Jun. 21—Cow cuddling can be a surprisingly "moo"-ving experience.
Cori Wilson, of Elkridge, first experienced the joy and calm that cows can bring when she worked as a camp counselor at a farm in Pennsylvania. During breaks, she would often sit and read in a pasture there, and she soon found herself with unexpected company.
"Cows would come up to me and lie down," Wilson said. "It was great therapy."
Wanting to share this experience with others, Wilson approached the owners of Mary's Land Farm in Clarksville, where she now works and boards her horse, about the idea of offering cow cuddling sessions for customers.
About six months ago, the farm began the sessions especially for children with autism or other challenges, according to Tom Cunningham, Mary's Land Farm owner. Now, the farm offers 45-minute cow-cuddling sessions to groups of up to eight people for $150. Sessions are booked for June, but some July dates are open for reservations at maryslandfarm.com.
Earlier this spring, Wilson purchased three 4-month-old calves for the activity. She bottle-fed them through their youth, and brought her 22-month-old son with her to the feedings to help with the calves. He named them Snap, Crackle and Pop.
"Like a normal toddler, he would run around screaming," Wilson said. "It definitely desensitized them."
During one cuddle session, two young girls were scared of the calves, Wilson said, and to her surprise, her son took their hands and showed them how to brush the calves.
"It was awesome to see," Wilson said.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, the three calves were quick to approach anyone who came near the fence. Typically, cow cuddling sessions are held outside, but for this rainy day it was moved inside an open barn.
"They are so sweet. You sit with them and snuggle them," said Mallory Banks, of Calvert County. "You love them and they love you."
Participants are allowed to touch and feed the calves, and Wilson has blankets available for people to sit or lay down next to them.
"It is very relaxing and therapeutic," said Jan Dubinskiy, of Calvert County.
While the cows only weigh about 170 pounds now, they will grow to between 1,400 to 1,900 pounds each, Wilson said.
"These guys will live on as the 'cowtainment' here," Wilson said. "They will be full-size cuddlers."
Patrick Getrow, of York, Pennsylvania, booked a cow cuddling session as a gift for his wife, Jennifer.
"If she had her way, we would have a farm," Getrow said, nodding to Jennifer, who was snuggling a calf.
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"It's amazing," Jennifer said.
The three calves are not the only cuddlers on the farm. Employee Grace Hull has started offering bunny cuddling sessions, too. Each ticket is $100 for up to five people and also includes a bunny-themed gift to take home.
"I have rabbits of all different sizes, from dwarves to one Flemish giant," Hull said.
During a 30-minute bunny cuddling session, participants can pet, hold and feed the rabbits snacks such as lettuce, kale or pellets.
"It is targeted toward kids, but a lot of adults like to cuddle bunnies as well," Hull said.