Saturday, September 15, 2018


Longtime readers may remember Dahlia, my Jersey cow. Some of you may even remember her as our Jersey cow—saved by 22 people, (the "Dahlia Syndicate") who contributed to her purchase so that she could join my family. She's had a very happy retirement, and has made many friends.

Dahlia has spent most of the last year living on a 200 acre organic squash farm in Coupeville, on central Whidbey Island. There, she shares a couple of acres with two other cattle and spends her weekends being admired by visitors. Autumn is an exciting time to be an extroverted cow at a pumpkin patch!

Dahlia gets a lot of compliments on her beautiful big brown eyes. They're one of her most distinctive features, and apparently one of her most vulnerable. For the last few weeks, she's suffered a debilitating case of pinkeye. We moved her, briefly, to my mom's farm where we'd have easier access to a headgate, in which she was restrained for a series of intra-ocular injections. That's a thing I never again want to see a loved one go through.

Dahlia is much better now, and despite our fears and the vets' warnings she seems to have escaped with her vision unhampered. Yesterday, she returned to the squash farm fully healed and ready to greet pumpkin patch patrons throughout the month of October.

I want to acknowledge that even at the ripe old age of 39 I can ask my mother for anything, and she'll be there. Swooping in with a truck and trailer to rescue my cow in her moment of need is just how my mom rolls. (Thanks, ma!)

A retired dairy cow is a rare creature*, and every time I see Dahlia I feel a rush of gratitude for the many people who intervened to keep her out of the slaughterhouse. My former neighbor, who sold her to a commercial dairy but passed along my phone number and an entreaty: "call this lady if you ever decide to butcher her—this lady and my cow are friends." The farmer, who dug that scrap of paper up five years later when he thought the time had come. The 22 people who donated to her purchase (she was priced as beef, on the hoof). My mom, who drove over the Cascade Mountains to pick her up. My friends the Sterns, who caretake at the squash farm. The owners of the squash farm, who opened their pasture and their hay barn to my cow and her voracious appetite.

I'm grateful to Dahlia, too. After multiple painful treatments of her eye infection, she still came to me. Dropped her nose into the halter. Rested her head on my chest, and reminded me that love really does win.

*The average longevity of a dairy cow is 5 years. The natural lifespan of a cow is estimated at 22 years. 

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