Horses help save calf's life

LINCOLN, Neb. - What could have been a tragedy just before Thanksgiving is now being called a Christmas miracle.

Patty Jo the calf nuzzles a horse that helped save her life. (Source: Kevin and Toni Lewis."

Two days before Thanksgiving, Kevin Lewis started his day like many farmers.

"Every morning I get up and count the cows, make sure they're still all in and check on the horses," Lewis.

Lewis knew a few of his cows were expecting calves, but none were due until December.

On Tuesday, Nov. 26, Lewis noticed his horses were acting strange.

"Sunday was over here by the pond, just licking the ground it looked like, and this one, Poncho, was just freaking out, running around and whinnying and carrying on," Lewis said.

That's when he said he knew something was wrong.

"I came over here and checked, and I got about right here and saw he was licking on a little baby calf," Lewis said. "That's when I jumped the fence, grabbed the calf and we went in the barn where the heater was."

The prognosis for the calf wasn't good. It was born a month early, and was nearly frozen.

"A good friend of ours who has been farming forever gave her about four hours to live the first time he saw her," Lewis said. "We called the vet, and they said, 'Yeah, this one is probably not going to make it.'"

To make the situation more stressful, Lewis still had to go to work. He called his mom and asked her to come watch the calf.

"I told her, 'If it don't make it, don't worry, it ain't your fault,'" Lewis said.

Lewis and his family spent several days bottle feeding the calf.

"That first day, she didn't drink much because she was still pretty frozen," Lewis said. "It was just anything we could get in there with a turkey baster or a bottle with a tube on it. The second day she got a pint down and that was really exciting."

Miraculously, the calf survived. To celebrate, Lewis named her after the woman who helped bottle feed her.

"Patty Jo, that's my mom's name," Lewis said.

When she was born, Patty Jo weighed just about 25 pounds. Lewis said she was nothing but skin and bones.

"What she weighs now, about 50 pounds, is what she was supposed to weigh when she was born," Lewis said.

It's safe to say Patty Jo is not a normal calf.

"I don't think she knows she's a cow yet," Lewis said. "I think she thinks she's a puppy dog. Maybe when she gets too big to ride in the truck with me, she'll go hang out with the big cows."

For now, Patty Jo is just enjoying her indoor life.

"She's got her own microwave to warm her bottles," Lewis said. "The grandchildren come to visit her pretty often. She'll be a pretty spoiled cow, that's for sure."

Just yesterday, another one of Lewis's cows had a calf. That birth went a little more according to plan.

"There were no surprises this time," Lewis said. "We were expecting it, and the mom is doing a great job taking care of him."