What'll you do ... ? UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

What'll you do ... ? UPDATE



 I've given Blog readers reports from my favorite Democrat-Gazette columnist, Gene Lyons, about his rescue of the sickly Charolais calf,  Layla, in Gene's new life as a full-time resident of rural Perry County.

Today, prepare to choke up. I had a heads-up Dec. 1.

DEC. 1

Layla's eating heartily, seems to feel OK, but her neurological problems aren't going away. Right now, she can't stand up on her own, although she can walk OK once I get her up. If I can't teach her, I'm gonna have to give up.

DEC. 12

I've made an appointment to have Layla put down today. I could do it, but Diane doesn't want me to. She thinks it'd have a bad effect on me.
Layla's still lying down all day, making no decisions on her own. I have to put food, water under her nose, move her as weather dictates. She's totally non-responsive to the others. Basically, she's not living as a cow, and shows no sign of getting better.
She seems to have no real immune system, and appears to be getting pnuemonia again. I just don't think there's much point in going forward.
Having healthy calves around makes her plight more obvious, pitiful. I had no idea how vigorous, playful, energetic a healthy calf is.
This photo, taken last week when I thought she might be getting better, tells the story. Buster, on the left, is ten days old. He was born Thanksgiving day. Layla's 7 months. Jennifer, on the right, is 6 months. Note her size. That's how Layla should look.
I can still lift Layla in my arms. Jennifer weighs more than I do, and is, of course, far stronger. I should add that Layla had been lying in that spot since I placed her there in early morning. Buster and Jennifer joined her. They keep trying to get her to play head-butt and chase with them, but she can hardly stand without me helping her.
I hate to give up, but continuing would be cruel.

UPDATE: A note Saturday from Gene responds to a question about vet care.

You're correct. Layla got plenty of medical attention right until the end.
She had every kind of antibiotic you can imagine, including one I had to be very careful with because if you accidentally stick yourself with the syringe, you die.
It rallied her miraculously. But within ten days, she'd get another infection.
The vet who helped me at the end said he'd always suspected congenital problems that her mother may have sensed back in May. He said when cows abandon calves, it's usually for a good reason.
He also said she must have been in pretty much constant pain of late.
So I'm at peace with it, although I sure  missed her when I went out to feed this morning. She taught Diane and me and the dogs to love cows, no small thing.
The problem for us carnivores is to learn what strong personalities they have. My friends who grew up with cattle tell me I've got to quit giving them names.

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