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, January 28, 2020

Long ago when he arrived I knew someday he might break my heart

White Dog this morning in The Cone of Shame, with Arlo
We had a very serious incident with White Dog {aka Benedetto or Ben} yesterday, and the reality is, we are lucky he is alive. If you follow us on social media you saw the photo at the vet.

White Dog was slashed by Earnest's tusk. This happened once before about a year and a half ago, and it was because they got territorial about some dropped feed on the ground. If you are unfamiliar with a pig tusk, the last 1" or so is literally like a sharp knife. Pigs use their heads to move things out of the way, so they can accidentally slice you without meaning too - I had this happen with Earnest so am always careful when I stand near him-but things can happen.

After that skirmish, I never leave anyone alone with Earnest. We also built him his own paddock and 3 season hut. But in winter, I decided to move him into the interior barn where he lives next to the ponies and White Dog. This way I could keep his water unfrozen, and he'd have company too, and it was warmer.

I often let Ben come running out of his back paddock, through Earnest's paddock, so he can get tot he front field. In winter, the back gate is often frozen. But when I do this, I am careful, and make Earnest stand away. Yesterday as I left the pony stall after chores, White Dog came up from behind to get out of the gate, he wanted to go to his front field to patrol, and as he ran past me, Earnest was there. I don't really know how it started, but it happened fast. By the time I separated them with a rake, White Dog was crying in pain. I have never heard him cry-these are very stoic dogs. He was holding his right foot up.

I got him back in the stall and the blood began coming out in gushes. When it happened before, the gashes were small, and not deep and I could treat them on my own. Maremmas do not like to be messed with when they are hurt or sick, although Ben is better than Marcella. I have a bunch of muzzles I sometimes use, and put one on him, but he got it off fast. So I tried to find the hole and sort of did but the light was dim. I finally let him outside, and the blood was everywhere. In the light, I could see what I was dealing with. A huge 4" or so slit, and wide open, his tissue and more hanging on threads.

It was horrible.

Ben has been in the car once, to get neutered. It is very hard to get him in the car even with two of us, and I was alone. I ran in and called vet hoping maybe he could come to me but he couldn't. So somehow I got Ben in the front floor area of my truck. It hurt him. Blood everywhere. I knew he must be in pain because he allowed me to hold a towel on the open wound. I think the pressure gave some relief.

At the vet he continued to gush blood everywhere. The fist thing we did was take a chest and lung x-ray to make sure it had not been punctured, as that would kill him if he put him under. Fortunately, there was no puncture. So off he went to get put under and shaved. It turned out the tusk, which his about 4", had gone up way farther than I could have seen, and it almost punctured a main artery. If it had, the vet said he probably would have died before I could get him tot he vet-a 15 minute drive.

There were so many thing that could have been worse.

I left him at the vet for the afternoon, and came home to try to settle down. But I was vibrating all day, I just was so shaken. Firstly, I have been so aware about Earnest's tusks and the danger they can present, but even with that knowledge and care, this happened. Shaving them down is problematic, and must be done all the time. Putting a pig under to work on him-I am told by two of my vets-is dangerous [another vet didn't agree]. Some people cut the tusks with clippers, as long as they don't go too deep it supposedly is dead bone, like a hoof trim.

So no matter how careful I am, accidents can happen. We are mulling over what to do to ensure it never happens again. Some of the choices...are hard for me to imagine. I have always been loyal to Earnest. I love the guy. He gave us food when we were sustainable out on our Oregon farm, I wasn't going to leave him when we moved. But...it all seems so daunting right now, so for now...I just want to heal up White Dog.

Martyn was visibly shaken last night. He told me that when he heard, he just was...mad. He didn't want to tell me because he didn't want me to think he was mad at me. He was just mad that it happened to Ben. He told me he was so upset all day, and he realized how much he had come to love Ben, and want him around forever. Martyn has a relationship with White Dog, but the other barn animals are really in relationship with me. He said he just never thought about Ben dying, and he was worried he might not recover. Unbeknowst to me, he went out to barn last night when I was in bed, to check on Ben.

White Dog showed up on our farm, out of the blue. No dog had ever penetrated the fences where are sheep were. And coincidentally, we had a Maremma of our own, Marcella. How he got there is being told in the book I'm getting ready for print, a memoir of White Dog as told by him. But when he did arrive, and he had not yet settled in with us, I told Martyn,

"Someday this dog is going to break my heart."

I always worried he would run from us, not come back or get hit by a car. In the beginning, he did do some run abouts that nearly killed me, but he always came back and he had a lot of land to cover.

But now...as he ages, and is probably about seven, the idea of not having him here is hard to comprehend. Some animals, like people, are bigger than life, bigger than death. White Dog is surely one of those creatures.

Arriving at the barn this morning, there he was, alive. I guess I'm being dramatic, but, I held my breath, the wound was very, very severe, and the vet told me we were very lucky. The drip line that is in the wound, sewn in, will come out Friday at the vet. The wound looked pretty good to me, he is residing in the interior stall, surrounded by the sounds and smells he knows-that is where he wants to be. He actually wants to be outside, but not yet.

I am just so glad he is alive. I try never tell an animal, "Don't die," as it is selfish and unfair to their journey-but I don't want White Dog to ever die. But I know he will, someday, but not today.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

A good death

Else was helped on her way shortly after this article. She had a good death.
{I write a monthly article in Lincoln County News. This was last month's}

“But where is it I will go then?” asked little Opie, the very smallest of the goats, and youngest.

“Go when?” asked old Sophie, a very old goat.

“When I die?” asked Opie.

“You kind of don’t go anywhere, because your body becomes like rain drops and it goes back into the ground so in fact, you will be everywhere,” said Ollie, a bit older than Opie.

“So when you die, I will always be able to talk with you?” asked Opie.

“Sure!” said Ollie, and he romped off to eat a tree.

“It’s just like being the moon,” said Earnest, the very well read pig. “Your body is gone but you become the light of the moon.”

“And you become the sun, and stars and snow,” said old Else, one of the oldest goats.

The conversation had begun because one of the old cats had died, and the animals are always informed by the house boss lady when a death occurs. The animals had seen many herd mates die, and buried. While they don’t carry on in mourning the same way the humans often do, they revered death as an integral part of life, and they respected both. They feared neither. In fact, they sensed death much sooner than most humans. The boss lady always came out and calmly told them who had died, and then she would let them all see the animal lying in repose, and they could sniff the body if they choose. But they knew long before the boss lady when death occurred. It was an innate message but also a scent of the dying that alerted them.

“It sounds like being dead is a very busy time.” said Opie.

“Death is not that important,” said old Else, who was very crippled and old, and felt she was probably the next one to go. “What is important is a good death.”

“What is a good death?” asked Opie.

“Well, think about what it was like to be really little, and you were sitting around with your mother and father, and maybe some other friends, having a nice evening and meal together, and then you got sleepy since you were so young. And your mother tucked you into your straw and kissed you goodnight, and as you fell off to sleep you could hear her and the others chewing their cud, and the moon was out over the barn and maybe you could hear the wind, or smell the ocean nearby...and just like that, you are asleep. That would be a good death,” said Else.

“That sounds okay,” said Opie. “And then when I wake up I would be rain or snow or the moon and you could still see me anytime.”

“That’s right, Opie, all the energy and love in your little body just gets bigger and bigger.”

“I’ve always wanted to be bigger and bigger,” said the little goat in the barnyard. And he ran off to help Ollie eat the tree. “Is this tree someone we once knew?” he asked.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Oh, Lord, these two

Mud split a toenal so I bandaged to stop slight bleeding

"What happened to your foot?" Bear wonders.

"I'll live, don't worry, little fella."

Monday, January 20, 2020

Pre-Order the new memoir "White Dog"!


A white dog appeared one day in our sheep field. In the
ten plus years we had lived at our farm, no dog or large
predator had ever breached our fences– that we were
aware of. He was very thin and worn, unkept, hungry
and intact. And, he was a Maremma, the same breed as
our livestock guardian dog that also lived on the farm
who had arrived as a pup about eight months earlier.

How he got there was, and is, a mystery, but it is a tale
laced with magic and universal forces at work.
Maremmas don’t just drop out of the sky, or do they?

I named him Benedetto which means blessed but we all
have come to know him as White Dog.

Looking into White Dog’s eyes from the first time I met
him, I knew there was a story only he could tell. I knew
he left something to come to something else, for a reason.

It is a simple truth that all who meet him come to

White Dog knows.

This intimate book is 4.25 x 6" and at 228 pages is small but stout. It is fully illustrated and also includes a section of photographs of White Dog's world. The story is told by White Dog, along with the guidance of Crow and I am the translator.

By pre-ordering, you are allowing an indie author/publisher to continue to make books. Pre-ordering basically helps pay for the traditional offset printing of the book which must be printed in larger quantities–this allows me to not go into debt and helps me continue to birth high quality off-set books into the world.

The book will be ready around May if not sooner.

Once the printing is paid for, a portion of net profit will be put into the Apifera non profit account at year's end. When you buy this book, it is not a tax deduction [Donations to Apifera Farm are tax deductible.]

There are options in the drop down menu and prices include USA shipping [International orders will have to pay at least another $25 for shipping, do not order unless you are okay with that.]

I have included options so you can simply order a book or two [larger quantities just let me know], but also the $250 and $500 levels let you send extra money to support this indie publisher to get this little book out into the world.


Thursday, January 16, 2020

New art

I was in the studio this week and have some new prints available...you might recognize The Teapot, and Captain Sparkle.

Available from the online shop.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

A farewell to old Else, miscalculations and a window opens

Opie views the body. Right after, he came to my side.
Yesterday I got to the front barn and Else would not eat or take water. I always give her a bucket of water so she doesn't have to walk to water bucket....at least for the past month or so, a clear sign she was getting tired. But yesterday, I chose to lift her and move her into a more draft free corner. She cried, in a pain cry. Else never talks. It was clear what she was saying. I went to house to get pain meds, and the injection made her cry out in a distress cry, not a 'hey that hurt cry'. I tried to adjust her body for her, more terrible pain cries.

I told her I would make it right.

Watching an animal suffer is a horrible position to be in, and I was so lucky that one of my vets was very close by, and she came to put her down. She went out like a bulb. She was more than ready.

I had talked to my vet last fall about putting Else down before winter, and I had that in my head as the right thing to do. But then I started really getting good weight on her [for her, she is very thin] and she seemed to be going outside and enjoying life, even though her crippling condition was getting worse, as we knew it would when we adopted her from a state neglect case. For the past months of winter, it has been okay, she was eating, and had a good demeanor. It was about a week ago though that I could tell she had more trouble getting a position that was comfortable. And then yesterday. There was no question we needed to let go.

I am relieved for her.

I told my vet that I had perhaps done her a disservice not acting sooner, but she just didn't seem ready...vets hear this all the time, knowing it is usually the person that isn't ready. But I really didn't think it was time.

So it was a misjudgment on my part. After all the years of doing this, I guess I'm entitled to some miscalculations.

I feel badly though, because she clearly had a morning of pain. But then a big beautiful sleep, and no pain.

This morning she is still in the barn, covered in blankets, with the chickens sleeping on her-it is a process to bury an animal in winter, but we will in the next day or so. It is never a feeling of closure until they are in the ground. I had Wilbur cremated last winter because it was so impossible to bury him with the heavy snow, and I wasn't going to put him out for Nature [I am not opposed to this option, it just doesn't work well in our setting]. I felt really bad about having to take his body into the clinic, put in a freezer to wait for the next cremation pickup. That is how it works. They do the same thing with dogs. And people. I was so relieved to pick his ashes up.

But I want to bury them if I can, return them to the earth in body, feed the worms and tulips.

This morning I did my chores, and I realized how tired I was. I was moving slowly. I have actually given myself permission to move more slowly during chores, and take moments to look and feel and smell it all in. I don't make morning appointments anymore if I don't have to, I just don't want to rush. I've rushed enough. As I did chores I realized how much care taking fills a space, and when the creature or person is gone there is a big space left. I do not have one moment where I think "I wish I didn't have to care for this animal', never, but there is an initial empty space and a feeling of, "now what?" and then, life steps in...another old goat will come along or crippled one...the space Else left will be taken up by another Misfit who fails, or a new comer. A window will open.

So in a way, I guess her death is one more gift-it opens a space, and leaves behind the memory of her sweet self.

The Goose gives Else one last peck...just to make sure.

How I will remember her