Monday, January 28, 2013

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

It was a hard weekend - a very hard one.  I'm still going to be crying well into the next week, I'm sure of it.  A little piece of my heart has been buried, and I'm a total sobbing mess.

How do you say goodbye to someone you've known for 27 years?  There are no easy "farewells" when you've had an animal for that long.  A long trusted and cherished companion has crossed over the rainbow bridge at our farm.  My beloved cow Gabby.

Most people have a horse, a dog, cat, or some other domestic animal that is near and dear to their heart.  Mine was a cow.  She was my 4-H project that I had kept for what seems like forever.  A long time ago a family friend dropped off an orphaned calf at my parents house.  I was 8 years old, and bottle fed the little heifer for her first few months of life.  She became my 4-H project, and what a good one she was.  Most cattle will only live 9 or 10 years before a rancher sends them to the burger butcher block, but my beauty lived a far longer and better life.  She very much deserved it.  There is some solice in knowing that I offered her a comfortable and quality way of life, but the pain of loss outweighs on my mind at the moment.

We've known that this day was coming for awhile, but that didn't make it any easier.  Craig and I noticed Gabby slowing down in the past few months.  Eating became slower, moving became slower, everything became slower...  But we still babied her along.  She recieved the very best of care in every way, and lived 3 times longer than most other bovine counterparts in the world.  When her teeth were gone we soaked alfalfa and grain mash every day for her to eat.  When it was cold she had a special blanket to keep her warm.  When her arthritis crept in on rainy days we gave her medicine to ease the pain.  Her quiet retirement pasture that she occupied with another old timer is now a little bit lonelier, and her companion is going to miss her very much.

My cattle days have come to a close.  The grand matriarch has passed on, and the last of what was once a small 4-H herd is now gone.   But the many memories are fondly looked back upon. 

Our first show, the Milton-Freewater Junior Livestock Show.  I was 10 years old and Gabby was a two year old.  We won reserve champion in the beef heifer class.  She was so beautiful... 

This is a photo of the same show the following year when I was 11, and we won another reserve champion.  (I began experimenting with curly hair at the beginning of the 90's, and the home perms were a pretty bad idea....)

The ball tail and black hoof polish were quite the fashion in those days!  She was so patient while being groomed.  Most kids had to use stantion stocks while fitting and clipping their show cattle, but I never did.  Gabby was gentle enough to stand in the show barn and let me do whatever I wanted to her.  One year I curled up and took a nap next to her when we were at the county fair.  She won a grand champion ribbon at the fair that year.  We've put her ribbons up on the wall in our house along with a photo as a memorial.

For a brief period of time in high school I didn't have a horse of my own.  So guess who filled in that void....  Yes, Gabby was broke to ride.  My mother still has many great stories about our adventures on the family farm.  This photo was taken by my dad in 1994.
Over her lifetime, Gabby had over a dozen calves for me.  She was definitely worth her weight in gold for producing offspring.  At the time that this photo was taken in 1998, I had a small herd of 19 head of cattle and almost all of them were related directly to Gabby in some way.  The calf in the photo was her 8th, a black bull calf.

And this was her last calf in 2004.  She was 20 years old when she had this little guy.

In 1997 when I was a senior in high school, I showed one of Gabby's grandsons at the Pendleton Livestock Show.  It was a local show for market animals.  I won grand champion showman with the steer.
We were famous...

"Catchy" 1989 - 2009.  This blaze faced cow was Gabby's very first calf that she had when she was 3 years old.  Catchy matured into a wonderful cow that was gentle and halter broke.  I kept her here on the farm with Gabby until a few years ago when Catchy passed away.  She is shown here in 1998 with her 5th calf, a bald face bull calf. 

"Gabby" 1986 - 2013.  Goodbye my mahogany beauty.  I'll miss those sweet gorgeous brown eyes.


  1. What a wonderful thing to have such a life long friend! My heart goes out to you in so many ways. It's always hard when you lose a cherished pet, they are really part of the family and the loss is devastating.

    I do love the saddle cow pic!! You should use that for showing: "other performance"!!!

    Enjoy the greener pastures over the Rainbow Bridge Gabby, you deserve them............

  2. Thank you so much for your kind words about Gabby, I really appreciate it. Yes, I'm definitely devastated and I can't stop crying. It's not only hard for me to lose her, but for our entire family. My parents watched me grow up with her, and she was as big of a part of their lives as mine. They have many memories about my childhood with that cow - and they love to tell stories at our family gatherings about her. My grandparents used to come and watch me show Gabby when I was little kid, and my husband fell in love with her over the 12 years that we've been married. She's been a huge part of everyone's life in our family. It's so difficult for all of us to say goodbye.

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  4. Gabby and you obviously had a special connection that was far more than the prescribed 4-H relationship. I want to hear more about the things that you did with Gabby - when you are ready to tell those stories, that is.