Posted on Oct 09, 2023
By Ellie Laks, Founder of The Gentle Barn
This month marks the 13th anniversary of our cows Holy Cow and Madonna’s rescue and arrival at The Gentle Barn. They came to us at only a few weeks old, injured, scared, lame, and sick. We had to work hard to save them, and it took many months until they were healthy. With patience, devotion, great vet care, dedicated volunteers, and hardworking staff, we finally helped them to thrive. Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi named them Holy Cow and Madonna, setting them up with strong, powerful names for a lifetime of resilience and happiness.
Madonna was too young to eat solid food and should have been nursing from her mom. Each time she would try to eat grass hay, she would bloat and need a plastic tube, called a speculum, pushed down her throat to alleviate the gasses and air painfully building up in her stomach. We were up throughout the night checking on her for months until she finally learned to process solid food. Madonna also had two deep holes on her side, the exact same size as the spikes of a pitchfork, which we had to clean and medicate for weeks. In time her injuries healed, and she began to enjoy her newfound life and love.
Holy Cow was taken from her mom at birth and brutally stomped to stop her from walking. This was to keep her muscles soft and mushy so she could be slaughtered for veal at eight weeks old. Upon arrival at The Gentle Barn, two different veterinarians advised us to euthanize her, stating that she would never walk again. If a chiropractor could straighten a crooked spine on a human, I thought, perhaps they could straighten one on a calf?
I called around to every chiropractor within driving distance from our farm and asked them for help. The majority of the practitioners hung up on me when they heard the word “cow.” The the rest told me politely, “No.” But I did not stop calling until one of them said that he had never worked on a cow before, but he was willing to try. I was ecstatic!
Our chiropractor came every single day and worked to straighten Holy Cow’s spine. A month later, he announced that she could walk but didn’t know it yet. With the help of volunteers and staff, every half hour during the day, we picked her up to a standing position. The first several times she slumped back down to the ground, but, after a while, she stood for longer and longer periods, then tentatively took a step, then two, then three, until each 30 minutes Holy Cowpracticed walking until she was fully mobile.
Today, Holy Cow and Madonna rule the barnyard, dining side by side, grooming each cow after breakfast, and leading group meditations for the whole family. Each Sunday, they patiently host hundreds of guests who hug and brush them. During the week, these matriarchs host Cow Hug Therapy sessions for people who come to The Gentle Barn looking for hope. They give these visitors all the energy and nurturing they have, knowing, intuitively, that they need them. It is an honor to walk among them, to know and love them, and to work beside them! They exemplify grace, inspire kindness, exude intelligence, and are the example of how we can all lift each other up once humanity awakens to love. One day, all we will do with cows is hug them!