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The Passing of a Gentle Giant

At the end of August, 2016, we said a tearful goodbye to Andy the steer.

He and his herdmates, Elvis and Ralphie, arrived together as our very first four-legged residents back in 2004. They were rescued by friend and founding supporter Libra Max, from a dark, dismal dairy farm where they would have slaughtered for veal. Libra was looking for the home of a cat she found in the neighborhood when she stumbled upon the calves. They spent about 20 months at various foster homes before arriving at their permanent pasture with Woodstock Sanctuary.

Andy in the dark dairy barn where Libra discovered him

Andy in the dark barn where Libra discovered him

Libra with Andy the steer, left, and Dr, Andy Kaplan, right, who helped with the rescue

(From Left) Andy, rescuers Libra and Dr, Andy Kaplan, Elvis

For over a decade Andy, a very gentle giant, would saunter up to tour groups with (mutual) curiosity, teaching countless thousands about the plight of male calves in the dairy industry. He was the perfect ambassador to show how personable and affectionate cows can be.

It’s really only in a sanctuary environment that one gets to see what good and true friends cows can be with each other; when Ralphie was recovering from an extended stint at the vet hospital, Andy leaned over a gate and licked Ralphie all over his face and chest to welcome him back (see photo below).

Andy bestows a recovering Ralphie with kisses. Photo by Bob Esposito.

Andy bestows a recovering Ralphie with kisses. Photo by Bob Esposito.

Heather and Andy

Intern Heather and her bovine pal

Andy was a handsome Holstein steer — all black except for his white “boots.” (Holsteins are the most common breed used for dairy in the U.S., and typically have black and white markings.) His big, soulful brown eyes and gentle demeanor were some of his best features, although he had many. He would kindly accept cuddles and scratches, which were even better when served with green apples or carrots.

“Andy loved having the base of his tail rubbed,” said Shelter Director Kathy Keefe. “If you stopped, he would turn around and give you those beautiful eyes and you would have to keep going. Giving him a face and neck massage and having him stretch out his head until it rested in your hands…I can’t begin to explain how wonderful that feeling was.”

Andy the snow bunny

Andy the snow bunny

In his last few weeks, Andy’s 2,000-plus pounds became too much to bear because of the progressing arthritis in his back legs. Unbearable as it was, we all knew it was time to let him go. The whole staff and regular volunteers made sure to give him even more love than usual.

Co-Founder Jenny Brown with Andy during his last sunset

Co-Founder Jenny Brown with Andy during his last sunset

While its hard to imagine the trio of Andy, Ralphie and Elvis without him, we are so happy that he was able to live a full, happy life, where there was never a threat that he would become veal, hamburger or steak—as is the fate of the 39 million cows and calves who are slaughtered for food annually in the U.S. He lived a life that was one in a billion.

We are eternally grateful for the gifts Andy bestowed upon so many. He will live on in your hearts forever.

The Three Musketeers: Elvis, Andy, Ralphie. Photo by Amy Trakinski

The Three Musketeers: Elvis, Andy, Ralphie. Photo by Amy Trakinski

 

Andy teaching young Dylan the ropes

Andy teaching young Dylan the ropes

 

Greeting Kayli the day of her arrival