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

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





Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Don't put a fear of death on my old goat


If there is one thing I have come to understand about people, or many of them, is they see death as this giant black curtain, the end, the thing to avoid, the thing to prevent at all costs. Nowhere is it more apparent than in how you see people talking about animals on social media [often other people's animals they have no clue of what they speak]. If you have a personal relationship with an animal, that is your relationship, and any covenant you have with them is yours, not mine. The decisions you make about your animals are, I assume and hope, based on experience, your knowledge of the actual animal and your feedback from your vet if needed. And such is the case with my relationships with all my animals. Just because their might be certain things you can do to keep an animal alive for another...3 months...doesn't mean you should, nor does the animal necessarily benefit from it as an animal.

An animal that's growing old, that is clearly coming to the final season, is not asking for pity, prayers or healing. He or she just wants their space and to be able to find a quiet spot if needed, or maybe change their spot if it doesn't feel right anymore. That's my job - to watch that animal as I go about my business and make sure I can accommodate it's needs as it transitions-and it is a transition. Rarely, in my experience anyway, does an animal get old, and boom, die. Just like with people there are shifts in the body and conditioning and all sorts of things before an animal dies. It can take months or years even.

I have written a bit about old Else in the past summer months. I sense it is her final summer. But we are not there yet. Since I am with her daily, sometimes I am immune to seeing some things, that my vet might see when she comes next time. So I always am open to a discussion. She has gotten thinner. I think her body just isn't absorbing the nutrients, which happens in age. She has never been a voracious eater but gets supplements and all the hay she wants. Her front leg is weakening more, her muscle what little she had when she arrived, is lessening.

What is a good life for a goat? Well, just being–A plot of grass, or sand, or shade mixed with sun, fresh water, a place that they know is theirs to go to-anytime-when they need, a human counterpart that is consistent in bringing food and water and is there for them.

Else has more and more chosen to stay in the barn, especially with the heat. Rather than always helping her out, I test her, and if she is pulling back, she seems very content in her barn with the door open to the outside world. A couple days ago, I was really pleased that while I was busy doing chores, she went out on her own to her orchard, and lay down. I've noticed though that rather than waiting all afternoon to let me know it is getting to be time to return to barn [I bring goats back in each night around 5], she might call out to me sooner. It might just be the flies, but she is sprayed well and they seem to leave her alone. At night, I put Opie with her, and The Goose, and Henneth the blind chicken.

No matter what, Else is not afraid of death. She is not thinking about that. Nor does she sit and wish for another summer, because she lives completely in the moment. Animals are often very stoic about pain,so Try to balance that in my perception of her everyday. But I do feel she is very content to separate out a little but more, which to me is a sign she is on her journey of transitioning.