I found her accidentally when I went down into the valley to treat a bull calf. She was in the brush on a hillside near the treeline, curled up in a little black ball.
This was the valley where cows parked calves during the day and that was definitely the case with the bull calf. His mother visited him several times a day to nurse him then left him to his own devices the rest of the time. I wanted to give him a shot and band him and we managed to catch him and take care of those tasks. Afterwards, I noticed the other calf.
It seems that Gracie had been abandoned. She could not stand or walk and was totally blind. She rolled down the hill, startled when I approached. She appeared to be about six months old, but starved and dehydrated, as she couldn’t get to water on her own.
We got her to a flat area near a fenced off sinkhole and realized that she was too heavy to pick up and drive up to the corral at the top of the hill. Even a group of men were unable to figure out a way to move her with the tractor, so we made her a little pen with a tarp covering to protect her from the sun and rain. I became her “Meals on Wheels,” driving down twice a day to deliver water, hay, and a small portion of sweet feed.
Calves have the instinct to run away from humans and other animals when they are young. It is a good instinct. But Gracie must have just panicked without the ability to flee. She was tentative about the feed at first, never having had it. Soon, she seemed to look forward to the sound of my motor in the morning and evening. It was a good month before I saw her try to move around the pen. She was managing to crawl to a dry area under the tarp. Soon, I’d see her out in the sun beyond the tarp. However, I wondered what I’d do when rain or snow impeded my driving on the fairly steep hillside. Although I realized that this was an uneconomical hobby, I really couldn’t bring myself to re-abandon her and let her die.
The bull calf had finally followed his mother up the hill and Gracie was all alone except for my visits. She let me pet her and rub her curly head. Her eyes were very damaged, but she seemed to be very good at sensing where I and the food and water were. She was responding quite nicely.
Last week, Gracie actually was trying to get up on her legs for a few seconds. The blood circulation must have been cut off after months of lying down. That was a happy sight, but when she was able to stand up to drink from the water bucket, I was certainly amazed. I had no thought that she’d ever stand up.
When she began to walk around the pen, staggering in a stiff legged forward movement, I was still more surprised. After a couple of days, I left the pen gate open so that she could graze on the grass. She ventured out and began a multi-day climb to the top of the hill. I’d drive down to wherever she was on a given day and deliver her food and water. She was visibly exhausted each evening and she just lay on the hill to rest.
Yesterday, she made it to the top. There is an automatic waterer there, which she evidently has mastered as she rejected the water bucket. She’s got hay and feed and will, I hope, continue to improve in condition. The herd will cycle back to that field in a couple of months and with luck she’ll be reintegrated.
Gracie once was lost, but now she’s found; was blind, but now she (almost) sees.