When I first moved to Chowchilla, California, in spring 2009, I took to the roads to find new running routes of various distances. The rural setting offered orchards, fields, canals, and open spaces for running, and most of my runs started on a road that headed west past a small pasture. Soon after I began frequenting this route, a large male Holstein became a resident of the pasture. The first time he saw me run by, he kicked up his hind legs and began trotting beside me. I laughed and called out to him. Every day after that, no matter the weather or the time of day or how far from the road he might be browsing in the field, he would head toward the road when he saw me coming in the distance.
I began stopping to interact with him. He would toss his kick up his heels, push on the fence, and turn his head and slip it between the rails so he could lick my knees. But most often, he’d stand near me while I talked to him, stroking his silky dewlap and rustling the curly fur on top of his head that was often flecked with hay and pieces of the weeds that grew the pasture.
I got to know his owner, and by fall, I’d learned that Guero, as the man called him, would soon be moved to another pasture. I asked what would become of him, and that ear tag tells you the answer I dreaded to hear. I could do nothing to change his fate despite pleading with the man to spare this gentle and beautiful giant who acted like a dog and was filled with life and intelligence.
My runs weren’t the same after he departed, the empty pasture haunted by the absence of Guero’s enormous personality and the loss of the friendship we shared.
I wish the people who ate him could have known him as I did.