Tag Archives: Life

It’s a Good Day to Put the Old Girl Down

Yesterday, my husband came into the house after he finished milking as he sometimes does to get something to eat and said, “You’ll have to say your goodbyes to Liesel.” Liesel (pronounced “Lee-sell” as I found out after I started calling “Leezl” like diesel fuel) was one of my jersey cows. So I said okay, put my boots on and headed to the barn.

As I walked down there, I noticed what a beautiful day it was. It was really bright out as the sun was out and against the snow it made you feel like you were walking in a dream almost. It wasn’t too cold, but crisp, and you could feel the freshness in your lungs as you breathed in. Altogether it made you feel that much more awake and I thought to myself, “you know, it’s a good day to put the old girl down.”

Truth be told, Liesel wasn’t really all that old as far as cows go. She was 7 1/2. The problem was she somehow developed arthritis in her hips which made it difficult for her to get her 1400 pound frame up and down. Despite all the aspirin we gave her to help with the pain, she wasn’t getting any better and only began to get worse. 

She was a bigger jersey, not exceptionally tall but boy could that cow eat!! Some cows sort their feed and pick out the things they want to eat first and then maybe eat what’s left, (we feed a “TMR” – total mixed ration that contains grass silage, grain, corn, minerals, etc.) Not Liesel, she was like a vacuum, usually exhaling the feed in front of her. When she was big with calf, she was as wide as a house. I used to marvel at it and wonder if we had the right calving or due date for her. I now know a little about how it feels to be as big as a house when you’re carrying a baby!

I showed her when she was younger and in fact she was grand champion at the Woodstock Fair one year. Unfortunately that was the same year we were involved in a barn accident that involved a really mad loose Mama Simental cow trying to get back to her baby. That cow didn’t care what was in her path, including Liesel and a few of our other cows as she stepped on them while they were laying down. Our girls and the people involved ended up being okay but the cow and her calf went right home after that to avoid another accident. The folks who had them weren’t experienced in showing cattle and didn’t realize how crazy a beef cow will get when separated from her calf if it’s not weaned. Regardless, it was a crazy experience and we were lucky no one including the cows was hurt.

People say that putting an animal down is one of the most humane things you can do for it. Even though I’ve been through it several times before, it doesn’t get easier. When I got to the barn that beautiful morning, I scraped down behind the girls, pushed up their feed so they could reach it a bit easier and then took some time to scratch Liesel’s head, behind her ears and under her muzzle. I said my goodbyes and told her how she was going to a better place and she wouldn’t be in pain anymore. I felt kind of silly, like a little 4-Her still, as even now tears well up as I write this. Her dam (mama-cow) was the first cow I bought as an adult. Her first calf was the first I delivered by myself. I never particularly cared for broken-colored jerseys until she came along. She’s always been a good worker and pleasant in the barn. So the last thing I said to Liesel was simply, “thank you.”

Circle S Hallmark Liesel

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Top Five Regrets

I receive the “Pause Newsletter” in my email inbox usually every week. I enjoy it as someone, like many, who struggles with life balance. I force myself to take the 2-3 minutes to read it and usually I’m left feeling glad that I took that time to reflect ever so briefly on big-picture messages. It’s put out by Patricia Katz, who’s message resonated with me when I heard her speak at a conference.

This week, she shared the top five regrets of senior citizens reflecting on their lives as shared in a book by Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. They are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Reading these now, as a 30-something, I have a lot of time to do something about making sure these are not my regrets when I get to the end of my days. At least I think I do, but in fact, I already have. Several years ago, I lost a very close friend of mine in a car accident. He was 31. In business, we talk a lot about “game changers” – what event or catalyst changes the course of the way a business operates or the way a market functions. Well, this event was my personal game changer.

After the accident, like a recovering addict, I had to learn how to take each day at a time. For a time I couldn’t even think about what to have for dinner, let alone my next career move. It was working through the pain of loss that I realized how grateful I am to have my life and those that fill it. Once I realized that there was no “getting over” my tragedy, that I had to accept what happened and learn how to live with the sadness, the world seemed like it was painted in a new color.

It seems a little strange reflecting on what happened now as my life is so much different than it was then. It’s really not though – I think my approach to life is what is different. At some point during the period where I really didn’t care what I ate, I read an article that an older person wrote to a graduate headed off to college. It was about certain truths in life and offered one as “Things fall apart. But you rebuild them again and appreciate them all the more for it.”

I felt like my life was falling apart – there was a huge void that once this person filled. When I figured out how to live with the void, it got smaller as I focused on doing things like the five regrets suggest. I make decisions that fit who I am. I choose things I’m passionate about – agriculture, family, helping others. I still work hard but it’s work that I like doing whether I’m at my computer, working with the cows, working with people or now, taking care of my son and our home. I don’t hesitate to share what I’m feeling or thinking, especially with family members! Keeping in touch with friends is a constant battle with all of life’s distractions for all of us, but I still try.

I’m happy. I have a life that I love. It’s not perfect for sure, but I am where I am because of choices that I have made. Sometimes my husband and I are still amazed – we look at each other and say, from the Talking Heads song and as the tagline of my blog reads, “Life, how did we get here?”

My wish for those closest to me and anyone reading this is that they too are happy and have a sense of peace and purpose; a life that they love too.

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