Larry came to us when he was just a few days old, dehydrated and unable to stand. Buyers at an area livestock auction had deemed the weak, young animal worthless. We, of course, were of a different mind. We welcomed Larry to the sanctuary and immediately began nursing him back to health.
The feeble calf grew up to be a decidedly robust steer. When he was full grown, Larry weighed over 3,000 pounds. As big as that is, however, it was the size of Larry’s heart that most impressed everyone who met him.
Larry was a gentle giant. He knew his name and, until arthritis slowed him down, he would come to you when you called and follow you everywhere. He adored people and soaked up attention, even patiently allowing kids to drape themselves over him and wrap their arms around his neck. He was a true ambassador to all cattle.
Larry was with us for almost 19 years. He shared 17 of those years with his best friend, a steer named Kevin. As Larry grew older, he began to suffer from arthritis. This is a common ailment among aging dairy cattle; the industry breeds them for extravagant growth, and their bodies become too heavy for their thin legs. When Larry’s legs began to give him trouble, we moved him to our special needs herd, whose pasture is less hilly. We decided to leave Kevin with the main herd – he was still spry and assertive, and we feared he would be pushy with the special needs cattle. Kevin disagreed with our decision, however, and spent his days at the divide between the two herds, mooing and licking Larry over the fence. We finally caved and moved him into the special needs pasture, much to his and Larry’s delight. And much to ours, Kevin proved himself to be a gentle herdmate to his new companions. He wasn’t interested in pushing anyone around – he just wanted to be with Larry.
The duo spent the next three years together in their new herd, until the day we paid Larry our usual morning visit and found him, as we had found him all those years ago, unable to stand. His arthritis and hip degeneration had been worsening, and now we knew that even with the best medications available, we could no longer manage his pain. This was the end. We were heartbroken. We covered him with blankets to keep him warm until the vet arrived. All his friends were there to say goodbye, including of course Kevin, who stayed by his side as he peacefully slipped away.
I have never known another steer like Larry. Everyone who met him here loved him, and he loved everyone back. That was the tenor of his life. Gently, in everything he did, Larry delivered a potent refutation to the philosophy of those who had mistreated and discarded him. When he was small and weak, the people who had power over Larry used it to dominate and exploit him for gain. But when Larry had grown into a giant steer, he used his great power only to love. Not even his death can diminish the influence of that love on all the lives he touched.