Once destined for the slaughterhouse with the rest of her herd, Chili Bean, the Holstein cow, is alive and well, and has become the newest resident of the Whispering Hope Ranch.
She was just one-day old when she was rescued from the slaughterhouse by Patricia Melchi, the Colorado woman who became her friend.
That was 10 years ago. Chili Bean rode in a car like a family member when she was small. She was raised in the house for the first four months of her life. Melchi said Chili Bean would lay down and let children slide off her belly.
Melchi kept Chili for eight years, trained her to give rides to children and treated her like a member of the family. When Melchi moved from Colorado to Phoenix two years ago and could no longer keep Chili, she took her to a ranch near her home in Colorado.
But Chili Bean wasn't that kind of cow. She didn't relate to other cows and she missed being around people.
When Melchi learned that Chili Bean was no longer happy, she looked for another home for her bovine buddy.
Melchi heard about Whispering Hope Ranch east of Christopher Creek and the 90-some animals that live there. The animals are a part of the ranch's healing mission, where senior citizens can come and enjoy the natural setting on 40 wooded acres, and autistic children learn to relate to others.
"She was a sweet, sweet cow that really loved people," said Whispering Hope owner Diane Reed.
Friday, at Whispering Hope Ranch, after a long ordeal of a trip that involved volunteers donating trucks and time, inoculations that were needed to cross state lines, and being detained at the New Mexico border for five days, stuck in a field, bellowing for food.
"Her journey here turned out to be very complicated," Reed said. The Holstein had been at the ranch less than a week, and was just getting used to the place.
"She's very thin. I don't know if she didn't eat because she was depressed or because she was pushed off the food by other animals," Reed said. "We're trying to get her back to looking good and feeling good, and she does love people. She's very sweet."
Reed stood by the large plastic barrel that held Chili's food while Lonnie Flores gave the Holstein another helping of hay. Chili Bean wasn't interested in much beyond eating.
Reed said she plans to have five camps for autistic children and their families at Whispering Hope Ranch this summer.
The children will get to see everything from horses to turkeys, emus, burros, peacocks, rabbits, pigs, sheep, ducks and chickens.