A Mother’s Day Story by Carrie Thompson, Director of DVA’s US Centers Project

To all mothers, human and nonhuman, DVA hopes you had a happy Mother’s Day.

Trying to Feed a Carrot to PippyIt was 4 PM, and after about 50 miles of riding my bike, I was trying to decide between setting up camp in the exposed and super windy Utah desert or riding another 15 grueling miles back to my car. That’s when I saw a baby cow with a dry umbilical cord still dangling, standing by the side of the dirt road. He couldn’t drink any water and wouldn’t eat my carrots. Pippy was wobbly, head hanging low, sand crested eyes, nose, and mouth. He was extremely skinny. As I sat down on the ground, he dropped down on his four legs and laid his head on my body.

Guessing he would die in the next few hours, I made a contract with Pippy to stay with him until he died, even if I had to spend the night there or try to end his suffering. I had a knife, but I couldn’t do it. I have a tough time taking someone else’s life. 

Carrie Thompson and Pippy the Calf

An hour went by, and I was getting cold in the wind. I almost pulled my sleeping bag out for the night. Pippy and I ended up in the back of a pickup truck for one long dusty, bumpy hour and one hour of pavement to get to a vet. I wanted the vet to euthanize him, yet instead, the vet found the “owner“ to come to pick him up.

Meanwhile, I found a sanctuary in Colorado for Pippy to move to if he recovered. Unfortunately, Pippy died after the rancher tried ‘putting him on a new cow’ to suckle.  The owner of this calf had rounded up his mom and other companions several days before I found him. They took them to a cooler and higher ground with hopefully better plants to graze on, leaving Pippy behind.

All mammals produce milk solely for their child, so not only was he dying of thirst and malnutrition, his mother had no one to relieve her by suckling. I know mom cows grieve over the loss of their child and will search for them for days.

The following day I tracked down the rancher, and we had a surprisingly thoughtful conversation on the phone. We agreed that even though we viewed cows differently, it was valuable for us to get along in this world. I learned that Pippy had been seen in the desert by the side of the road the day before I arrived, just standing there waiting for his mom to return.  I also learned that if I were to have bought Pippy from the rancher, his value would have been $300.

I asked the man who picked Pippy and me up in his truck why he would spend four hours of his evening driving a stranger with her bike and a cow to get to a vet and then back to my car. I knew he was a hunter and that he ate animals. His response floored me: “ I could see how much that calf meant to you.”