Category Archives: mourning

You’ll be missed, Apricot…

I realize that it’s been practically forever since I’ve posted and that the recent ones are all about the sadness in losing friends. I’m sad to report that this one isn’t much different as I found out yesterday that my little friend, Apricot, passed away. She’d been in poor health for quite some time and had fought through it by continuing to be as sweet as pie. I’ll miss her little under-bite. She was always moving around a lot so I have only one photo of her to share that I can find right now. But if I locate an under-bite pic, I’ll post it.

Apricot

You’ll be missed, sweet sweet girl.

And I’m going to try to start writing regularly again. I love love love my job but it keeps me busy. I always get to the farm to visit my friends though and will try to bring those adventures back to the page. I’m still live-tweeting/gramming while there, so please follow me on twitter (@mindingtheminis) or Instagram (@mindingtheminis).

I hope that everyone has a wonderful week. Hug your two-legged and four-legged friends close.

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May 19, 2014 · 8:51 am

Sweet sorrow

I realize that I’ve been pretty silent for a long time now. My job has really taken off and my focus has definitely shifted. That’s not to say that I haven’t been at the farm! Just that the mental energy I’ve put into documenting my adventures has been redirected. In addition, there has been a lot of sadness for me at the farm recently. In a week’s time, two of my very best friends passed away suddenly.

Lunar had a blockage in her stomach that needed emergency surgery. Dan and Connor, two of the incredible teens that devote so much of their time to the sanctuary, spent hours trying to get Lunar onto a trailer to get her to the vet. They struggled with her, attempting to get her up the ramp in any way that they could. And at the moment that they almost had her all the way up, her halter broke and they had no way to hold onto her. They couldn’t go on and she was unable to go to the vet. She was healthy in every other way, but because this was so serious, she ended up having to be put down. I found out about the blockage when I went to volunteer and spent a bit of time with her while others helped out, thinking that she would get better. I found out that she had been put to sleep when I visited on a Friday because I would be missing my Sunday shift. I never really got to say goodbye to her. When Deb and I talked about it, she said that by not being able to get Lunar on the trailer that she knew she wouldn’t survive. They did everything that they could to get her to surgery and Lunar would not go.

While I was there, she mentioned that Athena was not doing very well. Her eyesight had deteriorated a great deal and she was having problems walking. I stayed with Athena for a while in the sheep area just chatting with her. And then she did something very interesting. When I squatted down in front of her, I put my face close to hers and she actually put her nose right up against mine. Her soft, fuzzy nose was pressed up against me. She stared into my eyes and then she walked away.

I went off on my weekend trip. And on the drive home late Monday, I received a text from Connor. He said that he was really sad to tell me that they’d had to put Athena to sleep unexpectedly that day. She hadn’t been able to get up and was suffering. I went to the farm early the next morning and spent time with her resting body in Gully’s pen. I haven’t cried like that in a long time. I held her for a long time and kissed her sweet face and told her I loved her many last times.

In addition to my two friends passing, there were two other sweet creatures that also passed in the same time frame. Crazy Xena, the goat and beautiful Shiloh, the horse, both left us. To say the least, it has been a sad couple of months, peppered with the joy and beauty that surrounds me when I’m there. Gully and I continue to be the best of friends and the alpaca girls actually approach me for food now. I will tell stories about that transformation soon. But all of the animals will be missed.

The first week back without Lunar and Athena, which landed on the same Sunday, was really tough. Everything felt so empty without them.

Lunar_Athena_Empty_Stall_Winslow_Farm_Minding_the_Minis

I still look longingly into Lunar’s stall and Athena’s empty space at the front of the barn. I am sad that I never got to say goodbye to Lunar and sad that I had to say goodbye to Athena.

Lunar and I always had an easy friendship. My favorite thing that she did was to scratch her head (and often almost knock me over) on my leg. She was a sweet, wonderful friend.

Lunar_Horse_Winslow_Farm_MindingtheMinisBeautiful, beautiful girl. I miss and love you.

My relationship with Athena blossomed from a shy friendship to what I am convinced was love. By the end of her days, she trusted me enough to let me scratch behind her ears and along her soft nose. She even fell asleep a few times while I was petting her. She was a true friend and I will never forget her.

Petting_Athena_Sheep_Winslow_Farm_MindingtheMinisWhen I posted this to Instagram, my caption was “The fact that I can just walk up to Athena and do this is still nothing less that astounding to me.” And it felt that way every single time. She really grew to trust me. And in trusting me, she’d let strangers pet her when I was with her.

Gully_Athena_Winslow_Farm_MindingtheminisAthena and Gully shared a quiet friendship. Now that she’s gone, Gully no longer wants to stay up at the barn (a story for another day). It makes me sad that I’ll never see this sight again, but I’m happy that I did get to see it so many times.

Sweet_Athena_Winslow_Farm_Minding_the_MinisI’ll miss this beautiful smile.

The photos included in this post were all pulled from my Instagram account and can be found in my twitter feed. I take photos every week and post live to Twitter. So, if you’d like to “be there with me,” please follow me at @MindingTheMinis or go straight to the source for photos on Instagram, also MindingTheMinis. Hug your two and four-legged friends tightly. See you next week!

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Filed under athena, lunar, mourning, winslow farm

The bittersweet fusion of rain and sun

After having such a wonderful afternoon at the farm, I was deeply saddened to come home and find out that one of my good friends, Chance, had been put to sleep. I battled with feeling the joy I’d just experienced at Winslow and the devastation of losing a loved one. Grief is never an easy process and memories of frolicking with Chance will continue to weave their way into my world. My new memories at the farm intertwined with those emotions and while I am mourning the loss of a great being, I can appreciate my other companions as well.

I started out the afternoon giving Lunar bear hugs and kissing her on her soft cheeks. Kissing her fuzzy face is a new step for me and a lovely one. It’s an adrenaline rush to wrap my arms around her, so different than with a smaller animal. She responded with lots of headbutts. When she does that, I really have to brace myself. I’m pretty sure that I will end up in the mud at some point, but I still take every opportunity I can to shower her with love.

I think I mentioned that I am responsible for feeding the lovely alpacas now. YAY!!! Nothing exciting to report on them. They still won’t let me near but just spending extra time with them is good enough for me.

Another wonderful addition to my time was my pit-stop in the bird house. I walked in and spotted the turkey and he sort of started on the other side of the room, a bit of a bump and feather movement. I slowly approached him and squatted a few feet away. Very slowly, he side-stepped his way toward me until he was close enough to pet. I reached out my hand and he kind of tilted his body into it. Then he started making tiny noises of what I am assuming was joy. Last week, when I was petting him, I used extremely tentative strokes, barely touching his feathers. This time, I leaned into them more and pet him for longer. I even pet his bumpy little head while he continued to coo. I can’t wait to see him again.

The other major highlight of the day was Gulliver. After our petting session last week, I wasn’t sure what to expect from him. When we’re in the barn, he usually watches me from his pen while he waits for his food. Other than that he’s pretty self-contained and focused on eating. Most of the time, he won’t even turn around if I enter his pen. (A bit of “Maybe if I ignore her, she’ll go away”?) I noticed, however, that he was watching me a lot this week. I nonchalantly went over, chatting quietly and slipped an arm over the door. I started scratching his head without facing him and felt him lean into my hand. I started focusing my attention directly at him and he continued to offer his head to me and even started gazing up at me. At one point, I got distracted by Athena who was right behind me being beautiful and Gulliver chewed a bit on my elbow to regain my attention. He even licked my elbow once! The way he tilted his head to the side and leaned into the petting reminded me of a cat or a dog. In all honesty, I was surprised (and, of course, delighted) by that behavior. And he never stepped away to let me know he was done.

Whereas last week, I wasn’t sure if he was just putting up with me or if he actually liked me, there’s no question in my mind now. While I appreciate all of the relationships with animals that I am lucky enough to be a part of, there is an extra bit of gratification that comes with winning an animal over. I welcome Gulliver into that club.

Well, hello there, lady!

Karlina!

This time, he wasn’t just watching me because he thought I was a weirdo!

Handsome (blurry) man!

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Filed under alpacas, athena, dogs, goats, gulliver, horses, lunar, mourning, photography, turkey, winslow farm

R.I.P. Chance

I miss you already, my dear, dear friend.

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Filed under dogs, mourning

R.I.P. Moonie

I arrived at the farm on Monday and was told that over Christmas, Moonie, the blind horse, had taken a turn for the worse. He’d had a tumor on his pulmonary artery for a long time and it was affecting him, causing him to repeatedly fall. The vet determined that his time had come.

I was so sad when I learned about him, especially since the blizzard last week had prevented me from leaving Connecticut and getting to the farm, but I was told that I would have missed him anyway.

Although I was still just getting to know Moonie, I knew that he was comfortable enough with me and my voice to come for food without prodding and accept my pets. I’m happy that I gave him a hug on the last day that I saw him.

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xoxo

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If not sadness, then what?

I finished watering my garden the other day and went about coiling up the hose. I glanced down and saw a leaf that resembled a fetus or newborn animal. Closer inspection revealed that unfortunately it was a new born bird who’d fallen from its nest. Directly above it was a hole in the side of our house that I’d seen a bird fly into a few days earlier. Devastated, I abandoned my project to attend to the bird. I picked up the tiny body, about two inches long, and placed it on a trowel so that I could look at it up close. Its perfectly formed little body had a tiny little beak and tiny wings that were beginning to sprout the downy feathers that would have covered its entire body during the upcoming weeks. It looked so peaceful, eyes closed, at rest. I was so sad for this little creature. I was just as sad for those it left behind.

I’d noticed one of the parents a few days before flying into the hole. I remember thinking that it was a great place for a nest. It was protected from the elements like the crazy wind that’s been wreaking havoc on our trees. It was hidden away from predators, as the cats in the neighborhood had no chance of getting near it. The mother had sat on her nest, laid an egg and tended to it with her mate close by, waiting to introduce it to the world. The egg hatched, revealing the tiny life.

Then

with the blink of an eye,

it was gone.

What did this mother bird do when she realized her baby had fallen out of her carefully thought out nest? Did she made a sound? Was it quiet? Loud? Drawn out? Did she sit next to her tiny baby? When did she finally accept defeat?

I often think about how animals experience emotion, more specifically how they mourn. We’re told not to attribute human emotions to animals; that they don’t “feel” like we do. Tell that to the dog that risked rush hour traffic to save its friend and dragged it by the collar through the on-coming cars. Or to the cat who tried to bring its mate back to life while people tried in vain to pull him off, viciously attacking their efforts. Or what about the mother in March of the Penguins who cried hysterically over her lost egg and went as far as to try, unsuccessfully, to steal another mother’s egg. Her wailing still haunts me. There are hundreds of examples that have been caught on film by both amateurs and professionals of animals experiencing loss. If not sadness, what are these animals feeling?

I have trouble watching these “mourning” clips that go viral, the Discovery Channel moments that tug at the heartstrings or make me flat out sob. I get sad when I see roadkill, thinking about how lonely the animal must have been during their last moments and who they left behind. These are the thoughts that fill the crevices and jump out at me when I’m feeling my most desolate. I know that animals are not people. That they do not have our cognitive thoughts or our opposable thumbs. But they certainly “feel”. Although anger is different than sadness, it’s still an emotion and to make my point I’m throwing it in here. I often observe my own cats in the throws of jealousy as they brood watching one of the others receives pets and attention. They might not be able to think, “I feel jealous”, but they’re experiencing something and they prove it by smacking the other cat as he saunters by them.

When it comes to loss, perhaps animals are better off not having to experience it exactly like humans do. I certainly wouldn’t wish my sadness on them. But the concept that people project their emotions on animals and that they have none of their own? I’m just not on board with that theory.

I carefully placed the tiny bird in my garden while I dug a hole. I laid it to rest and covered the mound of earth with my birdbath that the parents might visit. And although it probably won’t effect their grief, if they’re even experiencing any, at least it will help ease mine.

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