Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Help (02/20/06)
By Michelle Vander Wal
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Josh had just decided to go in and get his mom when he saw her striding across the pasture, here eyes shaded by her hand against the bright rays of the setting sun. She walked up to the cow and slowly reached out to pet the big head. The cow rolled her big eyes and shied a little, lowing plaintively. His mom moved around the cow to where Josh stood and looked at the calf that was emerging from the birth canal. The cow let out another grunt and the calf moved a little. Josh looked at his mom.
“What do you think?” He asked in a soft voice.
“Looks like a breech,” his mother muttered worriedly. Giving birth to a baby that came out hind end first is as common in cows as it is in humans and sometimes with the same negative outcome. Often the hooves would be bent under the body wedging the calf in the birth canal. That was not the case here. The other danger was the shoulders and head of the calf getting jammed as it began to exit. Then the only hope was to yank the calf out and not damage mom and baby in the process.
His mother sighed. “I’d better call for help,” she said. “You stay here and watch the cow. If she gets the calf most of the way out before I come back, you’re going to have to pull it out.” She looked at her son, only twelve years old, “Can you handle it?” she asked.
Josh nodded mutely and watched his mom walk quickly back to the house. Hopefully she’d get a hold of the vet or at least a neighbour to help them out. He scuffed the dirt with his boot as he thought about his absent father. It was a lousy time for a business trip. For the next hour or so as the sun sank into the horizon Josh paced with cow. She grunted again, pushing to expel the calf. Suddenly the body slithered out and hung in the air, its head stuck in the birth canal. Joe froze. What should he do next? Run for the house or try to pull the calf out?
He approached the cow slowly. “It’s Ok. It’s Ok.” He murmured as he ran a hand down her body from her head to her hip. “Ok girl, I’m going to try to help.” Ignoring the smell of blood and the slimy birth skin he grabbed the hind feet and pulled. The calf came out further. The cow pulled forward and Josh stumbled a few steps. “Easy girl,” he said to the cow. He planted his feet again, grabbed the little hooves just above the ankle and pulled back and down as hard as he could. Suddenly, like a snap, the little calf dropped out. Landing in the grass himself, Josh leaned over the calf to see its head. The tongue was sticking out of its mouth, swollen beyond normal size. Then calf began to twitch and kick its legs. Josh felt a great wet rough washcloth run up the back of his head. The cow seemed to think he belonged with the calf. He quickly moved out of the way to let the cow minister to her baby, pulling off his shirt to rub the sticky saliva out of his hair.
The next morning Josh went out with the vet to visit the new calf. She was standing wobbly on splayed hind legs.
“Don’t worry,” said the vet checking her over. “You did a fine job, probably saved her life.” Josh shrugged. “She just needed a little help.”
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