledge the situation, and continue with their normal habits–if they feel safe, of course. In the background, Marcella slept, confidant all was well. It was only when I carried the body out this morning that she became agitated. There are so many touching moments in a death scene like this-Stevie coming over, gently bending forward to smell the passing; or Raggedy Man looking up over the body–did he sense something there I as a human am not able too after thousands of years of my species closing out our once innate senses?

Last night I went to do chores and heard Rudy cry to me. He had cast himself in the duck hut. That was the first and last struggle he'd have. I got him out of the hut, upright and standing, but he could not hold his front end up. I was able to guide him to the main shade shelter, but he collapsed as we got there. He drank a bit of water and he sat upright for about twenty minutes, but his head was hanging low, his eyes were closing. Giving him the water reminded me of my mother, who died in 2013. The nurse had just helped her sip some water, and she died, with a smile on her face. Each death here revives my inner acknowledgment of my parents' deaths, making me feel more comfortable that they were in good hands and had everything they needed, just as this old goat did.

I sang him a short song and told him he would do fine in this next journey.

I don't know if I will, but I hope we do meet again, somehow, I told him.

There was that human desire to continue on somehow with all of the things we love about this realm-but we can't quite grasp what it will look like-because maybe it won't look like anything we know. Maybe there are sensations after death we can't grasp. It's those "spaces
in between" again, the reasons abstract painters paint.

When I returned with hay for the herd, Rudy was lying down, almost unconscious. His breathing was slow and calm, there was no leg twitching or straining of the neck, signs of death taking the body. I opened his eyes and I could tell he was close to the final breaths. I said my final goodbyes, covered his eyes with a light cloth to keep the flies off, and went back to be with Martyn. I shed some tears; I told Martyn it was a good death and he would be gone very soon, but that one of the things about my work here is to be open to walking away from a dying creature to give it space and peace. Each death is different, and each hospice has different needs. Rudy was really gone when I walked away, he had let go, and by me letting go and walking away, it was now up to his body to finally shut down. The animals around him had acknowledged him. They understood the situation and were okay with it.

As sad as I was, and surprised, I was also happy for him. To go so quickly is such a gift to any creature, including a human. We can all hope for this death, surrounded by our home comforts be it hay or bed, conscious until the last moments of our time here doing whatever it was we liked doing-in Rudy's case that was eating, napping and grazing.

Old Rudy came to us with his long time mate Tasha Teats. Their original owner sent them to New Moon Farm Goat Rescue after her husband had died, as she felt she could not care for them properly. They were very arthritic, and Tasha was worse; she died shortly after arriving here. Rudy reminded me a lot of Old Man Guinnias, hard hooves to fill, but Rudy had a personality of his own. He was a gentleman and liked people. He was not a loner but preferred to be alone in his beloved duck hut. For some reasons, he was a chicken magnet, right up until the moment he died as you can see in these photos. He had a long beard and despite his very crippled legs, continued to roam the fields every day. I will miss him, he was a greeter, always bleating to me when he knew I was around.

He went out as he lived.