My beautiful bovine, Bella Bovina, passed away this week. She was the rarest of cows, and had a sad story to tell when she first arrived on the farm.
I wrote the following on Facebook, 17th May 2013:
Am very worried about Bella. This morning she didn’t show interest in her grain, nor in the willow branches I cut for her, which is not like her at all. She was very slow walking to her favourite siesta spot and when I was outside she watched everything I was doing. I didn’t want to leave her to go to work.
When I came home this afternoon she was still where I’d left her in the morning. She had, during the day, come back to the barn to eat the rest of her grain, but tonight she refused to eat her evening meal even though I put lots of apples and applesauce in it. I gave her a pile of chopped apples and she ate some of them. She’s trying to bring up cud but I could tell she was having trouble with it. She did come back into her stall and laid down.
Bella is 19 years old, which is rare for a cow, and I know that one day she won’t be here, but I’m not ready to say goodbye to her. I know that some of you won’t understand, and will think she’s ‘just a cow’, but she’s so much more than that. She is part of the family. Please, keep her in your thoughts and prayers.
On 18th May, 2013, I FB’d:
She still isn’t eating her grain… she doesn’t like the moist bran. But she’s browsed around the field nibbling grasses. She has been walking around a bit more today.
She has swished her tail a bit today as well, so maybe whatever is upsetting her is working it’s way through. Tonight I’ll give her some regular feed, and carrots, and see if she’ll eat that. Fingers crossed.
On 19th May, 2013, I FB’d:
She didn’t touch any of her grain, or carrots. She did drink water, and nibbled on grass. But she looked so tired tonight. She went into her stall tonight but wouldn’t touch the food. I left some hay in her stall too. I’m still worried, but all I can do is pray.
I can’t get her to take any meds. She won’t eat her grain and that would be the only way to get meds to her. And a vet can’t get close enough to give her a needle.
This was the reality with Bella. She was so badly abused, and so mistrusting of humans, rightly so, that we could never get her tamed enough to handle. The most she would do is let us pet her when she was eating. My dad got her to let him wrap his arms around her, but only while she was engrossed in eating. Otherwise she would quickly move away. And any other man she just won’t come close to. I hate that people did this to her and now we can’t get her the help she needs.
I was up to 4:30 am searching the web to find some way to help her. Some people put epsom salts into a drench, which I can’t do. So I put it in water with some molasses, but she refused to drink the water. Apple cider vinegar always helped our goats and horses, so I put some in the water. She refused to drink. Tonight I emptied the water and refilled it with fresh. She drank some water. She has nibbled on grass today, looks a bit brighter at times, was curious when someone drove in. But she hasn’t eaten her grain, or drank a lot of water, or eaten much grass. She did have a bowel movement in the morning. I can only pray this works through her and she improves. I’ve had three hours sleep, and spent the day outside working to try and keep from stressing. I really thought she’d like the cider vinegar, but nope. She’s never had it, and didn’t like the smell. I did put a small pail of water outside with a little bit of vinegar in it, so maybe she won’t notice the smell and will drink some. And I’ll keep praying. Thanks for asking about Bella. Sorry I am so late in replying.
I’ve wracked my brains trying to think what my mum would do for her and if she were a goat I’d have forced the epsom salt drench down her by now. But she’s a very big, very power, very feral cow that, whilst she knows I take care of her, she still doesn’t trust humans. So it’s in God’s hands. And that’s hard for me to say because I’m a control freak.
Just checked on her. She’s in her stall as the mozzies are bad tonight. Looks like she may have taken a drink of water. I put some hay in her stall, and she sniffed at it. Won’t check on her overnight as I’ve upset the swallows for two nights.
On 20th May, 2013, I FB’d:
For those following Bella: she still isn’t eating her grain, but did take some apple pieces from me last night. She drank some water over night, and grazed a bit of grass. She is alert, still able to get up and lie down without difficulty. She has some clear nasal discharge, and burped a bit but isn’t really bringing up cud as she should be. I didn’t notice any further bm. I noticed she did drink a small amount of water with cider vinegar in it, but maybe only a good swallow. It is quite hot today and she opted to go back into her stall where she gets some respite from the wretched mozzies that are active today. I have exhausted any ideas. At 19, vets around here would say put her down. I won’t do that. It is in the hands of a higher power and all I can do is keep praying.
When I checked her half an hour ago I was concerned. She looks like she was bloating a bit. Her side seems spongy. If she bloats, she will go down and not get up. I freaked. Got on the phone, rang a vet. His initial response when I got finished explaining everything to him: “19 !!!!! She’s already three years into borrowed time!” He said that it seems she won’t let anyone physically assist her unless she does go down. He said he hasn’t ever heard of a cow bloating on apples unless she consumed trees full of them, or they were fermenting. He said if she was bloating it would be very apparent as she would look like she’d swallowd a barrel. He said vets have a saying: “Dr. Green grass”, meaning that green grass will usually sort any issue cows have, other than extreme underlying issues. Apparently at her age, geriatric cows are rare and so there isn’t a lot to go on regarding aged health issues. He said the fact she did have a bm yesterday meant that there isn’t a blockage in the intestines. I told him that I am out of ideas as to what to do to help her. He said as far as he can tell, because she can’t be handled, I’ve done everything he can think of, and it’s now an issue of time… waiting to see if it works, or if she gets worse, goes down and can’t get up. If her stomachs are shutting down, there’s nothing else we can do. So, we wait. I am not good at waiting…
Last night I thought she wouldn’t make it. She was bloated, her legs were shaking, she seemed weak. I checked her at 5 am and she was laying down in her stall. Checked her again at 8:30 am and she was standing up. She hasn’t had another bm, and she’s only nibbled on the grass I’ve picked for her. At noon today she left the stall and went to stand at her favourite spot, and laid down for a few hours. Now she’s back in her stall, still shaky legs, a bit of bloating, but nothing too bad. She is only taking small amounts of water. Today she hasn’t been licking the salt block like mad. She did belch this morning, and I noticed her stretching her neck as she laid down, trying to bring up cud/belch. There is absolutely nothing else I can do for her but stand by and wait. And pray.
I think that’s what might be happening… she can’t bring up cud, or belch to let off gases. I can only hope somehow it sorts itself out
Everything that I would do for a goat for bloat I can’t do for Bella because she isn’t handle-able. Damn the people who abused her!
On 22nd May, 2013, I FB’d:
A brief follow-up about Bella: I think Bella is dying, but slowly, like a senior citizen who refuses to eat anymore. She isn’t choosing this, but her stomachs seem to be shutting down. She is still drinking some water, but not much. She’s not going at the salt like she was, and she’s barely picking enough grass to keep a gerbil alive.
She doesn’t want to die, and maybe she’s confused about why she can’t eat, but she doesn’t appear to be in any pain, and isn’t upset or showing any signs of fear. She wandered over to her favourite spot to lay down today, felt the sun, got caught out in some rain, and watched as birds flew around, the sun came back out, and the breeze dried her coat.
Physcially there’s nothing that can be done. At her age she would be killed but I can’t do that to her. She will die when she’s ready to, and if it takes a day, or a week, or however long she has, she will live it in peace and without fear. It’s breaking my heart, and is like watching my parents die all over again, but it’s the only thing I can do for her now. I still keep praying she will rally around for at least one more summer. Maybe there’s a miracle for her still.
I rang the vet on the weekend, and he concluded that I had done all that could be done. Here they don’t keep cows as pets, so an old cow that stops eating gets euthanized. They say it’s humane. But they don’t kill people when they stop eating. She’s not in pain, and she watches everything as usual. She seems so normal except she’s not eating her apples and grain and not grazing.
…she would’t let a stranger touch her, she’s still got enough spirit to walk away from them. And I don’t know anyone who does reiki. But thanks for the thought. I tried to wipe her eyes today and she didn’t even want me to touch her… and that’s normal for her. She never lost her fear of people, even after 13 years with us. It’s ok. I managed to scratch her forehead a bit. It’s enough.
…the vets say she’s already three years into borrowed time. They don’t keep old cows, and the vets weren’t optimistic. Said I’d done everything they would suggest.
On 23rd May, 2013, I FB’d:
Beautiful Bella Bovina passed away this morning, laying in her beloved pasture. You brought such joy, Bella, you have no idea… you were loved, and safe, and happy, and protected. You were a true gift, and I will miss you more than words can say. Rest in peace my beautiful cowbaby.
Words fail me as I try to express how painful and heartbreaking it is to look out the window and not see Bella standing by the barn, or laying in the sun chewing her cud, or out in the field grazing, or reaching over the fence to nibble the willow leaves, or staring at the house from the barnyard gate to telepathically motivate me to come out and give her apples and carrots. She brought so much joy to our lives.
I am very grateful for everything about Bella, from the kind souls who thought she was lost and closed the gate behind her to keep her from leaving our field, to the fact that she passed on her own, in her own time, in her field.
That first day, as I watched this wild cow standing in our field not sure whether to run or hide in the tall grass, I promised her she would never have to be afraid again, that I would never let anyone hurt her again. I know she felt safe here because she tried to leave. She arrived at the farm when we had eight horses, and over 30 goats, and she watched them all go, one by one. I know she knew she was loved. I am grateful we were able to give her sanctuary and all the love she could handle.
Her passing is an ending, and one I knew would happen, one day, but not now. I wasn’t ready…
It will take time to adjust. Once the swallows nesting in her stall have raised their young and left, I’ll move the two barn cats into Bella’s stall as it’s screened in. Next summer the cats will have more fresh air and sunshine than they get now in the rest of the barn. Over the winter they will get more sunlight which will help them keep warm.
That stall has had a lot of animals over the years: Dashes, our appaloosa mare, by herself and then with her foal Digni, until Diggie needed her own stall. When Dashes died I screened the stall in and put cats there so they would have more light and fresh air.
Even Chance got to play in that stall before Bella was brought in. I remember Bella standing with her rump against the wall that divided her stall from Chance’s enclosure. Chance would sit on the ledge on his side of the wall and carefully stick his arm through the screen to touch her rump. For a feral cow she seemed to adjust to a raccoon touching her quite well.
When Bella first came she watched dogs like they were the hounds of hell, and would chase the neighbour’s Blue Heeler out of our field every time he tried to herd her. He got smart and just stayed on the other side of the fence to keep from getting trampled.
My dad used to share photos of Bella with everyone he met, and had me create a booklet of her “story”, with photos, so he could hand them out. She was one of only a few animals that Dad seemed to really connect with.
Mum and I always said we wanted a Gurnsey or a Jersey cow for a pet. Then we got Bella, a feral Limousin cow. Limousins have a reputation for being uncontrollable, rangey, and very aggressive. Bella wasn’t anything like that. We really were given a gift the day she came, and the farm feels so empty without her.
This weekend I’ll remove all the electric fence, and cut part of her pasture that’s close to the house. No need for pasture anymore.
One day I hope to see Bella again, and indeed all of the animals that have blessed my life. In the meantime, I will shed tears, and remember them fondly.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
Goodbye Bella Moobaby… mummy loves you. ❤