In truth, I do not even know where to begin with this story. So, I guess I’ll start at the very beginning and hope you, dear reader, can endure such a long post!
On March 12, 2020, a vet student reached out to us blindly. Her ask was if we could take in a single cow. The cow in question was a holstein she met during her anatomy class (and maybe others, I don’t know). She gave a brief description and after talking it over with my partner in life and sanctuary, Matt, we decided to respond “yes – we would take her.” I asked for pictures but the response was that the university had policies against photographing lab animals. Later, in other conversation, I found out she said she had reached out to several sanctuaries but there was no room or no response.
We were the only sanctuary that said yes. At that time, we were good on space and the pandemic hadn’t even crossed our minds. It simply wasn’t a thing. She said she would let us know the details as she had them.
And then … pandemic.
We heard nothing, and in truth, I thought the university wasn’t going to do anything. Who could hold an auction in the middle of a pandemic lockdown? Well – the animal industry, of course. I recognize now that she was part of the food supply chain and with or without pandemic, the food supply chain lives on.
Fast forward to Tuesday, April 7th (one week ago from this post), I received another message that the university was sending the cow to the sale barn for slaughter in less than 7 days. Alexandria, the vet student, had it together. In her message she made it clear she was already securing transport (truck and trailer) although she had not done any fundraising because she thought she had more time with the pandemic. We did too.
We both knew that it wouldn’t be cheap and she wanted to start the fundraising immediately. My recommendation was we had to have a name for her. After her original contact in March, my family had already had some conversations and selected some names we liked. We were simply waiting to meet her – but that really isn’t how it worked out. I tossed some of the names back at Alexandria and she landed on Cora. Cora Cow-conut (because the students in class called her cow-conut … it has become her last name).
We exchanged some words and in no time, a GoFundMe had been created.
Again – no pictures because of university policy.
Within 24 hours the fundraiser blew through the halfway mark and within 48, I believe it was fully funded. And after a couple more days, it creeped over the goal line by a little more than a hundred. Watching that number go up so fast was the first big hurdle being crushed. Next was transport and then the actual auction.
I’d like to throw a disclaimer here that we, Willowbrook Farms, did not donate to assist in the purchase of Cora. It is against our ethical belief and against our bylaws, but we can take an animal from a private holder and in this case, Alexandria was trying to become that private holder. It was absolutely nerve-wracking on our end. We were helpless but so wanting her to succeed. We do not want to buy into the animal industry but for her, this was the only way to save her.
Alexandria came into transport what seemed to be pretty easily. Truth be told, it could have been a nightmare for her but it didn’t seem that way on our end. So many people wanted to help save Cora’s life and things that would have been difficult either weren’t or we were simply willing to work through them.
Two days after the notice of when Cora was going to be sold, I was notified by my employer that my wages were going to be reduced due to the company’s need to respond to the COVID-19 impact on business. At that point my heart sunk because of Cora. We were the only sanctuary to say yes – would we still be able to afford her care? We rely heavily on my wages for the sanctuary. Whatever is not spent on our daily needs as a family goes straight to the sanctuary. We do get donations and we appreciate them – we genuinely appreciate those donations, the farm is still ran primarily on my wages. I did go through a bit of panic about it. I didn’t cry about it until I thought of Cora and her fate.
But then I realized I had been praying for Cora’s life and whatever is needed to make that life comfortable. If it was us, great – if it wasn’t – that’s great too. Because in the end, it was about Cora. I reached out and found that other sanctuaries in the area really were not able to take her, but they were willing to offer help! I received links to emergency vet grants I could apply for if needed (which really is applicable to any of our residents in this time of need). We were offered a round bale … which we will probably take them up on after she eats down the grass).
And it hit me – we can give Cora what she NEEDS and be ok with that. If I can’t give her everything I want, that’s ok too. She will get so much more than she would have should she had been sold to someone else … in fact, life here is much better than death.
We decided that we could not live on “what if” scenarios and just go forward with the original plan. My husband, Matt, was critical in that decision. Of course, he had been around cows in his past life whereas I have not. So I think he had a bit more real life application to apply rather than my imagination of every disease and injury running rampant at the farm.
The ups and downs of this story were mostly for the humans. Cora was the one with the greatest risk – being sold into slaughter for a second time. The weekend seemed like it took forever but at the same time it went so fast. We simply had to wait for word. No one knew how the sale would go. Would Alexandria have enough money? What has the pandemic done to the market for live cows? We simply didn’t know.
Monday started with a quick exchange of “good luck” from me to her. I cannot imagine what it felt like to be Alexandria that day… and then I received a picture with the message: we found her.
They knew she was there and all it was now – a waiting game… a bidding game. All for the life of Cora Cow-conut.
This picture here – this is the first image I had seen of Cora. She looks sad BUT she also is looking towards the camera. I do think she recognized Alexandria and her friends – and she had to have some sense of joy knowing someone she knew was there with her. Alexandria messaged me that Cora was looking right at them.
And then silence. It was a wait for the auction to get started and make their way to Cora. As it turns out, she was almost the last animal to be auctioned. And then the three most amazing words ever messaged to me:
“I got her.”
That was the moment that we here at Willowbrook went into a flurry of action. We had been holding off on some last minute items because if Cora was not saved, then these were things that would not need to occur.
But she was and we had to get moving fast!
By the time the truck hauling Cora pulled into the drive – we were ready. So was Cora. Alexandria backed the trailer into the pasture entrance and with help of her friends, dropped the gate of the trailer. It took a couple minutes, but Cora untrailered herself.
NOTE: I failed as a cameraman because I got video of Cora in the trailer looking around, and video of her looking around… after she left the trailer. Nothing in between. DOH! I was just. too. excited!
We could not hug or celebrate this wonderful moment because of the pandemic, but I assure you it was all smiles and joyful laughter. Charlie and Cora acquainted themselves quickly and have stayed relatively close to one another in the last 16 hours. I’m sure it will be more of the same. They have even played a few times, which is super cute to watch!
I think this is pretty much it for her timeline over the last week or so – how she got to Willowbrook. Cora is deserving of another story… a shorter one – the one that tells the story of her life. She is, as the case may be, the cow that escaped slaughter twice.