I love cows. Big, beautiful, breathing cows. I grew to love them when I worked on farms, feeding and caring for these peaceful creatures, and getting to know their distinct individual personalities. My heart broke each time one of my friends was sent to slaughter, which is the sad reality of farm life. But what could I do? I made their lives as decent as possible while they were in my care, then I had to kiss them goodbye.
Until the storm: a huge spring storm that lasted most of the night, with roaring thunder and lightning bolts hurtling down with deafening cracks.
In the morning, when I went out to feed the cows, I found them beneath a split and blackened tree, all dead. Six little calves huddled together a few feet away. As I led the orphans back to the barn, something inside me changed. The years of accepting sad reality were over. If these little guys had survived an act of God as powerful as that storm, they sure weren't going to be killed by an act of man, not if I could help it!
That's how The Cow Sanctuary began, in the spring of 1988.
I wasn't a rich heiress. I was a farm worker, earning minimum wage. All I had was determination. And, as it turned out, the most incredible good luck that anyone could ever have hoped for. At first, I rented land, then, through a series of near-miracles, I was able to buy an almost 80 acre farm. I happily signed away the rest of my working life to get it. The cows finally had a permanent home, with enough pasture and hayfield to sustain them both summer and winter ! The forest at the back of the farm gave them cool shade in the hot months, and before long, there was also a cozy barn for the cold times.
And the family grew….from the six little calves to ten, then twelve, then sixteen, and now twenty two. Cows in need found us, and joined us, one by one. Somehow, I always managed to find room and resources for "just one more." Then came a sweet three-legged pig, and another, and another. Now there are ten piggies too. An old blind mare needed a home, and came here with her two "seeing-eye" goats. A flock of geese fitted themselves in with everyone else.
The sanctuary started with my solemn vow that I would do everything in my power to give them all a safe and happy home until they died of old age. Life span was the one thing I had no power over. Over the past twenty seven years, many have passed away, and are buried here at the farm, their graves marked with wild roses. The living graze peacefully amongst them. My solace is that while they were here, their lives were filled with love and plenty. Although the original animal family has gone to greener pastures, many newcomers have come to spend their lives here.
Love grows. The heart stays open.