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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Morning rituals with White Dog...they matter

Rituals are important to the relationships I have with my animals and farm, and land. Rituals allow us to know that even in the chaos of a daily life full of the unexpected, a ritual can keep us balanced, even temporarily until we are back on track. My morning rituals with the animals gets me up in the morning. it is what got me through my father's death, my mother's and any other grief I was going through.

When we moved the farm to Maine, getting the animals resettled was my top priority, both in the barn, and in the house. Since we had such strong relationships, it wasn't that hard. Maybe some of the stalls were temporary, and now we are getting our paddocks and fencing more suited for long term use, but the animals adjusted immediately, very well. There was no drama for anyone. They had food, shelter, water, and the same voice of me coming and going as I always did. I spent a lot of daily time with my charges before we moved, during, and after.

White Dog has taken on a more active role here. I really didn't plan it. In fact, I was most concerned about both Benedetto and Marcella because we are on a very busy road, something I did not realize when we purchased the place. It slows down late autumn through May, but it is only about 300 feet from the barn, unlike our old farm. it is the one thing that, to be honest, I am having trouble adjusting too, but we are doing fencing and planting trees to help.

White Dog now lives with the sheep pretty much 24/7. He lives out in the new barn, with the flock, and The Head Troll, Sophia, Birdie the llama, and the equines in the next over pasture. Rosie the pig, er, The World's Grumpiest But I Am Fine As I Am Pig, aka Rosie, lives in her private suite there too. Marcella lives with Earnest, Moose, Goose and Wilbur the Acrobatic Goat. Sometimes the Secret Sisters and Francis [the chicken flock] visit. The White Dogs have wolf play days where I bring them together and they run and fight and get to relax. Eventually, Marcella will have more roaming room, but the fences aren't good enough, yet.

So here is my morning ritual today with Benne. No matter what gate I enter at, he is there. I can see that nose and those sincere eyes from the porch. I spend a good few minutes holding him, and looking into his eyes, deeply. One is not to over pet a guard dog, they say. I believe this and understand the concept. But Benne needs my acknowledgement, he always has. We still, nor ever, will know his true story. But I do know that he is a natural with the flock, and more relaxed than Marcella. He does a good job at night with wandering coyotes but he doesn't over bark either.

We go off to the barn for feedings, and after, I usually go out somewhere and just...look. I am still soaking things in. I am still introducing myself to the trees and The Wood, and trying to understand exactly what happened, and why. White Dog has definite places, usually corners away from the flock, where he perches himself. He is very content here, I think maybe more so than at the old farm. I think he has more purpose here. He was the barnyard guard there and here he is in charge of a bigger area of his own, and the flock. Marcella has her area to guard, and he has his.

I do my clean up chores and Benne comes and goes, dividing his time between checking a gate or two, and if I am near a fence line where he arrives, he never ceases to put a paw up for me.

"I'm here, don't forget, I'm right here," his eyes say.

Thank goodness.

{If you like the writing, photos and art I've been posting for the past ten years here, please visit the new book funding site. Only 20 days left.}