the conflict of heart and head in rescue.
Carol · Jan. 13, 2016
there is a reality to rescue and this is not a post that will fill any of us with feelings of fuzzy warmth, but it is important to me to share this rescue experience as brutally honestly as possible. and everyone is going to feel so sad that norman did not make it and think that i did a wonderful thing here by giving him every single possible chance. but i didn't do a wonderful thing, i was irresponsible.
norman and his brother were a bad decision. i should have minded my own business and had nothing to do with those sick calves. the bottom irrefutable truth is...saints did not have enough space to take on any calves which hopefully with good care would grow up to 1500 pound steers. we did not, do not have a large enough property to take on any more barn animals.
had both of these innocent boys survived..we would have made it work because we make things work. but making things work because they have to despite lack of space, despite the shitload of increased workload that 2 more cows were going to bring..that is not smart rescuing...it was emotional rescuing. and if you are not careful emotional rescuing can get you into big trouble.
so here is the full undiluted story of how my decision to help 2 tiny sick calves put saints at future risk.
i saw the post on a FB hobby farming site..three newborn sick calves purchased from a farmer by a young family in the process of beginning hobby farming. the heifer calf died within a few days, the bull calves were sick with scours. advice was being sought on future castration and de-horning. the plan was to hopefully grow the 2 remaining calves up and sell at auction. i knew that finances were a problem because to post said they hoped to recoup the $400 already invested in these calves at auction. this was a nice family who didn't understand a couple of things...raising jersey calves to adulthood is not cheap. the helpful suggestions from others on home grown ways to castrate and de-horn bull calves without a vet nearly put me over the edge. i politely suggested the vets freeze and sedate, causing less pain and trauma and it wasn't that expensive. this was a nice and kind family so they were receptive to the more humane way. in private messages tho, it became clear that one of the remaining calves was very, very ill and no longer able to stand. the family was doing their best to care for the calves, feeding them frequently, keeping them warm, giving them basic calf scour meds. they were even standing and supporting the sickest calf and trying to help him to move. this nice but inexperienced family were way over their heads.
i sent another message, letting them know that jersey steers will not bring in much at auction even when they are grown to adults. jersey's are lean and bony cows (unless they live at saints, then they are fat!) it is the stockier, beefier hereford cattle that are bought and slaughtered for steaks and therefore worth much more money. jerseys most likely end up in dog food, and therefore have not much value on the auction floor.
the other consideration too was their kids were going to most likely have a hard time seeing their pet cows go off to auction when the time came.
i think they thought the calves were adorable, the kids would love raising them from babies and enjoy having them for pets, they had a small hobby farm so why not be a hobby farmer?
an idyllic dream but the calves were sick and dying, the reality of the cost and loss hadn't really started to add up to what was coming if the calves did happen to survive.
i saw disaster speeding towards this family and these babes so i offered to recoup their loss at this point and pay the $400 they had already invested in the three calves and take the 2 remaining. and that's a whole other ethical dilemma.
this family knew they were over their heads and they had made a mistake. they truly cared about these sick calves and wanted to do right by them so the deal was made. i sent our vets out to see the calves before transport and the one little boy was so sick..the infection had spread to his joints, he couldn't be saved and he was suffering so our vet euthanized him right then and there.
later that night the family packed up norman and brought him here. you could tell that they tried their best with the resources they had and you could tell that all of them really cared about norman and wanted the best for him.
and we gave norman the absolute best of everything...clean, warm, dry, comfortable housing in our shop..24/7 top quality daily physical, emotional, medical care thru our vets, staff and volunteers.
i am not sure exactly how many visits our vets made over the past couple of weeks to help norman but i bet it was close to 10 or 12.
and trust me first and foremost, above everything else, i wanted norman to live. there was nothing that we wouldn't or didn't do for him to help him live.
but he didn't.
and while i am so sad that we lost him, that he never had the chance to grow up and join our special herd who i know would have loved and cherished him as he always deserved. and while i am heartbroken that this poor sweet utterly adorable little innocent calf never really stood a chance despite all the chances we tried to give him....part of me is relieved and i feel guilty about feeling a little relieved.
we do not have a large enough property to take on another full cow's life. we do not have enough barn staff to carry the load of caring for another full sized cow. i should never gotten involved with this..we are doing as much as is humanly possible already and i know we can't save them all.
so i sit trapped in a quandry..i am so glad we were able to assist in alleviating the suffering of two little newborn calves, i am so grateful that we had the help, resources and support to be able to throw caution to the wind and try to help these babes. and i am so sad that despite it all, we lost them both anyway. and i am disappointed in myself that i did something that rescue should never do...try to take in too many.
and finally i am sick inside for feeling that twinge of relief that we do not have to try to provide quality lifelong care to another cow because we are stretched to the max already.
i love you norman, and i always will.
but rescue is not just about love, it is also to about doing it right and i screwed up on that part of it all.
In view of Anja's comment about not letting Norman's memory slip away, I wonder what it would cost to have a sign posted on the barn with his picture and a short story about how he ended up at SAINTS and ultimately ended up dying.... It wouldn't have to be judgmental towards dairy farmers - just the facts, ma'am. We can't refute the facts.
Carol, you are very hard on yourself. You did what you were called to do, even knowing that Norman as a full grown steer was going to tax your resources to the max. Are there other sanctuaries for farm animals? The Happy Herd in Aldergrove? Perhaps someone could have stepped up to help out down the line and taken Norman in... But it was not meant to be. And your great big heart couldn't let that little calf suffer and die alone as the others had despite the best efforts from the first family. I do not want to invalidate your feelings. Forgive yourself for feeling relief. I believe to my core that things happen for a reason and exactly as they are meant to happen. Norman is a beautiful little messenger. The reasons for his short life have educated many already and awareness abounds. This is such a good thing
Remember: The darkest nights produce the brightest stars. Hugs to you all.