The Story of Smita the Cow
Posted December 27, 2011
“I offer my obeisances to the cow, in whose body Laksmi resides. I offer my respects to the beautiful cow, for she is pure, simple, and aromatic. I bow down before the cow, who is the daughter of Brahma. She is pure internally and externally and she keeps the whole atmosphere pure by her presence. I repeatedly offer my obeisances unto her.” (Vishnu Dharmottara, Part 2, from the book Sacred Cow by Bhumipati das)
Smita on Go-Puja Day
Eleven years ago when we got Smita, she was just a little calf. We had been looking for a little girl calf, and we love Indian breeds, so we had asked around among the devotees of Prabhupada Village if anyone knew where we could find an Indian cow. Mother Rucira told us she had seen some Indian cows just near where we live, out old Amostown Road in Sandy Ridge. She gave us directions, and we found ourselves at the home of Dean Ireland, the owner of a herd of Rajasthani Tharparkar cows. Mr. Ireland, a local policeman, pointed toward a grassy field where we saw a herd of beautiful, graceful cows with big humps and long ears. He told us he kept the herd as pets. One of his cows just happened to be pregnant at the time, and he agreed to let us know if she gave birth to a little female calf. Sure enough, we got a call in July. “My cow just had a baby girl. You still interested?”
We were there in no time to see the new baby. As Smita grew, she got used to seeing us, but was shy. We would go often to feed Officer Ireland’s cows. Smita usually avoided coming close to the fence. The two bulls in the herd would also guard her to keep her away from the fence when we came. Nonetheless, once in a while, she would come close enough so that we could reach through the fence and pet her.
After three months, Smita was weaned and had gotten used to eating grass. On October 8, 2000, Mr. Ireland led her into a trailer and brought her to our house. We asked him how much he wanted for her, and he suggested, “How about $100?” We offered, “How about $108?” So we got Smita, a Rajasthani Tharparkar cow, for $108 on 10/08. We thought that was pretty auspicious.
Nitai with Baby Smita
Smita was nervous at first, and hid trembling in the little barn my husband had built for her. But eventually she warmed up, and started to venture out of the barn to nibble at the grass. She soon took to her little pasture, making it her own.
Being a herd animal, Smita needed a companion. Three years passed, and finally, Smita was old enough to have a calf. We trailered her over to Graham, North Carolina to a dairy farm where we had her bred with a beautiful Brahma bull.
Smita became pregnant right away. When she returned home after a couple of months, we noticed that two of her teats looked a little different and one of them seemed to be exuding pus. We called the veterinarian to come out and take a look at her. He said it looked like she had somehow contracted mastitis while staying at the dairy farm in Graham. He gave her some antibiotics and we kept an eye on her. The mastitis appeared to clear up, but her teats never looked normal after that.
Seven months later, she gave birth to Abhay Charan, a tiny boy calf. Unfortunately, although the mastitis had cleared up, she hesitated to feed Abhay. We asked the doctor if there was anything he could do. He anesthetized her and examined her carefully. To our disappointment, he reported that there was nothing he could do to correct the problem, and that we would have to bottle-feed her baby.
Bhakta Kyle hurried up to a dairy farm in Virginia to get some colostrum, and Krsna Caitanya provided fresh milk from his cows to fill Abhay’s bottle twice a day. We bottle-fed Abhay until he was old enough to subsist on grass.
Haripada Feeds Abhay
Krsnaya with Abhay, 2004
Abhay quickly grew into a handsome ox, but at first, he was just little and cute.
Smita and Abhay
Smita and Abhay were pasture companions and best friends for seven years.
Then one day, we noticed that Smita had a problem. Around October of last year, Smita’s uterus began to show a little. But then it would go back in and things would look normal again. This kept happening, so we decided to do some research. Bovine uterine prolapse, according to what we read on the internet and heard from veterinarians whom we consulted, is pretty common among cows. We made an appointment with the vet, and he came out to see her. He told us that because her uterus would sometimes come out but would then go back in on its own, that was a good sign, and she was probably going to be okay. He gave her some antibiotics and a drug to shrink her uterus, and told us to keep him posted. We observed her every day and kept the vet apprised of her condition. During this time, I consulted with Bhaktin Wenda Shehata, the famous protectress of cows in England. With Wenda’s advice and with the doctor’s permission, I gave Smita sepia and lilium tigrinum, homeopathic medicines for uterine prolapse and infection.
Last summer, she began to prolapse for longer periods. The uterus seldom went back inside. By the fall, her uterus stopped receding and just remained prolapsed constantly. During the summer, we had called another vet who had previously dealt with bovine uterine prolapse. The vet tried pushing the uterus back in and stitching her up. Smita pushed it back out before the stitching was finished. The vet was not able to complete the surgery, and gave up.
By October, we decided that because we had already tried homeopathic remedies and allopathic solutions–to no avail–we would now try an ayurvedic approach. Our friend Sasi-kala had discussed Smita’s situation with a mutual friend from Charlotte, North Carolina, Nimish Bhatt. Nimish instructed me by phone to bathe Smita’s uterus in warm castor oil daily and to obtain some jute twine in preparation for an operation which was soon to be done by some experienced, elderly Indian ladies from Charlotte. They had grown up in India, and had learned how to lubricate, shrink and re-insert a prolapsed uterus and to make a mesh of jute to hold it in. With excitement and hope, I immediately drove an hour away to Greensboro and bought some castor oil at the health food store. I started right away bathing Smita with it. I ordered some jute twine on the internet. Then I called Nimish to report in and find out when they were coming to Prabhupada Village. The first time I had spoken with Nimish about Smita, he had apparently not understood the severity of Smita’s problem. This time, when he asked me over the phone how long Smita had been prolapsing, and heard how heavy and hard and big her uterus had become, he regretfully informed me that it was too late. He said that Smita’s uterus had now become a “foreign organ” and that it would not be possible for the ladies to perform the operation after all.
At this point, we finally began to see the writing on the wall. Our friend Arcana Siddhi had predicted months earlier that Smita was getting ready to leave her body. We didn’t believe her. We fought with everything we had to help Smita get well. But now, the prediction that Arcana had made seemed to be shaping into reality. We could no longer discount the likelihood of Smita’s imminent death. We decided that we’d better provide her with a different kind of care and let nature take its course. As my friend Gopal Nandini said to me recently, “Sometimes ya just gotta ‘let go and let God.’ “
We knew we’d have to put a barrier between Abhay and Smita. Last winter, when Smita’s health began to decline, she needed extra rest. But Abhay didn’t understand. Abhay had shown some impatience with Smita’s need to rest more than usual. He would gently nudge her with his legs and his horns to force her to stand up. He didn’t hurt her, but she was annoyed by his refusal to let her rest. This winter, she needed to lie down now more than ever, so my husband separated Abhay from Smita before leaving for India on November 15th. He put Smita in a special little “hospice” pasture just a few yards away from Abhay’s pasture. They were able to still see each other, and to rest not far from each other, but Abhay could no longer nudge her to stand up.
From India, my husband kept in touch with me every day, asking for news of Smita’s condition. By the last week of November, Smita couldn’t eat anything except a little lettuce and a handful of yellow dock leaves now and then. She had grown very weak and skinny. She constantly trembled and lurched with every beat of her heart, even when she was lying down. She had to lie down most of the time, and when she did manage to get up to drink, she wobbled and shook and had to lie right back down. By Monday, November 28th, she stopped drinking water. I tried placing a bowl of water right under her mouth, but she turned away from it, unable to drink even a drop.
It was early Tuesday morning, November 29th, when I noticed from my kitchen window that Smita was lying in the mud a few feet below her usual resting place. Her head was pointing straight up toward the sky. I had seen Smita look up at the sky many times before, but this was different. It was not normal. I quickly fetched Abhay’s hay from the barn and headed out toward the pasture. After throwing Abhay’s hay over his fence, I went over to see Smita. The ground was wet and muddy because it had rained during the night. I could see slide marks on the mud. It appeared that in her last feeble attempt to stand up, she had slipped and fallen, sliding down the hill about a yard from where she would normally lie down. I don’t know how long she had lain in that position, but I could tell she was uncomfortable because she kept kicking her legs and raising her head. Though she struggled to get up, she couldn’t. I ran back to the house to get some blankets, chandan, Tulasi beads and holy water. I ran over to the temple to get a fresh Tulasi leaf.
Mamata came along, climbed in, and began chanting, too. We sat and chanted the Holy Names for Smita’s sake for several hours, stroking and petting her gently. Our daughter Kamalini and Mother Madan-mohan-mohini came to chant Hare Krishna for Smita, too. Shivananda Prabhu came and muscled some bales of hay over the pasture fence so that we could build a wall of insulation to protect Smita from the wind. He then went over to his house to set up a sound system on the front porch so that Smita could hear Srila Prabhupada singing Hare Krishna.
Mamata took a little break in the late afternoon, and then came to relieve me for an hour from six o’clock to seven. By that time, it was dark. I went into the house, set up our CD player so that Shivananda could turn his off, and Srila Prabhupada’s voice came through to Smita’s pasture loud and clear. I called my husband in India to give him an update on what was happening. He told me to call him right away–no matter what time it was–if Smita left her body. During that time, Mamata’s husband Jambavan came to help construct a tent to shelter Smita from the cold and rain.
Mamata, Madan-mohan-mohini and I all stroked and spoke to Smita gently and lovingly in between rounds of japa and soft kirtans. As the day and evening wore on, we kept Smita as warm and comfortable as we could, chanted to her and petted her affectionately as she lay there stuck in that awkward position on the cold, wet mud. Several times during the day and night, I noticed tears gliding down from Smita’s eyes. Her eyes rolled in pain, and looked scared. She would periodically attempt to get up, unsuccessfully. For more than twelve hours, she continued to struggle to change her position. Her struggling gradually caused her to turn clockwise, until she had positioned her body in such a way that she was lying with her head toward the east.
By nightfall, some of Smita’s caregivers began to get too cold and had to go to their respective homes for the night. I stayed with Smita until ten o’clock. By that time, I needed a break, too, so I went inside the house and warmed up, had some prasadam, and changed into dry clothes. Suddenly, I felt as if I were being prompted to go back outside. Three times I felt Lord Paramatma tell me to go back to be with Smita. So I immediately went out and climbed into the pasture. Smita was still breathing, although now her exhalations were punctuated with what sounded like little, tiny explosions. I softly chanted japa and looked into the clear, cold night sky. The stars glittered brightly, Srila Prabhupada’s sweet chanting of the Holy Names met our ears, wafted by the cold, night breeze. Smita continued to breathe with difficulty, and I continued to chant japa.
At 11:15 p.m., I whispered a little prayer: “Dear Lord, when will You allow this soul to leave her uncomfortable body?” About five minutes later, Smita exhaled a very long, drawn-out breath, then a couple of little short gasps. After that, there was silence. No more breathing. I put my ear down to her nostrils. No sound. I checked her eyes with the flashlight. They looked different. There was an empty, blue window where the solid, brown iris used to be. I touched her several times and called her name. “Smita?…Smita?…” No response. I shined the flashlight at my watch. 11:25 p.m. I sat for a while, thinking about what had transpired. It was momentous. I had never seen anyone leave their body except Bhima the kitty. I felt intermittent waves of happiness and sadness–I felt blessed to have been able to see Smita off on her passage from her material body but I was sorry to see her go. We would miss her. I let the tears fall as I stroked that soft, white body that had been so dear to so many. After a few moments, I wiped my eyes, stood up, breathed a sigh of relief and a prayer of thanks to Krishna, and raised my hands toward the stars, chanting and dancing along with Srila Prabhupada’s transcendentally sweet kirtan. By the Lord’s grace, our Smita had left comparatively peacefully, blessed by the sound of Krishna’s holy names.
I called my husband immediately. He was relieved to hear that she had at last been freed from her suffering, and expressed gratitude to all the devotees who had helped make her departure an auspicious event.
Wednesday morning, I went out to see her body. It had been dark the night before, so I couldn’t see details, but sure enough, true to her name Smita, which means “smile” in Sanskrit, in the sunlight I could now see that there was a soft, sweet smile on her lips. I smiled myself to see such a phenomenon.
In retrospect, my husband and I had tried everything within our power and had asked all kinds of people for advice how to treat her. Smita nonetheless was not cured of her problem. After we had tried everything we knew to try, and spent hundreds of dollars on vets, surgery, medicines and therapies–all to no avail–we decided to just try to keep her as comfortable and peaceful as possible during her last days, as it appeared that Lord Krishna had different plans and that she would soon leave her body.
On Friday, December 2nd, we buried her remains. Mitrasena Prabhu came and dug a huge hole with his tractor, then he lowered Smita’s body into the hole.
Mitrasena Prabhu Fills the Grave
Mamata, Madan-mohan-mohini, Kamalini, Bhadrasena and I threw various auspicious articles in on top of Smita–a garland from Lord Jagannatha, maha-prasadam flower petals and tulasi beads–then Mitra Prabhu proceeded to cover her up with dirt. We chanted Hare Krishna as the hole filled up and Mitra smoothed out the surface of the ground.
All day Friday, we kept Smita’s picture on our home altar and offered her the remnants of Sri Sri Gaura-Nitai’s prasadam. Several friends stopped by to have prasadam as well, in honor of our dear Smita devi.
Our Beautiful Lotus-Eyed Smita
We are grateful to everyone who came to help see her off in an auspicious manner, and to all those who stopped by and petted her, brushed her, massaged her brisket, chanted to her, recited scripture to her, talked to her, gave her treats, made turmeric hand-prints on her, garlanded her, sang to her and loved her during her short, eleven-year life. We are especially grateful to all those who rendered service such as feeding and watering our cows while we were out of town or out of the country, administering medicine to Smita when she was sick, donating straw to keep Smita warm last winter and getting Smita into the head-gate which Bala so painstakingly built so that surgery could be performed by the vet when my husband and I were in India last summer.
We pray that the dear soul we all knew as Smita the cow will now take birth in a family of Vaisnavas who will encourage her to continue to make progress on her path back home, back to Krishna.
“One should gently scratch the body of a cow, offer her a mouthful of green grass and reverently circumambulate her. If cows are maintained nicely and comfortably, Lord Gopal will be pleased.” (Gautamiya Tantra, from the book Sacred Cow by Bhumipati das)
Special thanks to:
Jambavan and Mamata
Bhaktin Wenda Shehata
Dr. Haripriya Dillon
Vatsal, Sasi and Krishnaya
Bhakta David Heal
Krsna Caitanya and Gopal Nandini
Mathura and Citralekha
Sarva-drk and Sudevi
Sivananda and Madan-mohan-mohini
Harakanta and Bala
Mitrasena and Mukunda
Adi-karta and Rucira
Kamalini and Bhadrasena
Sauri and Shyamala
Karnamrita and Arcana
(If I forgot anyone, please forgive me and know that Krishna has not forgotten your service!)
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
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