The life of an animal in the farming industry is one of loss. Comfort, dignity, and, at last, life itself are taken away. But, at Farm Sanctuary, what has been lost has a way of being found.
Fanny lost her babies. Like all dairy cows, she had been forced to produce milk through an unrelenting cycle of impregnation and delivery. Every calf she bore was immediately taken from her. This bitter existence continued for three or four years until, according to industry standards, her exhausted body was considered “spent,” and she was sent to auction. It was at the livestock auction, where dairy cows are bought to be sold for ground beef or pet food that Farm Sanctuary rescuers found Fanny.
Fanny clearly had endured not only the ordeal of milk production but also the consequences of neglect. Her horribly overgrown hooves made every step excruciating, and her legs buckled under the weight of her enormous udders. Instead of trying to help her, stockyard workers hit her with wooden poles to make her move.
As soon as Farm Sanctuary could gain access to Fanny, caregivers brought her to Cornell University Hospital for Animals, where they assumed she would need to be euthanized. Despite her ailments, however, Fanny began to revive. With fluids, IV calcium, and antibiotics her dull and lifeless eyes became brighter, and, by the next day, she was standing on her own and greeted visiting sanctuary staff with a loud moo.
Soon she was recuperating at the organization’s New York Shelter. This is where she met five little calves who had been through a very hard time of their own.
These five calves lost their mothers, separated from them just after birth. Because the calves were male, they were considered useless byproducts to be sold for a few dollars at auction. They were among a group of 11 bought by a man who intended to raise them for cheap beef, but the buyer’s plans were frustrated when the calves developed pneumonia. Instead of investing the mere $20 it would have cost to treat all of them, the man decided to shoot the calves. By the time authorities intervened, he had already killed six.
As Farm Sanctuary’s Emergency Rescue Team stood at the door of a dank barn, the flashlights of SPCA agents played over the faces of the five calves who had escaped the brutal fate of the others. The young animals peering out from the darkness were unfed and emaciated. Their pneumonia had become severe. The team drove them all straight to Cornell, arriving at 2:00 a.m.
Some struggled to overcome severe and even life-threatening ailments, but all the calves pulled through. Arnold, Tweed, Conrad, Milbank, and Orlando were soon home at the New York Shelter, enjoying comforts they had never before experienced. And, when they met Fanny, they discovered a bond that had been denied to them from their first moments of life. The mother who had never known her calves and the calves who had never known their mothers claimed each other at once.
Now Fanny devotes herself to mothering her adoptive sons, and they bask in her affection. The happiness of this family is plain to see. Through all that these animals suffered and lost, their capacity to love endured. As Farm Sanctuary caregivers have labored to heal these creatures and make their bodies whole again, Fanny and her boys have made each other’s hearts whole as well.
By the way, for anyone else considering taking the step into starting a sanctuary of their own, Farm Sanctuary has a great link to some information here that will explain more about the process (it's a lot of homework!)