Maple Farm Animal Sanctuary - Mendon MASS
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Former Dairy Cow Just Wants to Cuddle, and Spend Time with Her Favorite Goat

If you open the door to Gail’s barn, the 1200-pound Jersey Cow will stop whatever she is doing, perk up her ears, turn her head towards you, and beckon you with her big brown eyes. She is hoping you will come over, so she can rest her head in your arms—it’s the cow version of a hug.

At 23 years old—one year past the average lifespan of a cow—Gail can be forgiven for making visitors come to her. She is afflicted with arthritis, often preferring to lay down, but she still has a lot of life in her, and a lot of love to give.

"Gail just loves getting attention and cuddling,” says Maple Farm Sanctuary (MFS) volunteer Chrissy Toti, who visits Gail each Friday during her volunteer shift.

“All of the cows at MFS are friendly, but Gail is just so sweet and mellow,” says Toti. “Each time I see her, I spend an hour petting her, massaging her, talking to her, and feeding her oranges, her favorite treat. Sometimes she just tries to lick me the whole time.”

Toti first began visiting Gail after she moved to her own barn about a year ago. Gail had previously lived with the MFS cow herd, but she had to be separated from the younger, more rambunctious cows, who could potentially injure her while they were roughhousing,

Though she is no longer with the herd, Gail is not lonely. Not only does she receive multiple daily visits from volunteers like Toti, she also has a roommate, Lily, a 13-year-old goat. While Lily has been known to have a bad attitude around fellow goats and other animals her own size, she and Gail are thick as thieves.

“Gail and Lily are almost always together—they are always inside the barn or in their pasture at the same time,” says Toti. “When they are outside, Lily sometimes runs and hops around Gail. She can get pretty crazy, but Gail just swings her head to the side, cueing Lily to calm down, just like a mom.”

Below: Lily and Gail often hang out together in the pasture behind their barn.

It is heartening that Gail has had a chance to show her maternal instincts with Lily. She spent the first ten years of her life on a dairy farm, where she was continually impregnated so that should would produce milk. Gail never got to keep any of her calves, as they were taken away from her shortly after birth so that the milk she produced for them could be sold.

“We’ve rescued a few pregnant cows who gave birth at the sanctuary,” says MFS Co-Founder Cheri Ezell-Vandersluis. “It is heartbreaking to watch cows like Gail get excited and run over to the new babies to see if they are one of their own who had been taken away,”

Gail most likely lost more babies than most, as she was used in the dairy industry for twice as long as average diary cows, who are sent to slaughter at around 5 years of age, when they are considered “spent” because they can no longer produce enough milk.

Fortunately, the farmer who owned Gail had a change of heart and surrendered her and several other cows to MFS in 2005. She’s been living a well-deserved life of leisure at the sanctuary ever since.

“After going through the trauma of having her babies constantly being taken away, now all Gail knows is love and compassion. You can see the trust in her eyes,” says Toti. “I feel like every day she is thanking MFS for rescuing her.”

Top image: MFS volunteer Chrissy Toti hugs Gail the cow.