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Saving Gracie: The Story of Cow 812

Saving Gracie: The Story of Cow 812 tells the tale of a dairy cow in Galloway, Scotland who suffers an injury and what people can do to help an animal in need. One morning a farmer noticed Gracie limping as she walked to the barn so he called the veterinarian. After doing all she could, the veterinarian called a specialist, the Hoof GP, to help. Based on a true story, students will follow along as Gracie heals in hopes of returning to her heard.

Why use this book?

  • Highlights the work of a rural veterinarian and other specialists who help large animals
  • Introduces students to the day-to-day life of a dairy cow
  • Features the steps people take to ensure their animals are taken care of

Ask your students:

  • Pre-Reading Discussion Questions
    • Where does milk come from? All mammals produce milk, however, there are only a few species that we drink the milk or eat the cheese from; these include cows, goats, and sheep. In North America, most of the milk produced comes from cows. Some people also drink almond, soy or oat milk and this comes from plants and is different from the milk animals produce.
    • Have you ever seen a cow in real life?
    • What do you know about cows?
    • What do you think happens when a cow gets sick?
  • Post-Reading Discussion Questions
    • Why does Gracie have a tag on her ear? Cows, and other animals, wear tags so they can be identified.
    • Do other animals wear tags/identification? If so, which ones? Dogs and cats wear tags on their collars, dogs and cats can also have microchips, sheep can have ear tags, birds can have bands on their feet, etc.
    • How did the farmer notice that Gracie was feeling unwell? Gracie was limping, walking slowly at the back of the heard and she did not take the extra special treats the farmer offered to her.
    • What did the farmer do when he noticed Gracie was not feeling well? The farmer called the veterinarian.
    • How would you feel if you were Gracie?
    • Have you ever had a sick pet? How do you think your pet felt? What did you do?
    • What are some (other) reasons you take your pet to the veterinarian? When they are sick, if you notice a change in their behaviour or appetite, for vaccinations, for their yearly checkup, etc.
    • How did the veterinarian help Gracie? The veterinarian checked Gracie from her head to her feet, gave her some medicine, recommended a nice comfortable bed and called the Hoof GP.
    • Why did the veterinarian call the Hoof GP? Gracie’s hooves needed care from a specialist. Just like people, sometimes animals need specific care by trained individuals.
    • How did the Hoof GP help Gracie? The Hoof GP cleaned Gracie’s hooves and bandaged them up.
    • Why do you think Gracie didn’t like being alone while she was resting? Cows are social animals and Gracie was used to being around other cows.
    • How would you feel if you were Gracie in this situation?
    • How do you think Gracie felt at the end of the story? Explain.


  • Saving Gracie: The Perspective of Cow 812
    • Ask students to think about how the story might be told from Gracie’s point of view and how she might be feeling throughout the story. Using their own copy of the Saving Gracie Slides, have students work through each slide filling in Gracie’s thoughts/feelings using the speech bubbles.
    • Then have students explain her thoughts and feelings by writing a few sentences in the area provided.
    • Modification: Retell the story as a class by displaying the Saving Gracie Slides on the board and working through them together. Have students come to a consensus on how Gracie is feeling on each slide. Summarize the students’ ideas in the area provided.
  • A Day in the Life of a Canadian Dairy Cow
    • The story takes place in Scotland, but dairy cows, like Gracie, live on farms in Alberta and other parts of Canada too! Ask students: What do you think a typical day in the life of a Canadian dairy cow looks like? Record some responses on the board.
    • Then, as a class or in small groups, have students go through a typical day of a Canadian dairy cow using the Dairy Farmers of Canada
    • After spending time exploring the webpage, have students compare what they discovered about the day in the life of a Canadian dairy cow to their predictions. Then have students reflect by answering the following questions.
      1. Did anything surprise you about a day in the life of a Canadian dairy cow?
      2. Who is responsible for making sure dairy cows follow a schedule? The farmer
      3. Do you think you would like to be a dairy farmer? Explain.
      4. How are the needs of a dairy cow met?
    • Introduce the Five Needs of Animals to students by watching the video “Five Needs of Animals – Intro” (1:56). Using their own copy of the Five Needs of Gracie Slides, have students fill in the each of the five needs of animals in the space provided. Nutrition, environment, health, behaviour and positive interactions with people.
    • Then have students complete the column on the right by researching how the Five Needs for dairy cows are met.
    • Extension: Have students research the Five Needs of an animal of their choosing. Encourage students to share their research with a partner.
  • The Right Thing to Do
    • As a class, watch the video “Heart of a Farmer Heini Hehli” (3:13). In the video, farmer Heini says, “it is important to care for animals because it’s the right thing to do.” Ask students: Why do you think Heini said caring for animals “it’s the right thing to do.”? Animals are sentient (they have feelings), animals rely on us to have their needs met, it’s the law!
    • Then, as a class, brainstorm what other actions we on a daily basis do because “it’s the right thing to do.” Putting litter in its place, being respectful to classmates, including others, leaving wildlife alone, etc. Record answers on the board.
    • Individually, have students create a poster on something that is the ‘right thing to do.’ Students can use their own idea or one from the brainstorming exercise. Encourage students to include a sentence or two on why it is the ‘right thing to do.’
  • Gracie’s Real Road to Recovery
    • Saving Gracie is based on a true story; both Gracie and the Hoof GP are real. Even the videos that the Hoof GP makes in the story are true! As a class, watch the video “…1 Cow’s Long Road to Recovery” (16:12) to see Gracie’s real road to recovery. After watching the video, discuss the following questions with students.
      1. What is the Hoof GP’s job? What does he do? The Hoof GP is a professional cattle hoof trimmer.
      2. What other animals do you know that need their hooves or nails trimmed? Dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses, donkeys, etc.
      3. Why is it important to trim these animals’ hooves or nails? It depends on the animal. For dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, horses and donkeys, etc., need to have their hooves/nails trimmed or they would continue to grow and cause the animal discomfort. For cows, they can get ulcers under their feet from standing on hard surfaces (like concrete) if their hooves are not trimmed regularly.
      4. Did anything surprise you from the video? Explain.
    • Helping Gracie took a lot more time and effort than mentioned in the book. Both Gracie and the Hoof GP had to persevere through the ups and downs of getting Gracie healthy. Ask students:
      • How do you think the Hoof GP felt when he noticed Gracie wasn’t healing as well as he had hoped? Frustrated, disappointed, sad, confused, etc.
      • What do you think made him not give up on Gracie?
    • Have students think of a time they persevered and overcame a challenge by reflecting on the following questions:
      • What made you want to persevere? Why did you not give up?
      • What kinds of thoughts and feelings did you have in this situation?
      • How did you feel after you persevered and achieved your goal?
    • In partners, or in small groups, have students share their experience of perseverance with classmates.

Additional Resources Related to Book:

  • Alberta Farm Animal Care – Guidelines and Code of Practice for Dairy Cattle in Alberta
  • Farming Files – A short video from the children that live on the actual farm that Gracie does. Other videos include updates on Gracie.
  • The Hoof GP – Additional videos on Gracie from the Hoof GP.


Thank you to Shalla Gray and Curlytale Books for their permission to use the images in the Saving Gracie Slides.

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