Being struck by lightning is hardly considered a stroke of good fortune under most circumstances, but it came as nothing short of a lifesaver for one lucky calf.
Even before he entered the world four weeks ago, this baby cow named Pen had his whole life planned out for him, and it was destined to be cut short. He was born in Maine on Highland Farms, a family operated cattle ranch that sells organic beef. One day he would be slaughtered for the business. However, after Pen was struck by a bolt of lightning during a thunderstorm earlier this month, the grim fate which had awaited him suddenly changed.
Jennifer Wixson, who runs the farm with her husband, heard Pen's mother mooing frantically that night and rushed to discover the calf badly burned, though amazingly still alive. A vet confirmed that the animal had survived a lightning strike and that his wounds were going to take months, and hundreds of dollars of medication, before they'd finally heal – no small commitment to save the life of an animal that the farmers had planned to kill.
But as it turns out, the thunderbolt that injured Pen also struck Wixson with a strong sense of compassion for the animal. The calf, it seems, was suddenly no longer a mere commodity; to her, his life was more valuable than that.
"My husband said the first few days, ‘So, we're spending $300 to save this animal so we can eat it?' Well, today is my birthday. So last night I said I wanted Pen for my birthday," Wixon told news station WCSH, her eyes welling with tears.
"He's going to live out his life here on the farm, and we're pretty excited to have him. I think that's the best birthday present anybody can get."
There's no telling if the cattle farmers' unlikely new pet will inspire them to look at all the other animals on the farm with a newfound sense of affection – but sometimes the most illuminating realizations come in a flash. Truth is, millions of cows are killed in the United States every year, and each one started out as a calf as precious as Pen.