How to Shoot a Cow in the Head

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I’m sure the offer was intended to make life easier, but it struck me instead as doing quite the opposite.

Excuse me, Google, but I knew exactly what I was looking for when I entered my original search. And while I (ordinarily) appreciate the efforts of the zillions of bots making my search experience more efficient, I would far prefer that they use the data at their disposal to identify me as someone who would never, in any of the alternate realities they might conceptualize, even consider trying to find out how one goes about shooting a cow in the head.

In the moment it came as quite a profound shock, dropping on to my screen and transforming my consciousness in an instant, at the end of an afternoon spent in the company of cows who were not only very much alive, but very happy to be alive, and very much an unmistakable expression of the irrepressible enthusiasm of life itself.

The cows I had spent the past few hours trying to shoo (not shoot, Google, but shoo) are under two years old. If they were human, we would call them adolescent. They are the size of adults, but still filled with the energy and eagerness of youth. They kick their back legs in excitement and leap in the air when something makes them happy. They gallop passionately in our direction when they think the yellow object we’re carrying contains their alfalfa pellets. They head-wrestle in earnest. At evening time, when the sun disappears from the sky, they run for the sheer pleasure of running. They play.

At just under two years old (about the age of a ten-year-old child, in human terms) they also happen to be within the exact age range wherein cows raised to be eaten are, in fact, shot in the head.

When the search giant made the leap of turning my word ‘shoo’ into the phrase ‘shoot in the head,’ automated though the algorithm may be, the results offered a telling snapshot into the zeitgeist.

It reminded me of the time when my searches for advice about easing the suffering of an elderly rabbit in my care led to information about how to quickly kill rabbits being raised for food. I had been struck then, as I was now, by how matter-of-factly Google can offer up the coldest of suggestions.

How to shoo a cow ?

Are you sure ?

Or did you perhaps mean:

How to shoot a cow in the head ?

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Which cow’s lovely head could I possibly have been wanting to harm in any way? Bella, whose delightful forehead is marked with a distinctive white heart in between two adorable chocolate-colored curls, and who can almost always be seen at the front of the herd, accompanied by her fearless friend Iolana? The diminutive but oh-so-friendly Naevia? Naevia, with her little black yamukeh, can be seen kicking her back legs in delight in this video, and running around and around in circles in this one. Could you, dear reader, bring yourself to shoot her in the head? Surely no one would ever want to hurt the endearingly shy but strikingly beautiful Anela, or gentle Mirijam, whose white forehead triangle can be seen mirrored, like a hidden surprise, on the underside of her soft, velvety neck.

The reason, by the way, that I was asking Google how to shoo a cow was because I had suddenly found myself surrounded by these five, as they had learned that I had (foolishly) brought along food to share. I had subsequently learned very quickly that I didn’t know the first thing about how to stop them from moving rapidly in my direction, shoulder to shoulder, closing in on me like a moving wall of cows.

And when one of them crashed her way through the makeshift fence that I thought was separating us, I had also learned that trying to push her back into the area where I wanted her to be was very much like pushing on exactly that: a wall. A warm, soft, breathing wall that stood staring back at me as if she thought I was rather ridiculous, but with all the immovability of a wall nevertheless.

Yes, I’ve seen how one compels a cow to move. I know what hyah! sounds like, and I had even been told recently, by a well-meaning cowboy trying to school me in the tricks of the trade, “it’s okay to hit ‘em in the face.”

Different worlds.

Honestly, it goes against all my instincts to act in an intimidating way toward these girls at all. They had been rescued only relatively recently from a living hell inflicted upon them by others who look and sound at least somewhat like I do, and the only thing I ever want my presence to confirm to them is that people can actually be good…

And so, I doubt that I’ll ever be particularly good at shooing them. Mostly I want to lie down in the grass next to them and rest my head on their sides. When they push their heads against me, I want to push back with my hand and see if they’ll learn how to treat me as another (slightly more fragile) head-wrestling partner. When they move determinedly in my direction, I want only to stroke their beautiful faces and let them know that I think they’re just wonderful.

As for shooting, I think I’ll stick with the method that seems to work for me:

Using a camera.

Bella, Iolana, Naevia, Anela and Mirijam were rescued as calves by the Hawaii Lava Flow Animal Rescue Network and rehomed at Magical Creatures of Hamakua Animal Sanctuary. In July of this year, in an extension of the rescue efforts of Magical Creatures, they were relocated to Gentle World’s agricultural property known as VeganLand, where they now have endless grass to graze.

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