Life in the Slow Lane: Death Defiance

That cow! Remind me the next time I decide to buy a cow that I need to ask if she was raised by other cows or raised by humans. I definitely prefer cow-raised cows.

Almost from the moment June arrived here a couple of months back, it was clear that she was very bonded to humans. By her second week--after she got over the shock of realizing I wasn't going to give her flakes of alfalfa and instead expected her to eat that green stuff on the ground--she began to react toward me and my women visitors in a way that said she really liked human girls. By about week 2.5, when she was hopping for joy around my blonde friend Laurie, I pretty accepted that she had been hand-raised by a blonde girl. Maybe she was a 4H project, or maybe an orphaned heifer.

And what's wrong with that? Just like Bear, my now-135 pound dog (he lost ten necessary pounds, yay!), who wants to be a lap dog, June still thinks she's that calf, loving on her new girls, when she's anything but. She doesn't have appropriate boundaries, the sort that cow-raised cows naturally develop. Just like the pigs think of June as a strange-looking pig, to June humans are strange-looking cows. By the way, I caught another pig pedicure procedure the other day. June was laying on the ground with three pigs working on her hooves. I really do have weird animals.

That's not to say that whoever raised June didn't do their best to give her boundaries. She knows the word "No." When corrected, she lowers her head in a plea for ear scratches. If I really want her attention, all I have to do is tap her on a hindquarter with a stick. She becomes instantly alert and does exactly what I tell her. Frankly, if it weren't for that, she'd already be hamburger.

It's the game she most likes to play that's the problem. I think we can call it a cow version of Tag, which I just learned is an acronym for touch-and-go. It works like this: June runs in a crazy circle, then comes barreling at you, head lowered, only to stop on a dime about four inches away, her head wagging in the pretense of threat.

This reminds me of when the three neighbor kids visited a few years ago and began a game of tag with my (delicious) ram Cinco. Cinco was still a youngster then and he wanted to head butt them in the worst way. But there were three of them and they were all going in different directions. Just as he'd get close to one, that laughing kid would climb the fence or close a gate. Within minutes, Cinco had gone from wanting to do harm to enjoying the running and dodging as much as the kids were. When they left, he stood at the gate and baaed after them as if begging them to come back.

That's how I imagine June playing with her first humans, kids laughing and running as she bounced after one, then another, her head lowered as if to hit them. And that's what happened Saturday night after that gorgeous little storm we had. The brief spate of rain had left everyone feeling cool and comfortable after a sticky, humid day. It was well into twilight and the dogs were playing when we all heard a huge crack. Worried for my fences, I put on my headlamp and started for the back pasture. The dogs joined me, then the sheep followed. I thought June had stayed behind in the pig pasture, but as I neared my back fence a 1000 pound juggernaut went galloping past me at full speed, aiming for Moosie. Being Moosie, he easily dodged her. As he watched her in surprise, she turned and came straight at me at the same astonishing speed.

Trapped between the fence and the cow, I held out my hands and shouted, "No!" as loudly as I could. In the back of my mind I'm wondering if she's eaten Datura and is truly crazed. Thoughts of the damage a galloping, hallucinating cow can do to a much smaller human followed. I hoped the dogs would wait until I was dead before they ate me, but I was pretty sure the pigs would get to me first.

She stopped a hair's breadth in front of my hands, shook her head at me, swiveled and heading off for the sheep. My little flock of ewes was completely unprepared for a cow attack. They watched transfixed until the the cow was in the middle of them, swinging her head. Needless to say, she scared the begeezus out of them.

Just as I was thinking I'd have to borrow my neighbor's .22, Moosie came racing up to June. With a quick yip, he crouched in that posture dogs take on when they want to play. And off they went, the 1000 pound cow chasing the "faster than the wind" dog. Not Datura then, just bovine joy.

It took me ten minutes to calm a panting, terrified Tiny, who was so frightened she was head-butting Mari for getting too close to her. By the way, Tiny is now felt-free. I used a utility knife and shaved it off her back. This might actually have been the cause of June's crazies.

She's a jealous cow. She doesn't want to share my attention with those other creatures and earlier that day she'd tried more than once to interrupt the makeshift shearing process.

Before anyone worries, I'm pretty sure statistics show that even I am more likely to die while driving on the freeway than via joyful cow.

Still, I'll admit that the sooner that cow has her own calf to play with, the better. And she damn well better be as good a milker as I was promised. Or else!

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