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Ramey fights to continue care of crippled calf
Livestock or therapy animal, judge will decide
new-vlc_Dawn Ramey and Monte.jpg
Dawn Ramey, Pawnee Rock, feeds Monte, the Red Angus calf she’s been nursing back to health since shortly after he was born in mid-May. Ramey claims Monte is a certified therapy animal, and is fighting to be able to keep him at her Pawnee Rock home until he’s big enough and well enough to move to her parent’s rural property. - photo by Veronica Coons

PAWNEE ROCK — Dawn Ramey hopes the Pawnee Rock municipal judge will agree the best place for her four-month-old Red Angus calf Monte is with her. She has been nursing the young bovine back to health after rescuing it from the muddy field where he was born back in May. 

“I picked this little guy up and put him on my lap and drove across the field,” she said. “We got all the rest of the cows loaded on the trailer. None of the heifers were claiming him and I asked my boss what were we going to do?” 

Her employer offered to let her have it, and she quickly accepted. He warned her it was likely the calf would pass away, but she wasn’t deterred. He asked how she was going to get him home. 

“I said, I’m going to put him in the backseat of my Mercedes,” she answered. Then, she called her mom. 

“Meet me at the house,” I told her, “I’ve got a baby in the backseat of my car,” she said. Her mother was surprised to learn that the baby was a little Red Angus bull, but she agreed to stop at Orscheln’s to pick up milk replacer and a bottle, and Dawn set to work giving the calf his first bottle of colostrum. 

Veterinarian Dr. Sandy Hayek with DVM at Countryside Veterinary Associates in Great Bend said naval infections and joint ill are pretty much the same issue. Both are commonly contracted when the calf is born in less than ideal conditions and before its a week old. 

The blood vessels of the naval are exposed until the vessels clot and then heal, Hayek said. That’s when a bacterial infection can take hold. 

Sometimes, it’s localized at the naval, but other times it can lead to “septicemia,” and become an all over systemic infection. The symptoms can include fever, lethargy, and reduced appetite. 

A mild infection can take three to five days to treat, but if severe, it could take a week or two to get under control, and sometimes it can be fatal. If it settles into the joints, the condition could have long-term effects as the calf matures, so early and appropriate attention is recommended, Hayek said. 

Ramey named the calf Monte, and kept him inside her house during its slow recovery. For the first month and a half, she said, he didn’t get up on his own. 

She bottle fed him, provided antibiotics, and drained his joints when they filled with fluid to keep him comfortable. It became part of Ramey’s daily routine, providing morning care, heading to Belpre to work, coming home in the afternoon and providing more care. Eventually, his fever subsided and she brought him outside. 

Her dogs, Don, Diesel, Dasia and Milo, accepted him and play with him. Watching them eat from their bowls is how Ramey believes Monte learned to eat grain. 

He has finally gained enough strength he can play outside with the dogs, which she’s documented on video. Still only about the size of a large dog himself, Monte still has house privileges for now, coming inside to curl up on the floor for a nap in one video Ramey posted online. 

The Great Bend Tribune visited Ramey and Monte at her home in Pawnee Rock. Located at the southwest corner of the city, she has a few neighbors, and across the street, nothing but grass and trees. 

“Right in the middle of the road is where Barton County becomes Pawnee County,” she said. 

In recent weeks, she was in her backyard preparing to bottle feed Monte when Pawnee Rock’s animal control officer Shane Bowman happened by in his car, she said. He stopped to ask her what she was doing. 

When he learned of Monte’s existence there, he informed her Pawnee Rock’s ordinance doesn’t allow livestock, including cattle, within the city limits. He told her she would need to find a new home for Monte. 

Soon after, she received a citation from the city, informing her she had 10 days to comply with the ordinance, or she would be summoned to municipal court. 

Ramey said she attended the next city council meeting which was held Monday, Aug. 5, and during public comments explained the situation to Pawnee Rock city council members. She also shared with them her plan to have Monte certified as a therapy animal. 

She has since received that certificate, she said. She disputes that she has ever suggested she would butcher Monte, which was reported in the Friday, Aug. 23, edition of the Tribune.

“My theory is, you name an animal, it’s against all the rules and regulations, you cannot butcher them,” she stated with a trembling voice. “He’s such a little sweetheart.” 

Ramey said she was told at the meeting the city would delay a hearing until they could consult with legal council about how therapy animals should be dealt with in the city ordinances. She felt relieved, she said. 

But the relief was short lived. The next day, she was issued a summons to municipal court. Then, on Tuesday, Aug. 20, Pawnee Rock Mayor Linda McKowan called a special meeting of the city council to be held on Wednesday, Aug. 21.

Among the three items to be discussed were the payment of a bill, FEMA floodplain permitting requirements, and ordinances concerning therapy animals. The Tribune was informed the morning of the meeting via text. Ramey received no notice of the meeting. 

Ramey said she never intended on keeping Monte at her house if he survived to grow to maturity. She has family members with a rural property a few miles north of Pawnee Rock where she plans to move him when the time is right. 

For now, however, he is still in need of daily penicillin and joint manipulation in the morning and later in the evening. With work 30 miles in the opposite direction, traveling multiple times a day to provide care would be a hardship.

“It’s just easy for me to get up and give him his shots in the morning right here, you know, and try to give him that satisfactory life,” she said. “Without my care, he wouldn’t have even made it this far. In fact, my boss warned me but I told him ‘don’t be surprised. I’m the cow whisperer.’”

The reference has become a lighthearted ongoing joke, but the sentiment and the bond is real.

“He’s just too little all by himself out there to defend himself from coyotes,” she said. 

Ramey has been summoned to appear in Pawnee Rock Municipal Court at 6 p.m., Monday, Sept. 12.