It seems as if humans have already invented every form of therapy possible — there’s acupuncture, counselling, music therapy and hypnosis. Heck, even dogs and horses have been used as therapy animals for quite some time. And now, cows are also being added to the mix.
A visually impaired cow named Gracie and an orphaned calf named Peanut are helping to improve the mental health of children at a farm in Surrey, B.C.
After they were scheduled to be put down at a slaughterhouse, Peanut and Gracie were both rescued by the Semiahmoo Animal League (SALI). Gracie, almost completely blind and pregnant, was bullied by the other cows and kept getting into accidents. But Peanut, who just lost her mother, grew attached to Gracie before they were rescued.
“It made sense for us to take her for both of those reasons: [Peanut] was lost, and she was gravitating towards Gracie. Maybe she knew Gracie was going to be a mom,” explained Dawn Gilfillan, a volunteer from SALI. “They’re two peas in a pod. Peanut is [Gracie’s] baby.”
SALI offers eight-week programs on their Surrey-based farm that’s geared towards helping at-risk kids, and the two cows have been the newest addition to the program. At the farm, kids are taught how to be more empathetic, develop relationships and how to accept themselves.
“They can come here and ask questions about violence, neglect, abuse, disabilities, without it being about them and their story,” said Gilfillan. “They can ask, ‘Why would someone abandon a cow just because she’s blind? Why would someone get rid of a horse because he can’t be ridden?’ They can ask all those tough, hard questions and relate it to their own story without pressure on themselves to talk about themselves or even think about what they’ve been though.”
In one case, Gilfillan recalls one of the kids from the program who thought of himself as dumb. But when the boy saw a volunteer struggling with a chore on the farm, the boy did it himself and was told that he was smart.
“That can change his path in life. He went from being stupid to smart,” Gilfillan explained.
The kids in the program help with the cows by feeding Peanut and by providing Gracie with pre-natal care. And at the end of each day, the kids know that they’ve done something good.
While cows might not be able to replace actual therapists any time soon, they’re certainly changing lives, one kid at a time.