Our cow, Sparky, thought she was a dog. That’s why she wrecked our front door scratching on it, and Lance had to reinforce it with metal plating he got from Shem’s Iron and Metal. Luckily Sparky was fairly easy to train, for a cow, and we were able to keep her from jumping up on us with excitement when she hadn’t seen us for a while. As my friend May said, “That woulda been a deal-killer, and I woulda Skyped instead of dropping by with my prize-winning mud pie.”  Which was ironic, if that’s the word, because you couldn’t tell the difference between May’s mud pie and one of Sparky’s cow pies, by sight, anyway.

There was one thing we couldn’t train Sparky out of. She liked playing fetch, and was always bringing us things to throw. Slightly flat basketballs were her favorite, but she’d been known to bring us tree branches, rocks, elbow pipes, and shoes—mostly baseball cleats and Crocs. There’s nothing like seeing your pet cow trot up to you with a Frisbee in her mouth and that look of anticipation in her eyes. It’s creepy yet heartwarming.

One day Sparky brought us a National Geographic magazine. We didn’t think much of it, because by the time she’d gotten it home, it was a slobbery mess. I said, “Good cow,” wrestled it out of her mouth (she didn’t always let go the first time), and tossed the magazine into the trash. But then Lance saw it in there and noticed the cover featured an auroch, a kind of extinct cow.

For a while Lance was convinced that Sparky was more intelligent than we’d thought, that she was trying to tell us something. “She brought us a magazine with a picture of a cow. An extinct kind of cow. That’s too much of a coincidence.” Lance tested her by asking her questions and telling her to moo once for yes and twice for no. He spent about an hour on the test, then said it was “inconclusive.”

When Sparky died a month later, we couldn’t help but wonder if that was what she had been trying to tell us, that she herself was going to be extinct in a short time. But when she brought us the magazine, she had that same stupid, happy look she had when she brought us flat basketballs, and really, you can drive yourself crazy trying to read things into your pets that aren’t there. I decided to just be grateful for the time we had with her and forget what she might or might not have been.

Lance couldn’t get over it though, and he said he was going to get us a calf this time, and “train it from the get go” to use sign language like they do with chimps. He never did, because we moved to a no pets apartment building soon after that. A few days ago we bought some goldfish. They’re really stupid and they don’t bring us stuff, but I’m okay with that.

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