The Sagebrush Sea

Ramblings from a Cowboy-Girl.

Just a Cow

“If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.”
― James Herriot, All Creatures Great and Small


I’ve been in a blue funk since May of 2015, when we lost two of our much loved dogs to antifreeze poisoning.  Already frustrated with the failure of expectations surrounding our living situation, I fell into a bit of an emotional hole, my writing was the first thing to suffer.  Shortly after the loss of Tank and Kipper, Joe the pony colicked and despite my brother’s massive efforts, we lost him, too.  The loss of our friends, felt like a sign that we needed to make a significant change.  As the school year ended, I found succor in the quiet solitude of a mountain cow camp, reunited with my husband for the Summer season.  The peace of the cabin combined with the sense of satisfaction and purpose I found in my milk cow chores, helped me find clarity of thought and informed our decision to  our move.

Here we are, a few hundred miles away, putting our energy into a new job, new business ideas, and soon a new home.  As I struggle to embrace change (it’s possibility in disguise, right?) and let go of expectations, I find myself mourning the unexpected loss of my pretty little milk cow.  Poor Karey succumbed to hardware disease, despite veterinary treatment.  My heart is broken.  I am grateful for the comfort I found in her quiet presence and the nourishment she has provided us these many months.  These things happen, my rational self knows.  As my friend Ray says, “Them that has, must lose.”  There is wisdom in his morose statement.  It is acceptance, not resignation, that life is fraught with difficulty.  What we do with that difficulty is up to us.  I believe allowing ourselves to feel grief and discomfort in difficulty rather than struggling with denial is the surest path to healing.  We will be sad, we’ll cherish the last creamy milk, butter, and yoghurt, and we will move on.

She was simply a cow, but she was MY cow and for that I am grateful.  This is not a sign, we’ll not let misfortune dictate our path through life.  These things simply happen.  There are discomforts we can choose in life and then there are those we must endure.  The heartache and the beauty of loving and living with animals is what they can teach us about living and loss.  At least, that is my belief.  “Just Be,” they seem to say.  Be in each moment, breathe and be present.  Each day I work on being.  Not being more or being “something,” just be-ing.  Perhaps someday, my presence will be a comfort to one who needs it, just as Karey’s was to me.



  1. Had to shoot a favorite Jersey last week. It was tough but it was the right thing to do. Glad I kept her first heifer. My whole family will remember her forever. She was real sweet.
    Sorry you lost such a nice cow too.

  2. Rachel,

    Early October last year we had a streak of bad luck too. Lost both my Jerseys, one a month away from calving, within a week. In the meantime, my gelding sawed on his pastern and I tore a bunch of ligaments in my foot a week or so later. I was pretty damn pissed, had Sally for five years and she was a fabulous cow: anyone could milk her and she was a generous dogie feeder too. Lucha was new, fresh from a dairy in Texas and a bit of a wild thing when she showed up last summer. It took lots of convincing to prove she was alright here, and get a calf grafted on her. And then, bam, they’re taken and it feels like what was the point? As you point out, it’s a “discomfort we endure.”

    Just got a Holstein/Jersey cross from a NM dairy. She’s been a challenge, but has bonded with both the bull calves we got to help us out on the milking end. For a cow who’s never raised a calf before, she is extremely maternal to both of them, equally and seems to think she had twins. I loved your James Harriet quote. I grew up reading and re-reading all his books, when my ambition was to be a vet. I didn’t go that route, but his understanding of creatures is unsurpassed. He looks at them on a individual basis, much like I need to do with my new cow, Tinnie.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • rachelwp

      January 28, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Good cow or bad, if you’re milking the relationship is more intimate. It certainly made the loss difficult, but I wouldn’t give up the lifestyle to avoid the pain.

  3. Beautiful words. Keep writing.

  4. It’s never just a cow. So sorry for your loss.

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