Odd memories, part 19: Citation needed

It’s funny – I knew what I was going to name this post almost as soon as I decided to tackle it this evening.

This… is a Chevrolet Citation.

By Herranderssvensson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons


It was a subcompact car produced in the early 1980s, popular briefly until enough people found out how mediocre they were. There was also a four-door (or five-door, counting the rear hatch) version, but this is what we want to see for our purposes here.

Back when I was one of the managers at the animal shelter, as I’ve said before, we didn’t just see dogs and cats – we got a little of everything, especially when there was a new fad in popular “pets,” which is in quotes because in many cases these weren’t really good pet choices, like potbellied pigs. We had our share of hamsters and budgies, ferrets and pythons, and since we did wildlife rehabilitation we often had a couple of selections from those as well – at one point someone brought in an armadillo, which was a distinct first because we were well north of the latitude where such critters could be found. A bit later in my tenure there we built an expanded facility with, among other things, a small barn and stable, but this particular anecdote occurred before then when we had just your plain ol’ dog kennels and cat cages. So when Animal Control brought us in an impounded cow, we were a bit challenged as to what to do with it.

There wasn’t much we could do, so into the largest dog kennel she went, while we attempted to find out a) how long we were likely to have her, and b) where else we might put her if this ended up being more than a few days. She wasn’t the biggest example that I’ve seen, especially since I grew up next door to a dairy farm, but this was a full-size cow nonetheless. She was very docile and quite friendly, which helped a lot, and she was immensely popular with at least one of our regular volunteers. I did not get the opinions of any of the kennel staff, who now had entirely different job duties when it came to cleaning the kennel, since it was full of straw bedding and the old “flip up the drain cover and hose everything down the drain” wasn’t happening.

Now, you may be wondering why exactly Animal Control would impound a cow (Failure to Give Milk? Protective Confinement during a rash of tipping?) and truth be told I don’t recall exactly myself, but I think it had something to do with inadequate housing/conditions. Within the week, the impound was lifted and the owner was free to come pick their cow back up, and this happened to occur right at closing time when another manager and I were the only ones still available to process this transaction. Animal Control had borrowed a livestock trailer from someone to do the original impound, the typical kennel trucks not quite adequate to the job, but they were not permitted to return the cow – it was the owner’s responsibility. The other manager came up and got me when the owner arrived to do the transport, telling me that I had to see this. We went out to the vehicle gate to find the aforeillustrated Chevy Citation sitting there. No trailer. Not even a pickup truck. Just this podunk little runabout.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said.

The manager shook his head with a grim smile. “Nope. That’s what he has to bring the cow home in.”

“Well, good fucking luck with that,” I failed to say, also neglecting to return to the front office and leave them to their own devices. I am quite sure some consulting with the Executive Director took place, and a few questions thrown out in vain, but it all came back to the same looming response: we were going to have to help him get a goddamn cow into a two-door hatchback.

Dog only knows how we did it, especially since it not only required getting the stupid bovine up over the rear bumper and hatch lip in the first place, but then also convincing it to lay the fuck down, and if you have the faintest familiarity with cows, this is not something that they do on command or for that matter practically at all – the shits even sleep standing up. There is this one moment of terror saved in my brain from when, sprawled across the folded-down rear seats and attempting to convince this heifer to bend her legs, she almost toppled over on top of me, but in less time than expected, we succeeded in getting her inside, laid down, and the hatch closed. Filthy and sweaty, the other manager and I watched the Citation pull out, sitting decidedly lower on its rear shocks than the manufacturer ever intended. Whether the owner actually made it all the way home without the cow bursting out the rear hatch glass I’ll never know.

This was of course in the early 1990s, when no one routinely had some kind of video-recording device ready at hand, so you just have to take me at my word. Or if you can find Sandy, I’m sure he’ll corroborate the story. You don’t forget a thing like that.

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