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We Will Miss You, Snowball


On Monday, January 16th, we had a vet put Snowball, an almost-19-year-old cow, to sleep. “Put to sleep” is a nice euphemism for “put to death,” because death tends to be hard for most humans to think about, and it’s easier to imagine someone going to sleep than someone going to their death. Yet Snowball had a good death — an easy death — and I believe (although of course there’s no way to tell for sure) that she was ready to move on to whatever it is people move onto next after they’ve served their time on this planet (assuming there’s anything at all).

Snowball definitely had an interesting life. In many ways, it was as tragic a life as life tends to be for cows, but in other ways she also had quite a bit of joy and comfort down the years. In 2007, Snowball was rescued from a bad situation — not cruelty, but imminent murder — by a group of activists in the Midwest. Four years earlier, her sons Norman and Bandit had been taken from her and sold. However, in 2008, in an amazing turn of events, the activists were able to track down and rescue them as well, thus reuniting Snowball with her two sons.

For anyone who knows anything about cows — how they are bought and sold under human dominion with no regard for ties of family or friendship — you will know just how rare a thing this was, and how incredibly wonderful. Lest anyone question the point of this reunification, the fact is that as soon as Snowball caught sight of Norman and Bandit, picking them out of the crowd in which they were standing, she refused to take her eyes off of them, even for a minute. They were inseparable until Bandit’s death from cancer in 2009, and Snowball was right by his side through his treatment and eventual death.

Anyone who believes that consuming dairy products is free of cruelty needs to imagine this sight — this mother reunited with children she’d long since grieved as gone. Dairy products cannot be obtained without stealing calves from their mothers (and then, of course, stealing the milk from the cows for human consumption). When calves are torn from their mothers, both children and parents grieve for long periods of time; and clearly, as Snowball and her sons prove, in many cases they never forget each other, even years later. That doesn’t sound like cruelty-free to me.

In 2007, Snowball also became a surrogate mother to CoCo, whose birth mother, Pumpkin, was separated from her in 2002. (Talk about euphemisms.)  They were inseparable for many years, even after Pumpkin was reunited with CoCo in 2008. Pumpkin and CoCo said goodbye to Snowball the night before she died.

In all, Snowball was moved three times in four years, between three different states, with her newly-reunited family, in order to ensure on-going care and shelter for them all. A year and a half ago, she ended up here at VINE, where she eventually formed strong relationships with both Cheryl and Kathy, both of whom can tell endless stories about Snowball’s insistence upon getting her daily apples, oranges, and corn cobs. Down here on the lower part of the sanctuary, we could hear Snowball mooing at certain times of day, and knew that she was getting impatient for her special foods.

Snowball, like many old folks, suffered from arthritis; and just like most other folks with that debilitating condition, she found only so much relief from pain medications. Until the very end, though, she was able to roam the ground here wherever she liked (generally not too far from the barn, though), and it was more fabulous than I can express to see this imperious, cranky old lady walking about, clearly the boss of everyone.

We will miss you, Snowball. Rest in peace, and be assured that your children will be taken care of for the rest of their lives.

11 comments to We Will Miss You, Snowball

  • Jack McMillan
    So beautiful…thank you…and Snowball
  • I linked to this post thanking you for your work. This is a beautiful post which tells the truth about the species whose nature we deny in order to exploit for profit.Your work’s light shines brightly today.
  • CQ
    I had never read about a mother cow being reunited with her offspring years later. (It reminds me, tragically, of human slave families split up by their owners. Sometimes, by chance or by a “benevolent” master who intervened, they came together again, either on the same plantation or as free men.)

    What a relief to know that Snowball recognized her babies Norman and Bandit, despite the fact that they were by then full-grown. Not that I would’ve doubted her capacity to do so. Just that I appreciate having it confirmed. Bless those activists who committed that kind deed.

    Thank you for telling Snowball’s story so poignantly, Bravebird. I can imagine how much you miss her. She now occupies a piece of my heart, too.

  • bravebird
    Jack, thank you too, for your kind thoughts….
  • bravebird
    CQ, I KNOW — it is truly amazing, in every sense of the word, that she was reunited with her children, because you are right, this just doesn’t happen. And you are also right, every story like this helps to make the point that we are all so desperately trying to make to most of the world: these are PEOPLE — cows and chickens and pigs and everyone else — they are all PEOPLE who have desires, connections, hopes, fears, and projects, just like we all do, and who deserve to be let ALONE to live their lives….
  • bravebird
    Thank you for the link — and thanks also to Debby, Cheryl, and Kathy for the stories (and photo) in this post….
  • victoria figurelli
    Thanks for your story about Snowball. We should never take for granted how smart an animal can be, and how far back they can remember. thanks for all your good work and sorry for the loss of Snowball he will always be remebered
  • Snowball was a special being. Thanks to her for being who she was and thanks to y’all for caring for her.
  • It’s only fitting that the final part of one’s life should be the best… With some joyful things that make up for all the trials and tears before. I’m so glad you were able to provide this last earthly haven for Snowball. Thank you!
  • victoria figurelli
    Yesterday My Chicken April Passed away. I found her dead in her nest box her sister Annie was by her side. After I removed April to her resting area. I put Annie in the day pen with the rest of the chickens she seemed Ok util dusk came and it was time to roost with her sister she was what seemed tt be crying and looking for her they have been together for 3 yrs in a coop to themselves .it does go to show you how chickens do have feelings.I will miss April. She was special
  • CQ
    Victoria, the way you tell your simple story in such a heartfelt way, and the way you notice the feelings of your sweet chicken companions, is so dear. No one has to be a poet like Shakespeare or write about some earth-shattering event to touch lives and change the world. It’s all about love. That is enough.

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