Love, Laugh, Woof Dog Stories: Babe and the Downtown Cow
by Lynn Stacy-Smith
I was browsing through Facebook earlier today when I came across a photo in a Labrador Retriever group of someone’s Labrador and their cows. The dog was getting epic kisses from the cows and generally having a great time visiting his bovine buddies in their barn. All of a sudden it reminded me of a morning walk with my late Babe that had drifted back into the far recesses of my memory.
I’ve talked about adopting my then two-year old Labrador Retriever Babe when I rented a tiny one bedroom apartment in the downtown area of the small-ish Midwestern city Valparaiso, Indiana. Not only was the apartment tiny, it was in a house that had essentially no yard and definitely nowhere to fence even if my landlord had allowed it. As a result, Babe and I walked every day, like the proverbial mailman, in sun, rain, snow, sleet, you name it.
My walks with Babe were beyond special. Although they were initially just for the practical function of making sure she went to the bathroom and got plenty of exercise, we quickly developed an incredible bond and mind-meld. She was my first dog of my own and my first heart dog to be all mine. It was Babe and me, together, and our cross-species friendship was the glue that held my life together on more occasions than I can count, in more intense and emotional situations than I am willing to write about right now. Back then I did not view her like my canine child like I do Jax and Tink, but as my very best friend.
Babe and I walked every inch of downtown Valparaiso over the years that we lived there. We walked along the main street that was lined with businesses and hug
e windows that she loved to look inside. Sometimes patrons of the shops and restaurants would cross our path and she would start to wiggle from a block away, so adorable and Lab-like that they always stopped to pet her. We walked past churches, old Victorian homes, newer homes, the local elementary school, the library, and several banks. She liked to go into the banks because she often got biscuits from the dog loving tellers.
One beautiful autumn morning she and I were walking very early before I had to get ready to go to work. It was September and I remember the weather was absolutely perfect and I had spent most of the walk enjoying the fall decorations that were starting to show up on neighbors’ front porches.
As Babe and I walked in silence, in our special mind-meld between dog and owner, we reached a section of the street that was completely lined by a hedge that was taller than me. As we started to walk on the sidewalk next to the hedge, I heard a moo. Babe heard it too, and she stopped and turned to look up at me with a puzzled look on her face. “Ok, that sounded like a cow!” I said out loud as she wagged her tail as if she understood.
We took a few more steps and heard it again, just on the other side of the hedge.
We took a few more steps and all of a sudden, Babe started to pull me as she raced forward to a hole in the hedge. She shoved her head into the open area and I watched as she came face to face with an adorable black and white calf.
“Oh my gosh, it IS a cow!” I said to Babe as her tail wagged so hard I thought it might fly off of her body, “At least I’m not going crazy!”
We walked to the end of the block to a portion of the yard where the hedge did not block the fence and the calf followed along on her side of the yard. Once there was no hedge to block us, Babe and the calf exchanged kisses and nuzzled as they checked each other out. Babe’s tail wagged even harder as she investigated this strange creature. I knew she would not hurt it and her reaction was sweet and submissive to this bigger, strange creature that was just a baby.
We visited the calf as long as we could before I had to end the interaction and head to get ready to go to work. Of course I told the story to everyone I saw and then a few days later came across an article in our local paper that explained that the homeowners also owned a dairy farm a half hour away and that the calf had been rejected by her mother. Driving back and forth for feedings was too difficult to do for an extended period of time, so they brought the calf to hang out in their downtown yard until it was old enough to rejoin the herd at the farm.
Even though this experience was nearly fifteen years ago I decided to search for the article. Thanks to the paper’s online archives, I found the original article as well as an editorial supporting the cow’s temporary stay in downtown Valparaiso.
As I read the article, I was elated to see a photo of the calf standing in front of the same little fence where she and Babe had licked each other so lovingly that beautiful autumn morning. In the seven years since Babe has gone to the Rainbow Bridge, I had almost forgotten about that morning that was so special at the time.
I sit here trying to remember what else was going on at that time. What had been on my mind that morning besides appreciating the beautiful fall weather before we came across the cow? I cannot recall any those things almost 15 years later, but I can recall everything about Babe and the cow, a true testament to the role that dogs have in our lives and the things that really matter.