You’d think as a writer that I would relish this opportunity to utilize my fingertips and words to talk about my emotions… my thoughts… my sadness. But truth be told, I’m forcing myself to type these words.
The biggest part of me wants to run to the hills, dig myself a cozy hole in the earth like a badger, curl up in fetal position, and cry.
As thankful as I am for the text messages, emails, and sweet notes from people around the world, I haven’t even been able to get the courage to respond. And maybe they don’t expect me too – I’m not sure the proper social action to take, so for the time being, the contacts go unresponded.
I’m thankful though. I’m thankful that so many cared about our ‘ol cow.
When I worked on a feedlot years (what seems like a lifetime!) ago, I saw cattle die the most atrocious deaths. Their corpses would go unnoticed and were wasted. They lived sad lives, devoid of meaningful human interaction and care.
My Sal had a beautiful life.
Just yesterday morning I thought she’d pull through. She was trying so hard to stand, I thought for sure she’d get there with a bit of assistance. I messaged Stu, who was at work, that we’d need to try and sling her again that night because she was so close!
I cheered her from the Suburban window on as I drove down the driveway into town to run a few errands. “Way to go, Mama! Come on!”
I returned an hour later and noticed her in the same position, licking Lyle and resting.
And just an hour after that, Stu arrived home from work with the look. Every farmer’s wife knows ‘the look’.
‘The look’ that tells you your pigs have escaped the pen.
‘The look’ that tells you the calf is running rampant on the hillside.
‘The look’ that tells you your companion, your dear friend, your Queen of the Farm, didn’t make it.
I shouted at him. WHAT?! There’s no way! I just saw her! I just saw her an hour ago! She was FINE! That doesn’t make any sense?! Are you sure? How can you be sure?
He didn’t answer or rebutle my questions. He just shook his head and stared into my eyes – his own, not very strong in the moment. I’m sorry, honey. I’m so sorry.
Wiping away my tears, I passed the baby off to Stu, and slowly made my way down to Sal’s pen. I found her, comfortable and peaceful, snuggled right up next to her milking parlor where I’d nursed her, fed her, watered her, and loved on her just hours before.
I sat with her and Lyle and cried. I just cried.
I’m so sorry, Sal. I’m so sorry I couldn’t help you. I wish I could have done something… anything… I love you so much. I hope you know how much you were loved.
Lyle very slowly walked up to me, eye to eye as I sat on the ground, and licked my tears off my cheeks. God is so good.
No really, he is. Here I was, staring at my dead friend… a friend I had tried desperately to save… a friend who had consumed my thoughts, prayers, and time for the past two weeks… and all I could think was God is so good.
Just days before, my prayer had changed from ‘Please, save her Lord!’ to ‘Help me to be wise. Help me to glorify you in the way I handle this.’
I wanted so desperately to do right by Sal – I certainly didn’t want her to suffer, especially for my sake. How would I know when it was time? How could I ever work up enough courage to put her down? How would I know that what I’d tried was enough?
I didn’t know how to make the call. So I didn’t. I cared for her the best I could and I prayed.
God made the call for me. He took Sal, in His time. For His glory. And His purpose. Peacefully.
She died snuggled up in the safety of her home. A home where she was desperately loved.
Sal was buried in her pen, thanks to a neighbor who let us borrow a small tractor. As we dug the hole, I wept. I wept like I haven’t wept in years. And as I wept, I cleaned up the remnants of the life we’d made down in her pen these past two weeks. Ropes. Oils. Ointments. Slings. Feed bags. Hay bales. Medicine. Buckets.
To know the smell, the sounds, the feel, of a dairy animal… it’s indescribable. It’s not just an animal you feed and water for your pleasure. It’s an animal that you touch daily. An animal who’s flank you snuggle up next to in the heat of the summer and the cold, pitch-black mornings of the winter. An animal who provides for you. An animal who you meet with, every day, at the exact same time, and interact with.
There’s just nothing like it.
And there will never be a another cow like my Sally Belle.
Each drive up and down the driveway, I still holler out ‘Hey-yo Mama!’ at her pen – because I’m not ready not to yet.
I still go and sit with Lyle and snuggle him and kiss him and love on him – because I need him. And I like to think that he needs me too.
And I’m thankful for you. And you. And you. And each of you that took the time out of your life to send me a note of encouragement and send your love and prayers for Sal. So many of you reached out and shared your intimate stories of like experiences – I had no idea so many of you have lost your faithful bovine friends as well. It’s nice to know you’re not alone, doesn’t it? Thank you, my friends.
I love you Sal. I love you so, so much.
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