Sometimes, our biggest challenges can lead us to the brightest possibilities. New Farm Sanctuary resident Peggy cow is a perfect example. Born with a disability that nearly ended her life, Peggy’s condition instead wound up saving it.

Peggy was born with contracted tendons — a condition causing her leg joints to bend too far beneath her — and she had never stood on her own. She could only crawl on her knees, painfully dragging her misshapen legs. Thankfully, though, this remarkable cow is now getting the care she needs to get on her feet. But most farm animals with special needs are not as lucky.

Born into the dairy industry, Peggy would have been used for milk production — subjected to a relentless cycle of pregnancy, birth, and lactation before being deemed “spent” and sent to slaughter after just a few years — if not for her disability.

Because of her leg issues, Peggy’s life took a different path. In most cases, farmers view farm animals as commodities — not as individuals. It’s common for animals who are sick, injured, or disabled to go without the care they need, since investment in an animal’s care cuts into a farmer’s profits.

While Peggy’s “owner” thought her situation was hopeless, he did not want to see her suffer. Instead, he felt that she deserved to be humanely euthanized in order to put her out of her misery. At the time, the Holstein yearling weighed more than 800 pounds, and her contorted legs would not support her weight for much longer. Since he could not afford euthanasia, however, he hoped that someone else could take on her care; otherwise, he felt that he had no choice but to sell her for slaughter.

As soon as we learned about Peggy, we agreed to help her get the care she needed — even if that meant helping her pass peacefully if veterinarians determined that there was nothing more we could do. Thankfully, our friends at Cornell University’s Nemo Farm Animal Hospital thought she had a chance, and agreed to take Peggy’s case on! With hopeful hearts, we brought Peggy from the dairy to Cornell to begin treatment.

But it wouldn’t be easy. Peggy’s doctors suggested multiple surgeries, followed by rigorous splinting, to straighten her legs and help her learn to walk properly. Such surgeries are quite risky, however — especially for animals as large as Peggy — and are typically performed only as a last resort. For example, we recently had to make a similar decision about another one of our residents: Sophie lamb, who, like Peggy, was born with contracted tendons and needed help learning to walk properly. Unlike Peggy, however, Sophie’s condition — at least for the time being — could be addressed through splinting and physical therapy alone. But Peggy was too large, and had been down for too long, for this course of treatment to be sufficient in her case. Since the benefits of surgery in Peggy’s case far outweighed the risks, we agreed with her surgeons’ plans to proceed.

Over the course of these surgeries, veterinarians cut tendons in Peggy’s legs to begin the process of aligning them normally. While she experienced some complications during surgery, she is now stable and in recovery. She is responding to her treatment plan nicely as well; she’s gentle and patient with her veterinarians as they gradually tighten her splints and casts with each alignment. She also enjoys scratches and cuddles from visiting Farm Sanctuary staff members, and is very sweet and affectionate with everyone, in spite of all she’s been through.

We are optimistic that Peggy will be able to learn to walk and live a happy, healthy life at Farm Sanctuary. She can currently stand on her own without assistance, has progressed from walking on her knees to her fetlocks, and will likely walk be able to walk on her feet soon enough. This courageous survivor inspires us each day with her resilience, determination, and sheer love of life. Like Peggy, all farm animals are sentient individuals who want to live free from harm; we hope that her story will show people how incredible farm animals are when simply given that chance.

Soon, Peggy will come home to our New York Shelter and join a herd of her own. We are excited to see her grow and thrive — surrounded by herdmates and human friends who love her exactly as she is. Like all animals, Peggy is someone, not something, and we’re so glad that she is getting the leg up in life that she deserves!

If you’re touched by Peggy’s story, you may wish to share the power of sanctuary by gifting a special one-time sponsorship in honor of rescued farm animals who are free to experience comfort and joy this holiday season. Thank you for your compassion!