The Cow that Thought She was a Dog
Updated: Apr 18
One of the many responsibilities that a ranch kid has is taking care of any orphaned animals. So you could say that I've been a parent to many different animals over the years. From wild pigs to baby bobcats, I've been a caretaker for them all. One story in particular stands out from all the others though, and that is the story of, my bottle calf, Roots.
Roots was born on Labor Day back in 2013 when I was only 14 years old, and around that time was when we got two new puppies (Blacky and Brownie). So the beginning of Roots' story is a little bit of a tear jerker. Her mom had some issues with her legs and she wasn't able to stand up or walk around. So for the first week of Roots' life, I was bottle feeding Roots and taking care of her mother. Now, keep in mind that I was just starting high school at this point as well. So I would have to wake up before school and take care of both of them as well as the new puppies and do the same after coming home in the evenings.
After caring for Roots' mother for a few days, it became apparent that she wasn't getting better. She kept getting worse and worse with every passing day. Then after a week she passed away, leaving me to take her calf as my own and raise her. By this time, Root's was still just a baby, and not wanting to let her be lonely all the time, we put her in a pen with our two little puppies. It just so happens that they would all grow up to be siblings as well as best friends.
Being a calf and growing up with two little puppies instead of with a heard of cattle, Roots came to believe that she was a dog as well. So whenever Blacky and Brownie would play-fight, Roots would join in as well. When all three of them got old enough to leave the pen, they would go hunting rabbits together and patrol the home perimeter. Roots would even try to bark whenever the other dogs would as well. They were a band of misfits running around and having a good time. The funniest thing that Roots ever did was try to herd the cattle with her two dog brothers. They weren't very successful, but they tried their hardest to help out around the ranch.
After a while, Roots got bigger and she was still acting like a puppy and climbing up onto the porch all the time. She was still trying to run around with the dogs, but her size kept her from doing some things. That's when the executive decision was made to take her to another part of the ranch so that she could learn to be a cow and a part of a herd.
After she was moved away, I didn't see her for a few years. Then one day the herd that she was in was moved back to the home base and she was so excited to see me and the dogs again. She still acted like the same little calf she was before, and it was good having her around again. After a few weeks, Roots and her herd was moved to another ranch again, and I didn't see her until a few years later when we went to go wean and doctor calves. It turns out that she had a calf of her own that year.
That winter ended up being the last time that I would see Roots. She ended up passing away because a complication with a water trough, and they ran out of water. Even after she's gone, I still remember how much of a joy she was to have around. I haven't had a bottle calf like her since, and I don't know if I ever will. But I'm just glad that I got to take care of her and that we had some great adventures together.
Have you ever taken care of an orphaned animal? Tell me in the comments below!