I know you’ll never read this. Not because you cannot read, but because you are not alive.
So this is for me. And for anyone who has loved a nonhuman with unabashed fierceness. We honor those lost every time we share their story.
These are the moments I remember about you. I will hold them in my heart, etch them in my soul.
Seven years ago, I saw only the whites of your eyes, your terror. You were so damaged by humans. Your fear was evident in every tense muscle, brow creased with concern.
I made a promise that day - I would never be a source of fear for you.
An impatient veterinary student rushes you at the hospital. You fall, breaking your hip and leg. As if the human world has not harmed you enough, stealing your milk, your babies.
Despite the injury, your spirit is unbroken. You trudge through the pain and recovery with incredible strength.
I try to win you over with my dog. She has patches like you.
You investigate her, excitedly. Then you realize I brought you a dog.
This sets our relationship back a bit.
You groom him so carefully, so gently. I know you never had that moment with the calves stolen from you at the dairy farm.
I want so badly for him to breathe, to grow up big, bold, beautiful under your matronly tutelage. He would be perfect.
You would have been a good mother to him.
Apples! Give me more! Oh how you adore apples. Sweet, sour, rotten, unripe, no matter, they are all delicious to you.
An apple is the first fruit I fed you. It was also the last.
The first time you let me in to your circle- without tossing your head or moving away - is over a bowl of apples. I scratch your back, feel skin taut over bone and muscle.
To this day, I remain honored by that first connection.
The boys are too far ahead, romping, running, playing as teenage calves do. You bellow at them, concerned.
You finally have children to raise. They are not your biological calves, but they are victims of the same industry that sold your milk for another species to consume, that shipped your male calves off to be killed for veal.
The two steers stop their play, rushing back to you. They check in briefly, as if to say “It’s okay, mom, we’re fine”, then they are back off to their games.
You sigh heavily. It is hard being a mom, being responsible for the safety and well-being of separate individuals.
You did it perfectly, Sadie.
I call your name. You lift your head, gazing at me. It’s been five years. I don’t see the whites of your eyes anymore.
No apples, but you still let me in. I listen to your heart beat, your lungs expanding and collapsing. I breathe with you.
I hold my breath. I want this to be a forever moment.
You toss your head, nudge me away, and go back to grazing. Enough, you say. We can be together without touching, and it is okay.
The horse coat sits there. It’s cold out. You’ve lost so much weight, no protection from the freezing temperatures. I try to think of a way to desensitize you to this strange device - apples? grain? Will it take days, weeks?
You let me drape it over you on day one. You stare at me, the strange human who just won’t go away, who won’t take her kindness and love somewhere it would be more appreciated.
You look good in it. You like its warmth. Oh Sadie, you are getting old.
Nicholas looks like someone went a little crazy with the styling gel. His cow-lick is upended, stiffened strands of hair pointing in every direction. You are off to the side, grazing contentedly.
Reminds me of my mom’s first attempts at cutting my bangs.
Apparently this is a rite of passage for every child, the mangling of hair. Nicholas handles it gracefully (unlike me).
Your black has feathered to gray. Your limp is worse. Your caregivers increase pain medications.
You lie down a lot.
I crouch next to you, and you stretch your neck out before me. I scratch and massage the top of it. You lower your head, so trusting.
I stand up.
You rub your head against my leg, demanding affection and attention.
It’s time, Sadie. I don’t want it to be. I think you have given up, the light in your eyes seem dimmer. I could be projecting.
I cannot project your pain, though. That much is real. You suffer. You get worse. It is unfair.
I feed you apples. Slice after slice. Howie steals most of them from you, but you don’t care.
Your muscles relax. You can finally let go of all the tension, all that pain.
You are almost asleep when the veterinarian gives you one final injection.
And then all that made you YOU is no more.
I hug your head to my heart. I want to make you breathe again. Isn’t that so selfish, Sadie?
I lay be your grave. That dog you didn’t like so much has aged too. She leans against me.
You are down there, beneath the dirt.
I leave a sunflower on your grave.
Here is my hope for you, reader. I hope you will honor Sadie’s memory. She is a former dairy cow. She never nursed her own calves. Her only value? Her milk, meant for her growing calf.
Animal Place gave her an amazing seven years of life. She lived it with dignity. I am beyond honored to have been included in her circle.
She never deserved the hand dealt her.
You can help. Drink almond milk. Try coconut ice cream. Slap some soy cheese on your sandwich. Transition to a vegan diet and embrace compassion and kindness.
-Marji Beach, education manager