When our dedicated driver arrived to collect Spirit and his four tiny companions from a dairy farm, they were tied to a tree by a chain around their necks. Three of the little calves were barely a few days old. The only contact they had with their respective mothers was when each one of them was licked clean. Soon after – they were taken to a different part of the farm where they remained until ‘Til The Cows Come Home showed up.
There they were, spindly legs, hardly able to stand under the weight of their chains, umbilical cord still attached, staring at their rescuer. The farmer removed the chains and one by one, continued to drag them by their translucent ears, onto our trailer. Our driver was informed that one of the calves was very ill, “it’s the one with the pink paint on his head” the farmer said.
A few hours later, the babies were in foster care, the two youngest and sickest looking were kept together, while Spirit and his two friends went to a second foster home.
That night, they slept in a warm, soft pen, filled with hay. They felt the soft touch of a human hand, so different to the human hand that had torn at their ears, and placed a heavy cold chain around their vulnerable neck.
Spirit seemed older and stronger than his two “pen” pals, Star and Ash. Star was the tiniest and we feared for him. Was he just too tiny to survive away from his mum? Ash was shy and frightened, not surprisingly. Spirit soon became the big brother, running up to be fed and patted by his carers and soon, he was kicking up his heals, as if to show the others that it was time to relax and enjoy being a baby. It wasn’t long before they were spotted by an adopter on our adoptions page, so arrangements were made for all three boys to go to their forever home. Star was growing fast, and so was Ash, who was now the same size as Spirit.
But life can be unpredictable, and one morning just before they were due to go to their forever home, Spirit was found laying on the ground unable to move and unresponsive. Moments later, he died in my arms. We still don’t know why Spirit passed away, there is still so much we don’t know about the many mystery illnesses that can take hold in calves that have had no anti bodies from their mother’s milk.
Spirit was cremated later that same day. The driver that collected Spirit to perform this service asked me why we didn’t just bury Spirit on our rural property. He said it was unusual to have a calf go through their service. After chatting with him he confided that his last job was as a cleaner at a slaughter house. I asked him how he liked his new job. He did, he liked that animals were treated with respect, unlike his previous job. At that moment, we both looked down at Spirit and we both had a revelation. If this little guy was meant to die, we were both grateful that it wasn’t at the slaughter house. Spirit was a symbol that love and respect should be afforded to all living beings. As for the driver, he had gone full circle, and the realisation of that was not wasted on him.
As for Spirit, he will join his friends in their forever home after all. His ashes are going to be scattered on the very same paddock that his pals are now grazing. Enjoy the sunshine little man.
Written by Cathy.