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

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

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

It's all connected, you can't have love in a body forever or the spirit would die

You can not separate love from loss. You can not ask for the night to be shorter and still want ripe tomatoes. You can not ask for a life to never end or you are also asking the stream to end before its destination to the ocean.

It's all connected.

You don't get life without death...ever.

You can't ask the spirit to stay in its earthly vehicle or you may as well ask a song to stay in a bird. I've never heard of anyone asking,

"Please, Bird, keep your song in, if it means you will never die."

Every day, things are dying–the bugs I hit with my car window as I drive, the insects below my feet, the old women and men and young ones too, the soldiers, the starving, the sick...and dogs, and animals, and friends...and pugs.

I do not look at my life here at Apifera as a series of losses. I don't analyze the months and think,

This has been a year of losses, please stop

because attrition begins in the womb...the biggest loss of all is at birth-we lose that life of floating freely, protected, loved, anticipated before anyone calls us fat or too old or weird.

My last conversation with the old pug...he spoke clearly

Hughie came into my life when he was going on nine. He was totally blind and one eyed. I knew his time with us would be shorter than getting a pup...but every day of his 4.5 years with us was a blessing.

I woke yesterday with a lot on the agenda, but I really didn't think it would be the last day of Hughie's life. I had to be in town early to take Martyn's truck in-he needed all new brakes which had rusted in the Maine ocean air since he doesn't drive it much in winter-so I spent three hours at the library proofing the upcoming White Dog book.

When I got home, I decided to try to get an X-ray for Hughie and was able to get an afternoon appointment. I've been back and forth for a week to the vet because of Hughie's health. Last Wednesday he showed early symptoms of spinal issues and pain-something common in pugs and something he has suffered from twice since we got him at age 9. He is now 13.5. I did not want to be without meds so got him into the vet right away. We put him on pain meds and anti inflammatories immediately and also gave him a shot for immediate relief. I saw some improvement and was hopeful...briefly.

The last time he had this, he bounced back in a couple days. This time his symptoms kept evolving, and it became clear it was more neurological. And he had this strange thing going on in his throat. So on Monday I went in to get more drugs, without Hughie, and ran into my vet and we chatted. We decided to keep him on the meds longer, and do an X-ray when I could get him in to see if we could figure out what this lung/thing was. And that's why I went in yesterday afternoon, to get the X-ray.

But when I carried Hughie to the car, I told him no matter what happened at the vet, it was going to be okay.

I was willing to see an xray, but my heart and instinct told me...he might not come home with me.

When I got to the vet, and he walked in to do the X-ray, I kind of broke down. I told him I wasn't sure if keeping him alive now was the right thing, even for another week of meds. He got down on the floor with Hughie in front of me and assessed him again, he was clearly in pain and showing neurological signs. An MRI would mean a 4 hour trip and having him put to sleep, and there was no point in an MRI if I wasn't willing to do surgery, and I was not. I was very clear on that in my heart. He is old, and the surgery is not a sure bet that what is causing the spinal issue can be fixed. He had hard enough time with dental surgery recovery. The vet agreed with this assessment.

As we talked...I just knew it was time. I had asked the skies to help me be clear when I went in, and they were. So...the vet went to get the medicines to put him down, and I held Hughie as he sat on the table.

And that is when we had our last conversation.

Hughie usually kissed me "goodnight", because I would carry him up on the couch each night to watch TV and at bedtime I'd hold his smoosh face and he'd kiss me, then I'd carry him to his crate. But I wouldn't say he was a smoochy kind of dog. So that is why this last conversation was poignant.

As I waited for the vet, I talked to Hughie and told him what a wonderful journey we had together here, and now he was the one that had to journey on without me, but I told him to look for Huck. He kissed me. Then I told him I was sorry, and he kissed me. I told him I could not see him be in pain anymore, and I felt I had to help him on this journey. And he just kissed and kissed me, slowly, very gently. It was not like him to do this much, but I truly believe he was thanking me, and telling me,

It is OKAY. I am okay. Please don't feel badly, thank you for doing this.

I suppose someone will tell me it was salt in my tears he liked. But Hughie never kissed me when I had salty lips from ketchup or even chicken.

I brought Hughie home to bury him, but was so tired emotionally I wrapped him in a blanket and lay him on the couch. That night, I told Martyn I wanted to watch television with him one last time. This is not like me, I am pretty resilient about death, and find the burial procedure helpful, and beautiful really-the full circle of a life in my hands as I cover it in beautiful Mother Earth. I think I knew his time was coming all week and had some conversations already with Martyn and the vet, and Hughie, but I had not quite accepted it was here, on that given day...I just wanted one more night to have my left hand on his little pug bowling ball head, rubbing his soft ears. His body was still pretty warm.

Martyn was up before dawn and dug me a hole in my hollyhock bed. I buried him without fanfare after morning chores-morning chores that were full of living and breathing charges. AS usual, I told everyone as I did chores that Hughie was gone. I spent time with Marcella. And when I was out with the equines, Pino stood five feet from me, away from the herd, just staring at me. I was too tired to sit with him. But I know he was acknowledging my sadness, that is Pino.

And so, once again, I am pugless for the second time. But Hughie is okay.

Last Christmas

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Two redheads...sort of

The staff at Horses With Hope took this cute pic of me and Captain Sparkle right before I brought him to Apifera. I hate pics of myself but I thought we were sort of a cute pair, a bit stocky and sturdy in build with red hair, or mine used to be that beautiful flaming red.

Captain Sparkle is doing well, even though The Teapot is bossy pants about everything. I am sharing myself with both of them. He also adores Boone and has nose meetings with him on the fencing.

The donkeys also like to play the "Stand Really Still And Keep Your Eye On The Guy" in the Mask game.

Friday, September 06, 2019

The intuitive work of a little goat

Opie has had a busy week, which I guess means I have had a busy week. On Thursday we visited Cove's Edge which is an elder residence, dementia home and rehab facility for short stay patients. They have a beautiful walled in, large courtyard perfect for animal therapy gatherings. I was really happy to meet their manager and she is beyond thrilled we can begin to come for visits.

I decided to just take Opie since I had no volunteer for the day. There were about 30 residents that came, and staff, and I guess some even left lunch early because they had all been hearing that Opie was going to visit!

We met some wonderful folks and Opie was his usual calm and collected self. And he sniffed out some people in real need of love. I have seen this happen repeatedly with Opie, as well as other natural healers-Pino, Birdie, White Dog to name some. The manager whispered in my ear to go over with Opie to a particular resident. I am not privy to medical issues/details with these folks, due to HIPPA laws, but I am guessing this woman who was in her 50's had had a stroke, I don't know. She was very gentle and had difficulty speaking or moving. Opie put his head in between her knees and stood quietly with her, and then I also lifted him up so she could pet him more easily.

And then I took him around to the other guests, and there were so many lovely encounters, like with Ernie, the retired farmer who Opie also took a shine too. There were some people who had goats in younger years. Usually I let Opie choose where to go [he is on a harness] and so when we were all the way at the opposite of the patio, about 30 feet from the initial woman we met, I said to the manager, 'Let's see where he wants to go,"

...and he deliberately walked back to the woman in need. He buried his head into her knees. This act of comfort was repeated several more times in our visit. The care manager was really moved by this, as was I even though I see it in action all the time.

I am not a scientist or theologian or whisperer. But I do know the power of innate empathy which all animals are capable of, some more than others. People are too, but in my opinion humans started using their brain more than their innate senses way back, and here we are with most people unaware of innate sensitivities some people and animals have.

The other interesting thing that happened was that when we went to leave-and we were there about an hour and a half which is a long visit for Opie-I tugged him to go. Usually after a good hour he lets me know he is worn out and ready to go, but this day, he locked his four feet and leaned into the person he was visiting. I encouraged him more forcefully to come with me, and he did, but then he stopped to see another person-all of them were in wheelchairs-and leaned into them.

For whatever reasons, I sense that Opie has deep connections there. There was a lot of energy flowing that is for sure. I was really proud of him, really proud of our day.

We will be making regular visits, and also other animals will join the mix.

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Tuesday, September 03, 2019

$50 art? Help us pay off the barn addition!

OK. If you follow my art you know I rarely do sales but my goal is to sell this first batch of 100+ sketches/doodles at the very low rate of $50 each-my goal is to pay off the remaining $15,000 barn addition [I had raised $4000 early in spring]. I know, that's a lot of $50's.

Over 100 items and more coming - visit now

I did not do a major fundraiser for the addition because there were so many other financial needs for the animals, and I felt it was too much for me to raise both. So I took out a loan, not pleasant or ideal, but had to be done. My goal is to pay this off ASAP due to the interest rate.

There si something for everyone-hula hooping pigs, chubby ponies in snowsuits, tulips and puppies...and more. I actually love doodles and raw sketches, and in a frame, as my mother used to say, "anything looks better" [Thanks, Mom].

Visit the sale >

Saturday, August 31, 2019

The little red spark plug has arrived!

First glance into Apifera
This little chap is so much fun and I'm so pleased we could adopt him from Horses With Hope Equine Rescue here in Maine. They took him in last fall and he was really in bad shape. He had untreated Cushings and laminitis and was in serious pain. Since the Cushings wasn't being treated it aggravated the laminitis, or caused it, and since his feet weren't being cared for either...well it added up to pain, he could hardly walk. He also was unkept and just looked plain sad [see the photo of his 'before' condition when he arrived at the rescue.] The rescue worked so diligently with him through farrier work every four weeks, vet care, x-rays, handling and improved feeding.

So when I saw that he was ready for adopting, I jumped. Of course you know by now I love chestnut horses, and have always wanted a Mini Me for Boone! But it was really the look on his face, both before and after, that I responded too. When I went to meet him, I knew I loved him. He has a spark for sure, and is no push over. His issues mean he will be on daily meds for his life, and he wears little padded booties to help with his laminitis issues.

So yesterday I drove up to get him. They had him all clean and sparkly after a bath, and he smelled delicious! My animals wondered if he was some kind of movie star. When he arrived here, he walked into a different world-he stood for a moment to assess the scene he was about to walk towards-a goose, goats everywhere, white dogs, llamas, ducks...goodness, that is a lot to take in and he did just great. And then...he met The Teapot. She did exactly what I thought she would, she checked him out, ran around with him, and then told him,

"Look, just so you know, I'm in charge of most of this area."

He of course could sense this from a mile away.

But all is well. I let him run around and let Teapot get some kicks out, no harm done, and then I stalled him for the night so he'd get rest. He could nose everyone all night and this morning, he was full of vim and vinegar and ready to put his boots on.

He seems very intrigued with the equines on the other side of the fence. His buddy at the barn was a Thoroughbred, so I wondered if he wanted to be with Boone. But since he can't eat grass, nor can The Teapot, he will stay put. I might put him over there in time to run around, but while he can run, he isn't as swift escaping from rough play as the others.

I have to say, when I brushed him this morning, he still smelled like his bath, and it made me want to get hot water to the barn for baths [not going to happen].

The rescue had put down the name Spartan...but I kept slipping and referring to him as Sparkle. I have no idea what his name is...yet, but I do know I am glad I was able to bring him here. I think in time he will be a good little therapy pony. He tends to use his lips a bit to communicate "Listen to me, or stop that" but not in a bad way, the rescue worked daily with him so he is pretty well mannered but I will need to test him out a bit.

He is going to be fun.

On arrival at the rescue last year
During recovery, he got lots of mail at the rescue
After months of rehab by the rescue
Seeing The Teapot for the first time

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Dreams of my mother as a pie which has nothing to do with this piece, sort of

I did some art today, quick sketches with watercolor sticks on paper. I really liked this one and I am entering my 'back to studio days' as fall approaches. I cleaned the studio and office this week, what a barnyard it was, and it is like buying new pencils for school, getting ready.

Last night I dreamt I was with my mother, and brother, somewhere in NYC. We were walking through a large department store and they got ahead of me, and then I lost them and it was impossible to find them. I started screaming my brother's name but to no avail. We were supposed to go see a friend I had who lived there years ago when I did. Finally I heard my mother, and she was lying down and not feeling well. In fact, she decided she should go to the hospital, so they were putting a blanket on her, and all of sudden, she became a peach pie. I leaned down to the pie, and I told her not to worry, and I could hear my mother inside the pie blowing me kisses. And then I said I was sorry I had brought her out as it was too much for her, and she blew me more kisses.

Dreams are like paintings in so many ways, a way to explore the insides of the caverns that make up our souls and interior world. I am learning not to really analyze my dreams as much, just like I don't analyze my art much. Why I opted to put black mittens on this piece, I don't know and I don't care. I just know I did just as I was meant to dream about my mother as a peach pie [I distinctly remember it was a peach pie].

I have worked hard all summer with the animals and the senior visits. September and October will be busy too with the weather cooling and it will be a good time for bringing elders here. But I'm readying for my semi hibernation from people. From November through March I will be more reclusive and selfish, I need it. I feel a bit spent. I love everything I'm doing and we are making progress in so many ways, but winter will be my season and nobody else's except the animals, and my regular elder friends too who I truly love being with. In fact this summer was so busy with new elder homes coming, I wasn't able to make private visits as much to my regulars.

Monday, August 26, 2019

I am no saint! And I don't whisper!

I get really uncomfortable on social media when followers refer to me as a "saint" due to my taking on needy animals. For the record, I have never, ever met a saint. And I am not close to being one, nor do I aspire to be. I just try to keep dancing, as fast as I can.

I also get cranky when I see other people referring to animal people as 'whisperers'. This is such an overused term and means little or nothing to an animal. Firstly, communicating with the animals needs no words, it is about intentions and responses to a given moment or encounter. In fact, Martyn sometimes calls me an Animal Yeller, when he hears me out in the barn screaming,

"Georgeeeee!" at the goat who is always in trouble somehow.

My lack of saintness was never more apparent this past Thursday night when I found old Matilda lying, alone, in a far corner of the field, away from the herd. I had wrapped her legs entirely to protect against flies, with vet wrap. The sprays just weren't working as well this year. I figured she had an abscess because she was tender on one hind foot. But I could not for the life of me find one, or even detect heat. I brought her into the stall for the night, worried she might not be able to get up in a far part of the field. And then it dawned on me that the vet wrap might be too tight. I had also been adding layers of it as the wrap slowly slid down over the day. When I took the wrap off, I was appalled to see raw ulcerated areas. I had caught it in time, but she was swollen at the hock on the sore leg. I had certain meds but the next morning I called my vet and she was able to send another equine vet out that day. I was so glad they could come. We dosed her with stronger antibiotics and did intravenous anti inflammatories. I do not do any of my own intra-vein work, always leave that to a vet.

The vet was very helpful and reassuring I was not the year's worst equine owner. But I did learn I made a mistake with the vet wrap. We shaved her legs and I am doing 3x a day topical with a silver mixture. She is eating well, and the swelling is gone. Plus I can just tell she feels so much better. We also did some blood work as she lost some weight since spring when she had come out of winter looking so good. She is going to be 26 so there could be many reasons for this. My vet returns Tuesday to give non equine rabies shots, and we'll reassess her.

But anyway, I did not whisper anything to her. In fact, I just apologized. I know that animals do not hold grudges nor did she judge me for my error. She has always liked it when I work on her, so our routine now to get her over this - and the sores are already looking good- is just one more way to seal our bond.

Seeing her in the field that way gave me pause. I am not one to do heroics to keep an old animal alive. But, I am here to try to make what life they have left a good one and a comfortable one, within reason. Matilda is going to be 26, and I am of course very fond of her. Seeing her alone in the field, I wondered if she was beginning her transition, as an animal will often separate from the herd in their waning days, I've seen this over and over in my work. I think she was just horribly uncomfortable from the swelling. I hope that is the case. I don't want that goodbye right now, even though it will happen. Hopefully her blood work is fine.