The Cow Whisperer

15 Jul

It was a beautiful summer’s day in 2007. George, who was three months shy of his 4th birthday, had recently been diagnosed with autism, and James was 18 months old. Our world, which had been so badly rocked by the reality of having a son with a lifelong disability, was starting to stabilize a little, but at that point, we really didn’t know how much hope we should have.

The diagnosing doctor had emphatically – kindly, but emphatically – told us not to expect too much, ever. He had not given us a good prognosis.

On this particular Saturday, we packed the kids into the car with a picnic, and we went for a drive. We went in the general direction of some lakes to the north of us, but we had no fixed destination. We picked our route at random, taking whatever country roads we liked the look of. The kids were happy enough: we are fortunate to have been blessed with two fantastic car travelers.

All of a sudden, we heard George’s voice piping up from the back seat: “Cow!”

The van shuddered a little as we screeched to a halt. Back then, hearing George say anything at all was a cause for celebration. We turned around and looked at him, sitting there in his booster seat.

“What did you say?” I asked, trying to sound nonchalant.

“Cow!” he said again, his eyes gleaming with excitement.

I turned to Gerard. “I guess George saw a cow,” I told him.

Without hesitation, Gerard did a three-point turn on the narrow country road, and we slowly headed back in the direction from whence we had come.

It took less than a minute for us to see them: a field full of cows, lazily flicking their tails as they chewed on the long grass.

“Cow! Cow!” yelled George. The kid was practically levitating, he was so excited.

We parked on the side of the road and got out of the car so George could see the cows. The kids ran ahead of us to the fence, James tottering slightly on his chubby little toddler legs. We all stood at the fence together, silently watching the cows, who looked back at us with apparent disinterest.

Thinking that this would make a nice picture of Gerard and the two boys, I dug in my bag for my camera. The confounded thing had fallen right to the bottom of my bag, so I had to put in about two minutes of dedicated scrabbling. When I looked up again, I was confronted with the most remarkable sight.

There was Gerard standing slightly in front of the fence holding James’ hand. There was George, a little way further down the fence. And there were the cows – all thirty or so of them – flocked right up close to the fence where George was. They were showing zero interest in the rest of us, but they were utterly enthralled with George. He was fearlessly sticking his hands through the fence, and they were gently nuzzling him and softly mooing at him. In turn, he was smiling tenderly at them, with a look of absolute wonder in his eyes.

It looked like my son had some kind of cult following of cows. Like he was their god or something.

I wasn’t merely witnessing a little boy stroking a bunch of cows. I was witnessing this incredible moment of communication between boy and beast, a moment that was so incredibly powerful and beautiful.

George, like most people with autism, has trouble interacting with the rest of the world. But at that moment, he was in perfect harmony with the world, in a way that I can only dream of.

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/roymontgomery/3993908201)

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One Response to “The Cow Whisperer”

  1. giancarlo ♥ cinnamoroll;] July 15, 2011 at 9:24 AM #

    Wow. your boy is awesome 😉 peck him on the cheek for me. 😉

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