Woodrow’s 36-C Cup Bra

The early part of July 2010, Woodrow, a Black Angus calf – born blind and a sanctuary resident for 6 months, was discovered slowly staggering up the gravel drive headed for the west barn. From a distance, it was quite evident that something was horribly wrong – his head was cocked in a funny sort of way and he appeared to have difficulty with his balance, almost walking as if drunk. Closer inspection revealed that the outer casing of his left horn was completely gone and what was left was a pointed mass of bleeding, inflamed tissue. Apparently, Woodrow collided with something so violently that the force of the encounter severed the outer casing of his horn. The left side of his face was covered in blood and he was obviously in a lot of pain. Two hours later, Woodrow arrived at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital in Davis, CA.

After a 5 minute examination, Dr. Vengai Mavangira concluded that the only way to eliminate Woodrow’s pain was to remove his horns entirely. For those of you that might not know, the meat or interior of the horn is a highly sensitive mass, packed with nerves and blood vessels and when broken, the pain can be excruciating and sometimes, the wound can kill a cow if not treated promptly. Without hesitation, we authorized the surgery and 45 minutes later, Woodrow was hornless, leaving him with two gaping holes (each about the size of a quarter) where his horns used to be.

Dr. Mavangira pointed out that peering into the holes revealed his sinus cavity – a “pink, fleshy void” just a bit bigger than a softball. Medical protocol following a de-horning procedure is to “not” bandage the wounds as covering up the holes would encourage the accumulation of moisture and moisture breeds bacteria so to eliminate the chance of infection, the standard procedure is to leave the cauterized holes open to the air. Concerned, I asked Dr. Mavangira, “what about the flies?” He replied that they can be a big problem and suggested two options. Number 1, spray the holes daily with fly spray and keep your fingers crossed that the flies won’t find Woodrow’s sinus cavity a suitable environment in which to lay their eggs or, number 2, try to finagle some type of covering that would allow for adequate ventilation. When we returned back to the ranch, we decided the best course of action to keep the flies away was to fashion some kind of a covering as spraying a pesticide directly onto a fresh, open wound just didn’t sound like a good thing to do. Our first attempt was to cut up one of the horse’s fly masks but we couldn’t get it to fit. The Velcro closure was in the wrong place and the material was too rigid. Then, we tried to fashion a “plug” of sorts to place directly over the holes but we couldn’t find a way to securely attach the “plug” to his head

Frustrated, I went in search of Woodrow and found him standing in the canal, tossing his head from side to side, trying to cast off the flies that were, as predicted, crawling in and out of the holes in his head. I stood there for a long while evaluating the situation and then it hit me – two bumps that need to be covered… what about a bra?

As luck would have it, a week earlier, I picked up a truck load of donations for our annual barn sale and I remembered seeing a suitcase full of brand new bras. Even though my husband thought me “completely off my rocker”, I went digging and found a baby pink, padded, 36-C cup bra. I cut away the padded inner lining to ensure ventilation, put his ears through the arm bands, tied them together under his neck and connected the back clasp to the arm bands. Much to my surprise, it fit perfectly. Only a “woman rancher” could have thought this one up!!! Later that week, I emailed Dr. Mavangira a few photos of Woodrow modeling his new head gear. He replied, “Well….I must say that I’m at a loss for words. This is GREAT! These pictures and your method of dealing with the problem will definitely be a part of my lectures.”

Woodrow spent the next month, sashaying around the sanctuary in his pink 36-C cup bra.   I’m quite certain he didn’t much appreciate the fact that he was outfitted with a “pink bra”, but he sure enjoyed all of the attention he received from our visitors. In fact, one woman in particular, pulled into the barnyard and before she was even out of her car, she hollered at me, “why is there a black cow standing in the canal with a pink bra on his head?” So, I told her…..

Woodrow’s Last Day…

Sadly, Saturday, August 31, Woodrow was discovered dead – lying on his right side near the blackberry bushes that follow the canal.

Many speculated as to “what” caused Woodrow to die.  In that there wasn’t a mark on him, some type of attack by a mountain lion or a bear was ruled out of the equation.  Woodrow wasn’t wet either, indicating that he did not encounter some kind of life threatening struggle in the canal.  Some thought he could have been bitten by a rattlesnake or ingested something poisonous, but to our knowledge, no poisonous vegetation grows on the sanctuary grounds.  I remember learning in nursing school that often times, in humans and animals alike, if there’s one medical malady, like Woodrow’s blindness, there is often another condition, un-detected and lurking beneath.  Perhaps Woodrow had a heart condition.  Perhaps he had a stroke.  The fact of the matter is, we’ll never know what caused him to die.

We buried him that night up on Old Horse Hill.  His famous pink, 36 C Cup Bra hangs permanently on the big, metal gate that opens into the barn.  To this day, we continue to speak of Woodrow…his life, his challenges and his accomplishments during our tours, ensuring that “his message” lives on.  He taught us many things and by far the most important of all was that he himself – his spirit, his playfulness and his intelligence reinforced the revelation that all “farmed” animals are highly sensitive, feeling, emotional creatures – all deserving of respect and compassionate consideration while on this earth – even a little, blind, lost baby cow named Woodrow.  Everyone that met Woodrow or came to know his story got his message, loud and clear.  Job well done, Woodrow…


Rest in peace…

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Even though totally blind, Woodrow doesn’t have any problem finding his morning bottle of milk…a very sweet, warm, 2 quart concoction of calf milk replacer and buttermilk. As you can see(and hear), he slurps it down in a matter of minutes. This past week, we made the decision the time had come to wean him from 2 bottles per day down to one bottle per day and believe you me, Woodrow is not happy with the new feeding schedule.

Often times and usually around 9-9:30 at night, I’ll hear him bellowing from his paddock in the barn, begging for someone…anyone…to bring him another bottle of warm milk. When his cries are more than I can bear(which is more often than not), I’ll give in, blend up another batch and head out to the barn, sporting the most fashionable evening ranch wear of pj’s and muck boots. Needless to say, he is always very happy to see me(so to speak).

After his bottle and a bit of lovin’, he finally curls up in the soft hay and settles himself in for a good nights sleep.

And then…so do I.

At Hartsong Ranch, every life matters....