It wasn't meant to end this way...

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The gunshot reverberated through the night air, the echo bouncing off sheds & startling all the occupants of the farm.  We knew it was coming - dreading it, but at the same time knowing that it had to be done, that it would stop the pain & suffering of our jersey cow Bessy.  

For 5 1/2 years our Bessy made her home here at Sunnyside.  She came as just a tiny calf & we bottle fed her.  She was so adorable & right from the start she became part of the family & an integral part of our farmyard. She turned into the most mischievous of cows - her speciality was eating the wiring out of the old blue tractor, taking the radio out of the ute & opening every gate that didn't have a snappy - lock on it.  She was such a busy body & any time visitors came to the place, she would come straight to the house yard gate to see what was happening.

She was a stubborn cow & taught me the reason difficult people are often referred to as 'old cows'.  She would do what you wanted her to do, if it suited her.  Of course, she knew that Dave was the boss & would do what he wanted her to do anytime, much to my annoyance.  

After a difficult start, she ended up being a fantastic milker.  Some of my favourite memories of her are when Zai & I went down & milked her.  I love the smell of cows & their milk.  There was something so relaxing about being in the milking shed of a morning as the sun rose into the sky.  Once we got our milking system worked out, milking was one of my favourite times of day.  


Last Sunday we realised that she was down & couldn't get up.  We had no idea why this was the case & after talking surmised that she had been down for a few days ( she had crawled around a bit, so we didn't realise that she wasn't getting up in between).  We called our vet & after chatting, he prescribed calcium in the rare case it was milk fever - even though she wasn't milking or currently in calf.  We also began physically moving her so that she wouldn't end up with nerve damage in her hind legs.  After a night of her getting worse & her back legs seeming to become paralysed, I ended up calling him again & asking him to come & see her. She had stopped eating & drinking & had gone very quiet - not even bunting at the dog, which was very out of character for her.   We started her on antibiotics, although there was nothing specific that could be diagnosed.  We continued to roll her & kept food & water to her.  After 24 hours on the antibiotics we were pleased to see that she appeared much improved, she was beginning to move her back legs & her appetite had returned.  We finally had hope of our cow getting well from the mysterious malady.
Photo by Zai - taken just a couple of weeks ago.  Right where her last breath was going to be.

 Unfortunately our Bess  was as strong willed in sickness as she was in health - it seems that she had finally stood up in the night, only to fall over into a very awkward position.  I found her the next morning & tried to move her, but I just couldn't.  Zai & I tried again & again to get her to turn into a more natural position, but to no avail.  At the start of the day she was eating & drinking, but by the evening hours (when Dave could finally get off work) her eyes were filled with pain & she just wanted to rest her chin on my knee & be held.  
We borrowed a sling-lift from a neighbour & we tried it out.  Unfortunately one leg was at an unusual angle & we surmised it was at least dislocated, if not broken.  Her other leg had completely cramped, although it gave signs of possibly working - were she not in so much pain.  In the end after trying everything we could possibly think of, we put her into a comfortable position.  As I looked into her eyes & felt her nose that was now cold, I knew there was only one decision to be made, but it wasn't what I wanted to make.  I knew I had to make the call because she was my cow, my baby - right from the start.  We rang our vet & asked him to come & put her down.

On the good day when things were finally beginning to look better...
I'd never really considered that Bessy would die young.  It's crazy, I know, because everyone who has animals knows they are terribly unpredictable, but for whatever reason, I assumed she would end up living 15 to 20 years.  That she would be with me as I cried tears over the children leaving home one by one.  Instead we crowded into the lounge room, these children & I, & cried tears over a wire-eating, gate-opening, stubborn cow named Bessy.

Sure, we will have other cows.  We already have begun making plans.  But I somehow think that none will be quite like our Bess.  She was the cow that fulfilled my childhood dreams of a 'cow named Bessy'.  She was the one who taught me so much about cows.  She was the one who I out-stubborned & ended up milking (after we both worked out what to do).  She was the one who made me fall completely & totally in love with Jersey cows.
A girl and her cow... the wind was wild that day...

There's a hole in the farmyard today - missing a crazy, stubborn, affectionate, beautiful, well-loved cow.

I'll miss you my Bess....

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