Last week, a very sad but little known event took place in Orange.

Orange lost its oldest bovine resident that I know of, or for that matter have ever treated.

I returned from a conference in sunny Florida to a message from one of my cherished clients telling me that his 30-year-old cow Valentine (yes, I DID say 30) was unable to get up. My heart sank.

Two years ago, I received a similar call but we were able to get her up and get her on some aspirin boluses (giant cow pills) to help her with her arthritis. You could literally hear Valentine walk across the pasture as she creaked with arthritis and squeak as she chewed her cud with very worn teeth after so many years of use. We knew that for two years, she had been on borrowed time and now that time had probably come.

Big deal, you might say, if you are not an animal person. Thirty years and a cow at that. Let me tell you that Valentine's owners took care of her and loved her every bit as much as many of my clients love their dog, cat, goat, sheep, rabbit or what have you.

I have looked into the welled up eyes of a little boy handing me his pet rat dying of congestive heart failure and a woman with her mixed breed dog (although we ALL thought Maude was truly a person in a little, feisty fur suit…) rescued from a shelter as an already very senior pet and now suffering from heart disease and cancer, and that man with his cow who had finally given up at the age of 30 and heard the same question " Is it time now?" with the same pain in their voices and hearts. Such a hard question to ask and answer, even having been on both sides of the fence.

I spent Christmas eve, a time of birth and celebration and what my mother had always told me was a very special time for the animals, with a boy and his family as we all agonized over that question in reference to a courageous young dog with a terrible heart defect from birth that had reared its ugly head. There wasn't a dry eye in the room as we said goodbye to Dougal. I left the hospital not at all feeling like celebrating until a I felt a sudden wash of peace - that at that moment, I had been exactly where I was supposed to be. I had helped that family cope with their impending loss and at the same time celebrating the unconditional love that Dougal had for them.

As the well known Valentine's day approaches, I feel that there are every day ways to celebrate the unconditional love of our pets such as a walk with Maggie, my devoted four legged companion, rubbing the softness of a cat's ears or brushing a pet cow or horse. I believe that unconditional love happens just two ways on earth and one is with our four-legged or in some cases, two-legged and feathered friends.

Dr. Kimberly McClure is a veterinarian with a practice in Orange