When he got here, she was down and could not stand. He warned me, this was very bad - when a cow goes down there might be a 50-50 chance they will stand again, but odds are much lower for a big, older cow like LaFonda. However in her favor was that she seemed otherwise healthy, no fever, and he said her conditions in the shed were perfect. I was determined to do everything to get her up again. While her went to his truck to get her an injection, she managed to stand and sort of stumble outside, but when he gave her the injection, she went down, atop the compost pile, We got her up on her brisket, supported with water and hay, and hoped that with the pain relief she would get up again.
Half an hour later I looked out the window and she was standing by the feeder - which I though was great news! I went out out make sure she had hay in there, and water so she wouldn't have to try to walk too far, and discovered that she had not walked there but had actually dragged herself on her bleeding knees to get there, leaving two deep grooves in the muddy cow yard, then somehow stood up. I was simultaneously scared and encouraged she had so much determination.
A bit later I saw her lying down again and went out to check on her--and then I panicked--she wasn't really lying down--she had stepped (or crawled) off the harder surface into the deep muck in the corner of the yard and her front feet were stuck in the mud, her back feet were stretched out behind her like you never see cow legs go. I called my vet (sobbing) and he said we were going ot have to get her pulled out quickly to not to permanent damage to her back or legs. I rushed over to my dairy farmer neighbors and told them the situation and Mark came right over with his skidloader. The only option was to pull her out by her hind leg. Rog had just gotten home from work- thankfully -so there were 3 of us. I cannot descibe how horrible it was to see her pulled by a back leg--and not at all easy for the skidloader in the muddiness.
By the third day I was losing hope, She did not seem in pain, really but she did not to try to stand or move around anymore and did not eat or drink very much. I had been trying to find someone with a lift or a sling to suspend her and I finally found a vet in Zumbrota that had one I could use. I rented it and my other dairy farmer neighbors came to help lift her with their skidloader - they have occasionally done this with their cows before.
The lift has two clamps that pull her up by her pins (hip bones), plus we supported the front half with bands around her chest. It was absolutely heartbreaking -- she had no response in her back legs and even her front was extremely weak and futile. We had to make the decision then that it was time. It was a beautiful day so they moved her to a grassy patch by the front of the barn and we made her a deep bed of straw so she owuld be cofortable and it would be easy to transport her. A downer cow truck was coming to the neighborhood the next morning. I had really no idea how a downer truck worked, but it sounded like it was what farmers do-- but then a farmer friend told me that would be a terrible way for her to spend her last few hours, so I decided to put her down on the farm and bury her here.
My deepest gratitude to Mark and Denise and Ruth, who carried out the final act without me because I am so cowardly. I regret not being there in the final instant - I didn't think I could bear it, but maybe my imagining of it is worse than the reality would have been.
LaFonda is buried at the crest of the pasture where she liked to lounge and chew her cud and watch the world go by. I had planted a small orchard in that spot when we first moved to the farm, not realizing we would soon get cows that would make quick work of those fruit trees. So now we have planted 3 little plum trees around her--she can now nourish the orchard that once nourished her.
Thank you, LaFonda. You were gentle, patient, nurturing, beautiful, kind, magical. I learned so much from you. I miss you, my friend.