Inspiring Kindness and Compassion towards Animals, Our Planet, and Each Other
Inspiring Kindness and Compassion towards Animals, Our Planet, and Each Other

A Tribute to Faith

Faith the Cow

My husband and The Gentle Barn’s cofounder, Jay Weiner, has brilliantly established connections with the owners of slaughterhouses, auction houses, and stockyards so that when animals are born there or are too sick to be processed for a profit, they call us to take them off their hands. We have been able to save so many animals because of those connections. Faith and five other calves came to us because of one of those phone calls, and they were our very first veal calf rescue in 2008.

While Jay was negotiating their release, loading the sickly calves onto the trailer, and making the long drive home, I was preparing for their arrival, which included calling other sanctuaries to ask their advice and make sure I had everything we needed. All the sanctuaries that I called offered me only one piece of advice: The calves will die, and I should brace myself. I knew that they all offered their veal calves veterinary care, medication, and nutrition, as we would, but what could I do that they had never tried? What could we do differently? I thought about what veal calves go through and imagined the calves taken from their mothers at birth, put into a small box with no access to the outdoors or to love, and I realized that because they were so alone and sick, they had no reason to live. If we gave them a reason to live, would we be able to save their lives?

By the time Jay arrived home with the calves, I had called everyone I knew and gotten them to commit to four-hour shifts throughout the day and night so the calves would never be alone. We would be their mothers, their family, their nurturing, protection, love, and their reason to live. For seven months, we took their temperatures, poured rubbing alcohol down their backs to lower their fevers, wiped their noses, patted their sides to break up the phlegm in their lungs, sung to them, read out loud to them, meditated with them, did energy healing on them, and painted the picture of The Gentle Barn life awaiting them if they made it. We slept on cots and sleeping bags with our arms around them. We cleaned up after them, brought them green hay, soft bedding, and warm bottles. They slowly healed, recovered, forgave, learned to trust us, and chose to live!

Faith had begun her life in a veal crate. She had an eye infection that went untreated and by the time she arrived at The Gentle Barn, she was completely blind. All she knew how to do was spin in tight circles. When the calves finally recovered enough to explore their pasture, all the others ran, galloped, bucked, and kicked out their heels in joy while Faith spun in circles. We put a little halter on her and walked her back and forth across the pasture to teach her how to walk in a straight line. Faith soon learned how to walk and explore with the others. To be able to detect where the fences were, Faith walked until she reached a corner and then peed. She did that in all four corners of the pasture and from then on, she knew where the fences were by smell. Faith eventually figured out her surroundings, and for the rest of her life, she walked easily in and out of the barn, to the feeders to eat, and to the water bucket to drink. Unless she was startled, we could not tell that she was blind.

Faith the Cow

Faith grew into a sweet, thoughtful, gentle, kind girl. Like many little girls, Faith needed someone to care for, like a doll, and adopted her bouncy ball as her baby. She licked it like she would a baby, slept next to it, made the low, deep moos that mommy cows make only to their babies, and she called out loudly when she could not find her ball. Over the last 16 years, Jay and I slept with our window open, no matter how cold outside, so we could hear Faith if she needed us. There have been many, many nights when I ran down to the cow barn in my pjs to find Faith’s ball behind another cow or stuck in the corner. One time Faith bellowed loudly at 4:30 in the morning and I arrived to find that her ball had popped. I found another ball, blew it up, and gave it to Faith who stopped crying immediately afterward. From then on, we always kept a surplus of balls on hand in case her ball popped.

Faith loved music, and every day, we’d sing to her. Each month, we brought her musicians to play guitars, violins, pianos, or sound bowls for her to listen to. Faith was the very first face I saw in the mornings as I checked on her and made sure that she was eating her hay and grain and was happy. She was the last face I saw at night when I gave her bedtime cookies and kisses on her forehead. She was the one who’s voice I listened for during the night and who I was honored to wake up and run through the dark for when she needed me. Jay saved her life, and together with our veterinarians, staff, and volunteers, we got to heal her, nurture her, know her, provide for her, protect her, and love her with our entire hearts.

The trauma of being taken from her mom and not being able to nurse or receive love was connected with her original eye infection and then blindness. Even though Faith loved her life once she healed, she had growths and issues with her eyes for the rest of her life. We maintained them, removed the growths, gave her extra thick face masks to protect her eyes from the sun, and used Puremedy salve, but the growths kept coming back. Then, her right eye developed cancer and we removed her eye in hopes that it would remove the cancer, but seven months after the eye removal surgery, the cancer came back with a vengeance.

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The last year and a half of Faith’s life was spent giving her medication, changing her bandages, feeding her extra high-calorie and nutrient-rich foods, and communicating closely with her veterinarians who prepared us that the cancer was spreading to her lymph nodes, lungs, stomach, and that we would have a hard decision to make soon. As long as Faith was eating, playing with her ball, socializing with us and the other cows, and seemed happy, all was well. But when she stopped eating or looked uncomfortable, we would have to help her out of her body so she would not suffer. Faith fought hard! She lasted longer than expected. Last week she stopped eating, and we knew it was time.

With the help of our wonderful veterinarian, surrounded by all the people that loved her, watched by all the cows that she loved, with her beautiful head in my lap, as she gobbled up her last cookies, Faith took her final breath and transitioned from a body no longer serving her.

When I think of Faith, I think of someone kind and simultaneously strong, who fought through the loss of her mom, the loss of her sight, extreme illness, and the loss of her eye. She fought cancer and left when she was good and ready. Faith taught us what real courage looked like. She proved to us that animals want to mother and nurture, just like so many of us. She demonstrated what it is like to be soft, feminine, and powerful all at the same time. She was the most compromised of the group of calves but outlived them all. She was blind, but the most intuitive, perceptive, aware, and wise cow. She loved her ball, licking guests, eating cookies, and music. It was an honor to be her mom and love her for the last 16 years. From now on, we are the lucky ones who had Faith!

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