Posted on Nov 16, 2017
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
When I met Buttercup for the first time, my heart swelled with love for her and I felt like a part of my childhood dream had come true. I had always dreamed of having rescued animals who I would love and nurture and they would save me right back. This little yellow cow with the biggest eyes and the sweetest face made me so happy! She was all that was wonderful in the world. She was gentle, trusting and kind; she was an angel.
Buttercup was pregnant, but came from the worst cruelty case imaginable with no food, clean water, and so much stress and suffering, that I wondered if the baby would be alright. We immediately gave her the top quality food, clean water, shelter, vet care, and love that she had never had, trying to make up for her neglectful past. Her baby was born just before dark on a cold, frosty, fall morning. We were so happy for her because after a lifetime as a dairy cow, having her babies taken away from her year after year, she would finally be able to be a mom and raise her baby. But Halo was born with underdeveloped lungs and try as we did with vet care and supplements, he only lived seven months. We were there with her when her son passed away; she whispered in his ear that it was all right to go and then gently and generously licked him while he left his body.
Buttercup cried and mourned for a few weeks. Helplessly we cried with her, unable to ease her pain. After several weeks, she made the decision to take her pain and do something helpful for the world, instead of allowing her pain to defeat her. She decided that she would adopt all the orphaned babies that we rescued. At the time we just had rescued five orphaned veal calves, and Buttercup raised them all. She groomed them daily, protected them, lied with them as they slept, taught them good manners as they grew, and took them as her own. I shared Buttercup's story with thousands of at-risk youth during the decade that I was honored to work by her side, and she inspired them all!
Buttercup very quickly became the focal point of our barnyard. She not only nurtured orphaned calves, but she allowed thousands of people, old and young, to hug and cuddle her. She held still to be brushed and posed for pictures. She inspired people to get through their medical or mental issues. She was always there for me when I was having a bad day. I always went straight to Buttercup, and she let me hold on to her, lamenting or crying about the current dilemma I was facing. She helped me get through the day and through the last several years. I cannot breathe without her!
They say that when great, enlightened masters are ready to leave their bodies, they just step out of them without fuss, without illness, and without warning. We don’t know how old Buttercup was. She was full grown when we saved her, ten years ago. She could have been anywhere from fifteen to twenty-five for all we know. But last week on Friday morning she had eaten a full breakfast, was happily and peacefully chewing her cud, we put her fly mask on, and a few minutes later she fell over and passed away. She easily stepped out of her body, done with her purpose here, even though we were nowhere done with her. I think we are still in shock. It is always easier for the animal to go quickly, but harder for their loved ones to be suddenly left behind.
I was dreading going into the cow area after Buttercup transitioned. I didn’t want a barnyard without her. I didn’t want a Gentle Barn without her. I didn’t want to host groups or field trips without her hugs. I didn’t want to try to get through the days without her support. What was I going to do?! That first tour that I hosted and brought them to the cows was hard. I held my breath, opened the cow gate, and prepared myself for the pain of her absence. To my surprise, all I felt was love and warmth in my heart. I felt the same in the barnyard as when she was here physically. I didn’t feel a huge gaping hole. I didn’t feel debilitating darkness. I felt the same light, love, and warmth that I always felt. I started crying and couldn’t stop. Not because she was gone, but because she was right here still with me.
Faith has stepped up as the matriarch and tenderly grooms the others. Aretha can be so sassy, but she is soft and gentle with us, sensitive to our loss. Athena is braver than ever, allowing children to hug her. Gentle Ben is taking on many more hugs than he ever used to. Lucy still sleeps in the same spot she used to lay with Buttercup as if nothing has changed. Each cow is covering for Buttercup and giving as much of themselves as they can. I’m thinking they feel her too and they are making her proud! Come visit when you can and see how the other cows are shining. While you are here, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and feel Buttercup’s restorative, loving, wholehearted energy, still gracing our barnyard. Buttercup will always and forever be a part of us!