1, 8, 2, 8 and 1. Black numbers printed on a yellow plastic sign hanging from franzy’s ear. 18281 – numbers that christiana from kitzingen can no longer get out of her head. The yellow sign is the ear tag of cow franzy. An unusual story connects 15-year-old christiana with the animal.
It begins about three years ago: christiana’s parents have two donkeys, the four sheep and three goats. They regularly fetch hay from a farmer near castell. The then eleven-year-old accompanies her parents, helps out, cares for the animals on the farm. She is fond of animals, always has been, the awareness of this was imprinted in her family from a very early age.
At some point, a cow catches her eye, she stands on a chain, barely has room to move. But unlike the other cows, she accepts her fate, doesn’t rebel, doesn’t chafe or rub against her metal shackles. "She stood out because of her serenity," christiana tells us three years later.
"I must have really pissed off my parents."
Cow franzy and the girl become friends. More and more often the schoolgirl visits the animal, strokes it, talks to it. During this time christiana decides not to eat meat anymore.
One day comes the shock: "they simply sold franzy, without warning – and without telling her where to go."She tells it as if she had lost a friend at that time. A two-year search begins. With her friends she rides her bike through the steigerwald, rattling off cow pasture after cow pasture.
The ear number – those digits 1, 8, 2, 8 and 1 – they become her only clues to franzy’s remaining. And her only hope. She goes to the agricultural office, unsuccessfully. "They were not allowed to say anything."
Time passes, but christiana cannot forget "her" cow. "She saved every cent," her mother tells her. "Every christmas and birthday money, nothing more afforded her. Over the course of the months, christiana scrapes together 800 euros, always with the goal in mind of being able to buy franzy someday – if she can find her.
"I must have really annoyed my parents," she says today with a laugh. She’s probably right, because in the end it’s her parents who reunite franzy and christiana. They get a tip from a farmer they know that one of his colleagues has to sell his cattle – to a butcher. Christiana’s parents visit the farmer, and sure enough, the cow is in the farmer’s barn.
And then comes the day in may of last year for which christiana has waited so long. The parents lure the girl to the farmer’s farm on a pretext. "Just look around a bit," they say to their daughter.
Her eyes sparkle, she beams when she talks about this day. It was a last second rescue, almost fate – a few days later franzy was to come to the butcher. After two years of searching, the relief was raw.
In august 2012, franzy moved: she now spends the warm months in an open stable with a paddock in fuchsstadt, and the winter months on a farm in kitzingen. During the time he was kept in chains, franzy could hardly move, only food was put in front of his nose. "Now she romps around, jumps up, is happy when she is outdoors."
Christiana is there when franzy experiences these moments of happiness. Every day she visits her cow, takes care of her, teaches her to walk with a rope or to walk backwards. The number on the ear, 18281, still hangs. It is a reminder of a mountainous history, of happy coincidences and a rudimentary reunion. And it is the sign of a special connection.