Maribeth was born at a dairy farm in Connecticut that saw little value in her life. Like all dairy calves, she was separated from her mother within a day of birth, never to see her again. During her first days Maribeth didn’t stand or walk as a calf normally would. Instead of having a vet check her out, the farm’s management decided to wait and see.
After a week or so she began to walk but with a significant limp, unable to put weight on her back left leg. To cut losses the farm decided to sell her for veal since she wouldn’t be able to manage the weight and physical stress that dairy cows endure.
Thankfully, a caring woman acquainted with the farm saw the little calf and learned of her fate: Maribeth would be sold at auction the very next day. Compelled to act, the woman boldly convinced the farm’s manager to spare her.
Within an hour of her call, we were en route to the scene and then transported her to Cornell Veterinary Hospital. After x-rays and blood tests they determined that Maribeth was suffering from a systemic bacterial infection that was attacking one of her joints. Her prognosis was poor due to the severity of bone loss, but we weren’t about to give up on her! She received antibiotics intravenously for over a week to stop the infection, yet concern remained about whether enough bone and cartilage would grow to support her weight as she grew into an adult. She returned to the sanctuary under orders from the vet to be kept penned in a barn, keeping her activity low to promote healing.
Fortunately, Maribeth was permitted 10-minute “romps” twice a day to blow off a little steam and stretch her muscles. These romps were cherished by staff and volunteers as much as Maribeth, who frolicked and grazed blissfully.
We willed her leg to get better and felt tremendous relief as her walking improved. Then we faced a setback: she was still favoring her other rear leg and the hoof started to collapse from a strained tendon. Thankfully, the vet was able to fit her with a special shoe to provide support and strengthen the tendon, and she was back on track to recovery.
Three months after her rescue, both we and the vets were surprised with the best news possible: The x-rays revealed significant bone and cartilage regrowth. Although she’ll always walk with a limp and need special care, we can feel optimistic about Maribeth’s future. To assure her safety she currently lives with our sheep flock but we hope soon she will be able to join the other cows in their pasture.
Her care has cost thousands and there are more expenses to come as she continues to heal. But we did for her what most people would do for their cat or dog—give her a fighting chance for a full and happy life!
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