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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Old man

“Age is a seasoned trickster. To our parents, we will always be children. Within ourselves, the same yearnings of youth; the same aspirations of adolescence, will last a lifetime. Only to the young - blinded by our grey hair and slowing gait - do we appear old and increasingly beyond the pale.”
― Alex Morritt, Impromptu Scribe

The Chocolate Lab named after a pie, Huckleberry, aka Huck, has turned eleven today. We will be doing what we do every day with Huck, looking into his soulful and now cloudy eyes, speaking to him through that silence, saying to each other,

We are here together, all is well, we are safe.

Huck came to Apifera as a pup a year after I said goodbye to my original road warrior, Louie Louie, the fox terrier who was my companion in singleness for 14 years. Louie was able to get me to Martyn, and then the farm, and after six months here, I helped him on his way, his life was so full that he went out in my arms with a smile on his terrier lips. So I waited to fill that spot for some time, and we still had the aging One Eyed Pug that became the Old One Eyed Pug I.

I never would have picked a Lab, but since so many animals were my decision, I let my new husband's opinion matter in the decision. I was after all a unit now, with an opinion, but he too had an opinion. Louie was a very alpha dog, as many terriers are, and he was definitely my dog and came with all his and mine insecurities and unbalanced behavior wrapped together. He somewhat unsettled Martyn I think, I can't blame him, the dog used to pee while he ate his food as a warning to anyone to stay away. It worked every time. By the time Martyn met Louie, the latter had calmed some but was almost all blind and he had anxiety attacks if he didn't know where I was. So I asked Martyn what kind of dog he envisioned.

"A lab," he said.

"A lab?!" I retorted, having come from a long line of terrier ownership, with Standard Poodles tossed into the mix.

I paused..."It has to be a male, and chocolate."

I had always loved Chocolate Labs, so the idea was born and I found a good breeder within a couple of hours and we brought him to Apifera. Five years later, we brought home another pup, from the same parents-a totally different dog than Huck but a joy-you know him as Muddy.

From the onset, Huck was a worrier, but very polite no matter what his feelings about anything. When Martyn sits in his rocking chair at night, Huck waits until we tell him it is okay to go to the couch. If we are in our bedroom, he doesn't come in without an invite-while Muddy bounds in every morning to let us know IT IS MORNING!

Huck used to do 'The Scooby Dance", twirling around and around in tight circles. We could tell when one was coming on, he'd sit and get this very goofy expression on his face-his lower lip slightly limp and drooping. Then we'd say, really slowly,

"Oh, Huckleberry, are you wanting to do the Scooby Dance?" and around and around he'd go.

He quit doing the dance a few years ago, as he is very gimpy in his front shoulder. But every now and then, maybe once a year, he does it and we all just get so happy.

Huck has slowed even more this past year and I think his eyesight has definitely failed a bit, especially at night which is pretty normal. His grey has increased even more, his lumps and warts lay on his aging frame with his hips sinking and his back swaying. He was never the athlete Mud is, but he was and is the soul man of the house, the one who comes to me trembling when I cry, or raise my voice at something. He needs more encouragement to do certain things to feel safe-like going to the couch if we are still by the fire.

When he was a pup, the place was in its wild days, raccoons visiting day and night on the porch, and we taught Huck to alert us of any raccoons. He did and then some, bounding out on the porch just so far to ward them off. As he has gotten older, I don't let him do that anymore. And we often turn the light out on the porch as we sit by the fire so he can't see raccoons. He usually is soundly sleeping and just isn't as alert as in his youth. But every now and then, he hears one, his fur on his back stands up, and he barks at the window, then turns to look at me,

The raccoon is here! I'm telling you, do you see him, shall I go out? he tells us with pride. We praise him for his good work, and he returns to lay down on one of his many cushions spread throughout the house, falling almost immediately back into slumber, his legs and paws often twitching as he is most likely chasing that coon in his dream, or doing the Scooby Dance.