I have a lot of anxiety issues, and I have been meaning to see someone about them for a long time.
I used to have other people taking care of my cows, and I would get very anxious and not be able to go visit the cows for weeks or months at a time. I thought it was mostly about the social aspect of this — when my cows didn't do well, or something bad happened, I would feel awful for the people taking care of them. I would also feel guilty at the same time, feeling like my cows' failure to perform was reflecting poorly on me. I thought the solution to this anxiety was to care for my cows myself.
I thought this would eliminate the social aspect - if something goes wrong, no one else knows. It would eliminate the blame aspect - if something goes wrong, it's no one else's fault but my own.
I was wrong. It has just made it so I can't escape this cow-related anxiety. I have to feed them twice a day, every day. It sometimes takes me an hour to work up the courage to go out there. When it storms, or gets really cold, I am up all night worrying about them. I have regular nightmares about horrible, gory things happening to them. The other night I dreamed that it was slippery and they all did the splits (pretty much a death sentence for a cow) and their tendons snapped and were hanging off of them (this is not a realistic situation).
Some days it's really bad, usually for a few days at a time. Then for a few days it's better, and I don't worry at all. It had been better the last few days. I wasn't the least bit challenged by going out to do chores this morning.
And one of the calves was dead. Mage, sweet, adorable Mage, was belly-up inside the hay feeder, cold as ice. It is actually a Rubbermaid water tank, that I have been using for over ten years without incident. I had been using it as a hay feeder this winter.
On one hand, she's dead, there's nothing to be done at this point. I should just move on. But I feel guilty for moving on. I feel like I let them down. I keep going through all the logical answers in my head and the bottom line is that there is nothing I could have done to prevent this. Cows get into "freak accidents" sometimes. My grandpa had a cow die because she laid down on a hill facing the wrong way and couldn't get up. Cows will die within a few hours if they can't burp. It's called bloating. I'm sure Mage's cause of death was bloat. Most cows who die in freak accidents, it's because of bloat. They get tangled in something or stuck somewhere, and if it weren't for their digestive system that requires them to burp constantly, they would have been fine. Being upside down for a few hours would have been uncomfortable for Mage, but she wouldn't have died if it weren't for bloat.
So yes, I feel bad, but do understand that cows aren't pets for me. I will move on in a few hours. If this were my dog or, god forbid, a person, this situation would be much more serious. One of the things that help me get over it is the way the others cows don't notice or care one bit. They are just really pissed right now that they haven't been fed yet. It reminds me that in the end, this is still just a cow. Not a person. Not a pet.
My biggest fear with this is how it will affect my anxiety going forward. When I get worked up imagining all the awful things that could happen to my cows, I try to calm myself down by telling myself how unlikely it is that anything bad will happen. I tell myself that millions of cows around the world live in situations just like my cows without incident. And I was wrong. It happened. It could happen again.
Just like before, I still have to tell people that I failed. I guess I don't *have* to. I'm a talker, though, and I need to talk about thing to process them so I can't NOT tell my friends. So I failed. My calf is dead. I'm sorry.
The picture is of Mage last weekend. She is eating hay out of the hay feeder of doom.