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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Old Victor slips away

Somewhere between 8:45 and 10:00 this morning, Old Victor died. I had greeted him this morning at 8:30 as I entered the barn. I was going riding so feedings would wait until I got back. This is a routine the barnyard is used to, and it makes it less chaotic for me to get to my ride on time.

On returning, I went about my business feeding which has an order of who gets fed first keeping everything going smoothly-as much as possible anyway. Victor, Sophie, Professor and Only Duck live in a large stall at night and are usually fed last, so I can attend to Victor's needs. Every morning and night, I lifted him up so I could clean his bedding and give him some relief for laying down all the time. For the past month, he has not been able to even hop as he used to, so he would simply lay back down again.

I knew it was only a matter of time before his system would just shut down, but there hadn't been any signs of distress yet. When I opened the stall door and saw him clearly dead, I called to him.

I lay my head on his and said,

"Oh, Victor, I'm happy for you. You were such a sweet man."

It appeared to be a quick death, no signs of trauma near by. It was time. He and I had discussed it several times. The only reason I hadn't helped him on his way yet is he seemed quite content and was not having any trouble staying upright once he was laying down [a cast goat can die quickly if not helped upright]. He had a smile in the morning and night and ate well. The torrential rains have kept everyone working over time on flooded roads and driveways, and I just kept thinking we could get along, him and I, for a few more weeks unless he took a turn for the worst. And we did get along just fine.

But there were several times when I helped him up when I sensed he was getting tired of it all. When I would enter the stall, he would try so hard to get up, but in time, he just positioned himself in a way that indicated he knew I was going to help him. It was also getting hard to keep him clean, and eventually that could have created health issues too.

I spent a lot of time with this gentleman, and that he was, a gentleman. He never had an ill head toss towards another goat, and we all know he always had a smile on his old face. He is like many elders, crippled, doing their best in nursing homes, unable to clean themselves or even move without aid. Some turn sour, some try to smile through it. Victor took the latter route.

I am not sad today, I'm relieved for him, and you should be too. As in any death here, I let the barnyard come into the stall to see the body. They of course were way ahead of me, and took it in stride. But it's also important for me to let them see me with the body, as it is my final convenant with that creature-to take care of his remains swiftly and as best I can. Martyn happened to be home as we are expecting more torrential rains and he helped me dig a grave. All around us the Misfits nibbled on grass and old pumpkins-except Sophie, who remained in the stall area to eat hay on her own. I sensed she felt the loss, and interestingly enough, she was much more personable today. I have seen this happen-the caregiver animal of a bonded pair loses the other animal, and then they blossom a bit, free from the responsibility of watching out for their friend.

I had my phone with me and took these crude images- a sequence that lasted about 2 minutes. Sophie showed me the body, I reassured her I would take care of him, Marcella came in and inspected the area around the body, and then smelled Victor's death, and then went on her way. Benedetto stayed out in the barn, his usual approach to death-letting Marcella deal with it.

The beautiful light that then fell on Sophie as she looked up to the stall ceiling moved me–what caught her eye? Light, spirit or just a breeze?