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

Apifera Farm is a registered 501 [c][3]. #EIN# 82-2236486

All images

©Katherine Dunn.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

"She's not coming through the door, Belle," I told her

"She's not coming through the door, Belle," I told her.
Update: The next night, Belle died. I knew she was in active dying when I did feedings. Normal responses were gone and she was half there. She was peaceful. I knew when I said good night that would be the end and I bid her a safe journey. I have conflicted emotions on her final month. I think her experience going into the shelter was really hard on her. It is not my place to keep these elders alive for ever, it is to make them comfortable when they are alive, and give them permission to go if they need to and provide a comfortable place to spend their remaining days, weeks or sometimes years. On her arrival, she was so weak and frail. Maybe in her former life, she had not felt she had permission to leave. Maybe she knew on arriving here, she had that, and stuck around a few days to get settled.

We have taken on two more elder cats-both over 18-in the last few weeks. My shelter contact calls me when really old ones come in to see if we can take them. Both of these old girls were sent to the shelter after their owners went into hospice, and into a home. I do not get the back stories on why a decision had to be made to send an old animal that lived for ever with a person, into a shelter...but when families are dealing and coping with placing their parents into homes, it is stressful and I think most do their best. I am grateful I can take these old creatures on. My goal is to help them feel safe and cared for, so that should they pass on quickly, they die with that feeling of security, away from the loud sounds of the shelter.

The first to arrive of these two was Tommy, and she is very thin and very sweet. She was clearly a bit depressed on arrival and hardly left her sitting spot. At the shelter they said she was really sad, not eating, turning away from handlers, etc. But I give the newcomers, if they allow it and need it, extra attention, and it took about a week for Tommy to perk up. Now when I arrive she is at the door with the others, happy for her breakfast. She returns to different perches to clean her feet, bathe in the sun...and nap.

Probably less than a week or two later I got a call about Belle. Her owner was going into a home that didn't allow cats. Belle is probably the smallest and skinniest, weakest cat I've taken on over the years. She is just a little bone and her hind end is weak from age. She also comes with 24 toes, 6 on each foot instead of the usual 18 toes. I told her that her toes weigh more than her little peanut body.

As is often the case with new arrivals, she came down with a cold. Tommy did too but worked through it fast. Belle needs to have her nose cleaned three times a day and I also clean up her legs since she sleeps and drools on them when her nose is plugged. I was so happy this morning when I looked into the suite that she was sitting up, waiting. I've been holding her, talking to her, just sitting with her nearby to help her transition.

But last night she did something that was so sweet, bittersweet, although as I'll explain–did I project my own story onto her in this incidence? She came over to the door while I was doing cleanup, and she sat in front of the door, quietly, and just watched it, and waited. Like she was waiting for that door to open. I stopped my chores and took the photo, then I sat on the floor and eventually –within a few minutes–she gave up on the door and wandered over to me. I held her and I said,

"She's not coming through the door, Belle." I assured her that I would come through the door though, and she already knows this.

Perhaps she heard the goats, perhaps she was an outdoor cat, perhaps she was just wondering things. It's easy to project onto our animals. I know she feels safe here. I know she responds to me, and is feeling safe. She is exploring higher perches too which is good to see her moving around. I hold her a lot. I can't imagine she will live that much longer she is so thin and frail, but no matter how long, she is in a calm setting, with warmth and comrades, food and sun, a wood out back to back light her inside life.

Tommy on the top and Belle on the bottom

Belle and her 24 toes