Beatrice and Helga
Harvey and his five herdmates were born in the early spring of 1988. Twenty years have passed since then, filled with changes.
Through a series of near-miracles, the cows now have a 77-acre farm, with enough pasture and hayfield to be self-sufficient. Their spacious new barn is tucked into the corner where the woods and the fields meet.
The biggest change, though, has been the life-cycle. It was easy when they were all sweet young calves, to say that I'd do everything in my power to give them a safe and happy life, until they died naturally, of old age. Old age was a lifetime away. I didn't know how long a cow's lifetime was. It turns out that cows live about as long as dogs do. They pass away in their late teens. Which, as anyone who has loved a dog, or a cow, will tell you, is far far too short a time.
But that's how it is.
And they did have a safe and happy life, filled with love and plenty. Many have passed away so far. They are buried here at the farm, their graves marked with wild roses. The living graze peacefully amongst them.
The life-cycle. The hard, inevitable, end part of it, seemed to jump into fast forward the last few years. My vet warned me, when all of them were calves, that it would probably be this way—that they would all go at about the same time, since they were all about the same age. And she was right. As I looked over the website, I realized that all the dear friends I had described on it had passed, except Doretta the goose. It has now been twenty five years since the sanctuary started , and although the original animal family has gone to greener pastures, many newcomers have come to spend their lives here. These are their stories.
They came as a herd—five cows and a month-old calf, from Hop Bottom, Pennsylvania.
It had started, as usual, with a phone call. A raspy woman’s voice came right to the point. She needed a home for her cows, and wondered if I’d take them. I asked what their situation was, and she told me that she was 78, and her husband was 81. He was developing Alzheimers, and she did not know how long it would be before he was completely incapacitated. She didn’t think she could manage it on her own for long, and so was trying to place them before it became a crisis. She’d been looking for almost two years, with no success. They were all right for the time being, but she didn’t know how long that would last. She loved them.
Directness, foresight, and love. A good combination, I thought, but still I was hesitant. Five new cows all at once was a big commitment. We agreed that I’d give it serious thought, and that she would come to the sanctuary, to see if it was suitable.
A few weeks later, Jean came, and told me the rest of the story. Her husband was a carpenter, and they’d bought some acreage in the mountains. He kept a herd of about 30 beef cows on the land, to supplement his income. They were not pets. As his illness progressed, he sometimes fed the cows three or four times a day, and sometimes not at all. He forgot to maintain the fencing. The cows got out. It was summer. They ran the hills for about a month before most of them were caught, and sent to slaughter. Five of them avoided capture. They kept roaming the hills.
With the help of a neighbor, Jean set up a small corral in her back yard, and gradually lured the last five in. There was a large deck at the back of her house, where she fed birds, and made peanut butter sandwiches for the wild squirrels. Now that the cows were confined to her yard, her daily routine began to include handing bagels over the railing to them. She grew to love them. Over the protests of her husband and children, she insisted that these cows were not going to the same fate the others had. She was going to find them a home. Two years of thwarted effort had not weakened her resolve.
I thought about my first cows. How, before they became mine, I tried to find them a home. How each sanctuary I approached asked the same question ... had they been abused? They hadn’t been. I’d looked after them, lovingly, as part of my job, since the day they were born. I pointed out that they would suffer the ultimate abuse—they would be murdered—if I couldn’t find a place to take them in. The answers had all been the same. Regretfully, they only took in animals who had already been abused.
In my case, all the rejections made me start my own sanctuary. But Jean was 78. It was not an option for her and her cows. I knew what it was to be in her shoes. I had the room. I told her to bring them.
Some of the Hop Bottom cows
They arrived at midnight. It wasn’t intended that way. The hauler had brought his trailer to Jean’s in the afternoon, and planned to leave it parked in the yard overnight to let them get used to it, so that loading would be easier in the morning. Jean had her own idea. That afternoon, she stuffed bagels into every crack and crevice of the trailer. She knew the cows LOVED bagels. Her plan worked. They ate their way onto the trailer, and she closed the door behind them! The only glitch now was that it would be foolish as well as dangerous to let them just stand there, locked inside the trailer for the next twelve hours, then subject them to a six hour drive. So the hauler hooked up his truck, and headed south.
He parked in the middle of the pasture, and opened the door. Cautiously, slowly, they got out. They stood there for a moment, then charged off into the adjoining woods. All I could hear was crashing in the darkness. I thought about Jean’s description of them sailing over four foot high fences during their Great Escape. I closed my eyes and hoped fervently for them to stay safe.
In the morning, all was well. There were still here. They stayed in the woods and watched me warily. Jean drove down with a carload of bagels, and as I lobbed bagels into the woods, she introduced them. Redley was the oldest, 28 by Jean’s estimation, and the leader. Second-in-command was Black Odie. Then came Diamond, then Freckleface. Their status was obvious at once, by who had first dibs on the bagels. Last was Jolly Jumper. She had been given that name because of her amazing ability to jump straight up into the air, like a deer, and go over a fence. She was the youngest. Her mother was one of the cows that got caught early and shipped off. Without her mother’s protection, the remaining cows picked on her mercilessly. Jolly figured out that she could jump over the fence and stand just on the other side of it. That way she was still with the herd, but nobody could push her around. At night, when everyone had settled down to sleep, she would jump back in and eat, then leave again in the morning. Almost a year ago, she’d disappeared for two weeks, then returned. A month before they arrived here, Jolly had given birth. Although the others continued to pick on her, they were all kind to her calf, who I named Little Joe.
Jean made the twelve-hour round trip once a month to bring her cows bagels. When her children asked her what had happened to the cows, she told them that they’d gone to cow heaven. She laughed when she told me. “They probably think it means I gave up and sent them to slaughter. Just let them keep thinking that!”
I soon realized that Redley was the only tame cow in this group. She would let me scratch her back, and neck, and enjoy it. Diamond and Freckleface would accept bagels from my hand, but nothing more. Black Odie wanted the bagels, but not enough to allow me to hand them to her. She would stare pointedly, and shake her horns at me, as if to say “Just drop the bagels in the dish and back up!” I complied. After being here for five years, she will finally take treats from my hand, but the no touching rule is still in force. Same with Jolly. I thought that after all this time of being here, they would learn to trust me. But they haven’t. And who could blame them ... after all, their mistrust saved their lives, back during their Great Escape.
A year later, the rest of Jean’s animal family came to join us ... sixteen geese.
Again, it started with a phone call. The man on the line said that there was a herd of twelve that needed a home. They were formerly part of an organic dairy ... I interrupted him, launching into my heartfelt explanation of why I opposed dairy farming; how I had worked at dairy farms and learned, firsthand, that all the boy calves, and all the mothers who couldn’t get pregnant any more, were killed. More polite than me, he waited until I was finished, then told me they came from a “bloodless dairy.” I had not heard that term before. He explained that they kept every boy calf, for his entire natural life. Also the mother cows. Nobody was ever slaughtered. I started to listen. The dairy had stopped operating, but there were ten middle aged boys and two old ladies still living. Their original caretaker had died, and the man who had taken over their care was no longer able. That’s why they needed a home.
Long story short—they came to join our family!
I set up my hayfield as an extra pasture, not wanting to put everyone together immediately. I anticipated that there might be some vying for status when the newbies joined the existing herd. I thought that getting to know each other across the fence for a couple of weeks would minimize the possibility of fights.
Because of the trucker’s schedule, they arrived at almost exactly midnight, just as Redley and her crew had. They walked off the truck calmly and into the darkness. I stayed by the water tubs, and waited for the cows to discover them. One by one they came over, took a few sips, sniffed me, then headed back off into the dark. The fencing was secure, nobody seemed upset, there was nothing to be done until daylight. I went to sleep.
At dawn, I went outside, and found every single cow lined up at the fence, old cows on one side, new cows on the other. They were sniffing each other. Some were licking each others’ faces gently. There wasn’t even a hint of aggression anywhere. I watched for about an hour. The peacefulness continued. So, I opened the gate between the two pastures. Calmly, they mingled into one herd.
Another phone call—this time from PETA. A disabled calf from a cruelty investigation needed a home. Would I take him? Yes.
Jerry with Helga
Jerry had something wrong with his front legs. The knees had developed improperly, and he wobbled as he walked. Also, his eyes were cloudy. I knew he was too frail to put with the rest of the herd, so I arranged a shelter for him close to the house, where he could be right across the fence from the others, but not right in with them. This seemed to work out well, at first. But after a couple of weeks, Jerry started bawling whenever the other cows grazed their way to the far end of the pasture, and got out of his sight. He needed a friend. And so along came Peter, another cruelty rescue. The two became inseparable. I never heard Jerry bawl again.
Victor arrived a few months later, when he was only a few days old. His dried-up umbilical cord was still attached. Police had confiscated him from some people preparing him for a ritual sacrifice. Neighbors had called the authorities, and they arrived before any harm came to him. He joined Jerry and Peter in the house area, and they became a constant herd of three.
A distant neighbor had called me a number of times over the past two years. He’d taken in a three-legged pig, but did not want him any more. Each time he called, I told him I was not set up for pigs, knew nothing about them, except that they had a reputation for being very smart, and for being escape artists. The last time he called, he said if I didn’t find the pig a home, he would send him to slaughter. I knew it was not an idle threat. He had sent animals to slaughter before. I called several sanctuaries. Each said they were not in a position to take him, but would be glad to put him on their adoption networking sites. They needed photos. So I took my camera and drove over to the neighbor’s to take pictures of the pig. By the third picture, I was a goner. Wordlessly, this pig had spoken to me. I never sent the pictures anywhere. I just made arrangements for him to come home with me. It was March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, so I named him Patrick.
When he arrived, I let him loose in the house area, where Jerry, Peter and Victor were. The shelter was large enough to accommodate another, and I wanted to be able to keep a close eye on him, since I really didn’t know what to expect. The calves didn’t know what to make of him. They very much wanted to sniff him, but each time they came close, he would move away. Because of his missing front leg, Patrick hopped. And because he was a very large pig, his hopping was quite vehement. Each time he hopped, the calves would jump in fright, but their curiosity was greater than their fear, so they kept following him. For his part, Patrick acted as if the calves didn’t exist. He hopped his way around his new territory, found food, found water, then found the straw-filled shelter and went to sleep. He was a very sound sleeper. Finally, as he slept, the calves were able to sniff him thoroughly. It seemed to satisfy them. From then on, he was accepted as a roommate. During the days, Jerry, Peter, and Victor grazed together while Patrick explored on his own, but at night all four slept together in the shelter.
One morning I looked out of the kitchen window, and saw that Peter and Victor had already left the shelter, but that Jerry had stayed behind. He was standing, facing Patrick, who was still lying down. I went outside to get a better look at what was going on. Very slowly and thoroughly, Jerry began to lick Patrick’s face. He started at the nostrils, then upwards along his snout, and between the eyes. He then licked carefully around each eye, before proceeding to Patrick’s big ears. When he had finished, he lay down next to Patrick, instead of following Peter and Victor as he usually did.
I had witnessed a turning point.
From that time on, a gradual change occurred. Each day, Jerry spent a little less time with Peter and Victor, and a little more time with Patrick. Perhaps it was that his legs were troubling him, perhaps it was purely friendship. I think it was the friendship. By the time a year was up, Peter and Victor were very obviously asking to go in with the larger herd, wailing at the fence when the others started to walk away, while Jerry would stay contentedly alongside Patrick.
By now, Peter had recovered completely from his earlier traumas, and since both he and Victor were thriving, I saw no reason to keep them separated from the larger herd. So I opened the gate and let them in with the others. Such dancing and joy! They were telling me I’d made the right decision.
Jerry and Patrick continued on together, each in his own awkward way, Patrick hopping and Jerry wobbling. Although they did it slowly, they traversed their whole five acre area thoroughly, establishing favorite spots, where I would find them resting together, often leaning on one another, sometimes with their feet entwined.
It was during a heat wave in July that I first saw Moseley. It was 105 degrees that afternoon, and she lay panting in the sun as I drove by. She was in a dirt feedlot, that had not a blade of grass, and one lone tree which was surrounded by about twenty cows seeking its shade. She was pure black, and tiny, and looked just like Beatrice. Can’t save them all, I said to myself and kept driving. For about five miles. Then I turned around and went back. She was still there, still panting. Still looking like the ghost of Beatrice. I asked around to find out who she belonged to, paid the man two hundred dollars for her freedom, and she came to live with us.
At first, she was terrified of people. It took from July to the following February—seven months—before she allowed me to touch her. But once she allowed it, she reveled in it. Her long black hair was quick to matt, and she seemed to appreciate having it brushed out. One of her great summer joys was standing in the pond, cooling off.
Bella came from Craig’s List. A family in Pennsylvania was looking for a miniature cow for their five year old daughter. (Yes, there are miniature cows. Who knew!) They found Bella listed, and went to look at her. After meeting her, seeing her horns and her spunky (to put it politely) disposition, they decided she was not right for them. But they still wanted a miniature cow, so kept on looking. To their horror, they ran into Bella listed again, but for beef this time. They were kind people, and while they didn’t want Bella for themselves, they certainly didn’t want to see her killed, and felt somehow responsible, since they had not taken her. So they bought her after all, and arranged with me to bring her here.
Anders came from Virginia. He was a 4-H market steer. The family whose son was raising him for this purpose had a neighbor who came to visit one afternoon.
They took her to the barn to see their beagle puppies and new baby goats. As she was leaning over the box of puppies, she felt something at her back. Turning around, she found herself eye to eye with Anders. They stared quietly at each other for several minutes. In the heartfelt letter she wrote me, she said those few minutes changed her life. She would never eat beef again. She managed to raise enough money to outbid everyone else at the auction, and so to save his life. Now he needed a home. Could he come to the Cow Sanctuary? There was still room. So yes. It has turned out that he and Moseley have become best friends.
Emmie’s full name is Emerald, and she was born at a city zoo where she spent the first eleven years of her life. Although she was very well fed—her medical records actually called her obese!—she had never been on pasture, and simply didn’t know what all the green grass was for. It took her a week to figure out how to graze. Now she has all the pasture she could ever dream of, as well as a herd of friends. Her best friend is Bella.
Jay and Buddy were born in Kansas, destined to be beef. Instead, they became the beloved surrogate children of a kind vegan woman. When she reached a crossroad in her life, she brought them here, knowing they would be loved and well-cared for.
Patrick and Jerry lived happily together for two more years after Peter and Victor moved over to be with the bigger herd. In the summertime, they found shade together under the yews, in the cooler weather, they basked together in the sun. But Jerry’s legs were growing weaker and weaker. Getting up was more and more difficult. I knew his time was becoming shorter. The end came on a cold day in January. A freezing rain had started, and Jerry was lying just outside the shelter, Patrick, as always next to him. Patrick got up and moved the few feet it took to get inside, out of the freezing rain. Jerry struggled to get up and do the same, but just couldn’t. I called the vet. He came, and it was over in a moment. As soon as the vet left, Patrick hopped out to Jerry, and snuffled him all over. Then he lay down, tight against him, in the freezing rain, until the man with the backhoe came to bury Jerry.
The next day, as soon as it was light, Patrick hopped to all the special spots that he and Jerry used to go to. After a couple of hours, he came back into the shelter and lay down. He didn’t eat. He didn’t get up the next day. Or eat, or drink. I brought him food. If I put it in his mouth he would swallow, but he would not reach into the dish to get it himself. He stood up just long enough to relieve himself, then lay back down again. It was clear that he was grieving. I continued to feed him by hand, and waited. A week passed, then another, then another. No change. One month, two, then three, then four. No change. I fed him by hand. I waited. On May 1st, it became extraordinarily hot. The temperature jumped to 89 degrees. Patrick hopped over to the pond, and soaked. He ate some grass. At ten that night, he was still outside, lying in the grass under the almost-full moon. His grieving was finally over, I thought.
In the morning, I found him back inside the shelter, as listless as before. I tried different foods. I spent as much time as I possibly could with him. I brought Peter and Victor to visit. No change. I tried Bella, Moseley, Anders. He was not interested in anybody or anything. I called different vets, seeking advice. Nada. I asked if there was Prozac for pigs. I got laughed at. It had been six months since he left his shelter, with the exception of the May 1st outing. I just didn’t know what to do.
Susie at Farm Sanctuary suggested that perhaps a little piglet might help him. They’d had a similar case, and a piglet had brought one of their sows out of a deep depression. It was worth a try.
I sectioned off a part of the shelter for the little pig in such a way that he and Patrick could be right next to each other, with just a gate between them, until they got used to each other. I was hopeful. The piglet arrived around two thirty. From then until dark, he was non-stop action. I’d had no idea little pigs were quite that active. He ran up and down the driveway, around the yard, in and out of the shelter, all at top speed. Patrick raised his head to observe. A good sign, I thought. At dark, after eating, little piggy settled down to sleep in his stall, tucked in against the gate. Patrick’s interest had waned, and he was already asleep. I latched the gate and tiptoed away quietly. It had been a promising beginning. The peace lasted for about five minutes. Then the piglet began to cry. He cried and cried. I went out to sit with him but that wasn’t what he wanted. He wanted out of the stall. As soon as I opened the gate, he went to the outside of it, lay against it, and went to sleep. Peace again. He was only one inch away from where he had been before, but I guess it was an important inch to him. The entire area was fenced, so I wasn’t worried. I went to bed. During the night, I got up to check on him. As I flipped on the kitchen light—Surprise!! The piglet was sound asleep in the middle of the kitchen floor. He had discovered the doggy-door!
Dear friends came to visit the following day, and in their honor, little piggy got a name—Harish.
The next six weeks were filled with hope, then hope dashed. After his initial short-lived interest in Harish, Patrick retreated further into his sadness. He took to lying in the furthest back part of the shelter, facing the wall. If Harish came close, Patrick would jump up and charge at him, then lie back down, his nose as far into the back corner as it could possibly go. He wanted nothing to do with the piglet.
Harish, Helga and Patrick
My two little dogs, who were about the same size as Harish, just snarled and snarled whenever he came close. When Harish went over to the cows, they were no better. Rhada, the very gentlest cow of all, first sniffed him, then threw him up into the air with her nose, like a football. The goats ran away as soon as he approached. The horses chased him. The poor little pig so obviously wanted to make friends with someone, but nobody reciprocated. It seemed that I was the only one to welcome him. He followed me around the farm like a puppy, and had a most endearing habit—he would lie down, press his nose into my hand, and hold it there, just breathing strongly, for as long as I was willing. He wasn’t trying to suckle, as a calf would. He simply wanted to push and breathe. I don’t know if other pigs do this, or of there is a proper name for this behavior, but I called it “snuffling”. Harish was happy to snuffle for an hour or more. Even so, I realized that my companionship alone was not enough for him. At the end of the six weeks, when it became obvious that the situation was not going to improve, I very regretfully acknowledged that the adoption was not working, and sent him back to Farm Sanctuary. I cried the whole day after he left, heartsick at the loss of the sweet little fellow I had grown to love so in those few weeks. I told myself he would be OK, that they would place him somewhere else safe, and better suited. I called to see how he was after his long trip back to New York, and they told me that he was doing very well. Two piglets, somewhat smaller than him, had been rescued recently, and he was sharing quarters with them for the time being. The three of them were getting along wonderfully.
The solution came in a flash! Harish could return, with his two little friends, if I just created a special pig area, where the three of them could live, separately from Patrick and all the others.
Shortly, new fencing went up, enclosing a nice big area that had both woods and pasture, a small pond was dug, and a section of the barn was reconfigured to accommodate the three little pigs.
Harish came back, with his new friends, named Tremblay and Bailey!! They walked off the trailer, took one look at their pond, and jumped in. After exploring their new home, they settled right down, as relaxed as if they’d spent their entire lives there.
After two happy months, the piggies got bored, and decided there was a bigger world out there that they wanted to discover. So out they went! I shored up the fence ... they found another weak spot. I fixed that one, and they found another. Then another, and another. After a week of trying to outwit the piggies, I conceded ... and they got the run of the whole farm.
Harish, Tremblay and Bailey
It worked out amazingly well. They were their own little society of three, and did not bother anybody. They would cruise past Patrick, say a brief hello, and keep going. When they approached the dogs, you could almost hear the piggies say “... just minding our own business...” then away they’d go, looking for other things of interest. They mingled with the cows, but briefly, preferring to travel as a trio. Sometimes, they took naps in Patrick’s shelter, at a respectful distance from him, but would always return to the main barn at night. They were curious about every single thing they encountered. This included things that I wished they were not curious about ... like the trash! Garbage cans now live up on top of a wagon. The flap on the doggie door had been replaced more times than I can count. The tarp that covers the woodpile has disappeared several times, to be discovered far off in a field. I’ve found that pigs like to pull the laundry off a clothsline! But all in all, Harish, Tremblay, and Bailey are a delight, and wonderful members of our animal family
Patrick, for whom all this started, seems to be better, although not in the way I had planned. He watches the little pigs, not with affection, but with interest. When the time of day comes that they travel through his area, I notice that he seems to look for them. If they come too close, he gets up and chases them away, but if they maintain their distance, he allows them to share his space. He is definitely the boss, which is a far cry from the period when he simply lay with his nose pointed as far as it could be, in the corner. It has been a little over a year now since he lost his friend Jerry, and perhaps the combination of time and piggies have helped start his healing.