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.