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

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©Katherine Dunn.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Very sad, very hard news to share

Taken the last morning of her life
I always do the barn chores in the front barn first, feeding the goats and pigs, chickens and lastly, attend to the elder cat suite before heading out to the outer barn. I was deep in thought as I was cleaning litter boxes, thinking about Birdie, when Martyn came in. He never comes in while I'm doing chores.

"Birdie died," he said.

I can not even tell you what sounds came out of my body.

Some might wonder why we were shocked, but we were. Devastated. Gutted. Mad. Sad. Empty. Squished like a bug.

In the last two days, I could tell Birdie was in more discomfort. I was unsure if this was from inflammation [she was on anti inflammatories], general discomfort and muscle aches from the situation and therapy, or if the two sores she had that we were treating caused great pain-the latter weren't that advanced and after finding them we wrapped her entire legs top to bottom, instead of just problem spots from lying down. Her last three therapy sessions were harder for her. She just seemed more ouchy, and less ready to be a willing partner. In order to even get her up into the lift, she usually 'helped' me by lifting some from the torso, but a couple days ago, she wasn't that willing.

Last night, she was clearly ouchy. I spent a lot of time with her, soothing her by massaging her face, but she clearly just kind of wanted her space. I respected that. I went to the house and brought back a pain shot for her, and she was eating as I left.

We don't know what killed her in the end. While we firmly, along with our vets, think she had the M worm, and responded to treatment, her relapse 2 months later had us all scratching our heads. Maybe the pain was more than we knew and she had a heart attack. She might have had a tumor on her spine for all we know. We will never really know.

The thing is, I think she knew what was coming, and I think she knew that in my heart, I knew. One day ago, when I sensed she was in more discomfort, I asked her if I needed to listen better to her, if I was clearly understanding her needs at this moment. I think we had such optimism because we were seeing improvements, but while we were watching for those things, other things were going on inside her. I also noticed her eyes just seemed less bright.

After I gave her her pain shot last night, I told her how hard I knew she was working and I was so sorry this was happening to her.

So...here we are. Llama less and heartbroken. Spent. We all tried so hard! And that includes a village of people who tried to help. She was given the right antibiotics, treatments, and was on certain vitamins for nerve repair. Massages, acupressure, acupuncture with vitamin b shots...music therapy, physical therapy and love from us and a goose...her fans sent her prayers and leg wraps and hope.

This is a huge loss for me and the farm. We were just getting started her and me, she was meant to be a therapy animal. I guess she was able to do that, and by coming to Maine and being part of her first years here, she won the hearts of anyone she met. There is no other llama like her. No other creature like her. I just can't even tell you how painful this is, it is physically painful. We were a team. And I got left behind.

This morning we had a scheduled Opie therapy visit with our sweet friends at Wiscasset Green. I did not for a second think of cancelling. I knew it was something I needed to do for us, and them. My goal was not to blubber about Birdie, and I told Martyn to not bring it up. Well, they asked about her. And we told them. They were genuinely sad, they loved her and often asked about her. And they were genuinely sad for me. I didn't blubber but got teary eyed. As we were leaving Joe gave me a hug and told me that Birdie was out of pain, and when his wife of 60 years died that is what kept him standing, knowing she was not in pain. And that is all I thought of today. Birdie is not in pain. She is okay, just like my mom and all the other creatures that have died before me. Birdie was tired in the end, she put on such a fight. Did she do it for us? Maybe, but in the end, I think she did what she needed because she knew I wasn't ready to do it.

When we got home, there were bunches of tulips that had been left at our gate from a dear friend, someone I had told early in the morning about Birdie. The card said, "It will be okay." She knew that was my mantra, and she knew it was the perfect thing to say to me, and it was.

When I turned to open the gate, there was a little chickadee nearby, sitting, looking my way.

"Bird," I said. I called her Bird a lot. She is all the birds now I guess.

Taken the last day of her life

I covered her head this morning, Goose inspects