Some say the Millers run a hospice for wayward animals.
The family, who lives on the Dawson-Forsyth county line, admits to taking in the occasional creature, often on its last leg.
But no critter on the family farm has garnered as much curiosity as Chuck, an 1,100-pound cow that thinks it’s a Labrador retriever.
Chuck was given to the Millers about two years ago, when he was a sickly newborn calf. A neighbor brought the animal over so the family could nurse it back to health.
“We bottle-fed that cow,” Jay Miller said. “We brought it back from the brink of death.”
The first several weeks were a struggle for the young animal. If it weren’t for the help of sister Labrador retriever puppies, Miller said, Chuck never would have made it.
“That cow couldn’t stand up for a week, and those dogs never left his side,” he said. “They cleaned Chuck, they licked his face and laid next to him.”
Labradors Pearl and Sable took to Chuck from the start.
“I guess their mother instincts turned on,” Miller said.
As Chuck grew stronger, he clung to his sisters.
“He would get out there and play with those dogs,” Miller said. “He’d run around and buck, and they’d chase after each other like three puppies.”
Though the calf has grown older, it’s still a puppy at heart.
“Every morning, we’ll get up. I’ll go out on the porch with a cup of coffee and call out to him,” Miller said. “It’s funny. There aren’t many cows you can call and they come running.”
Chuck’s personality has drawn the attention of nearby children.
“Kids will come over to the house to feed Chuck bananas. Boy, he loves bananas,” Miller said. “We’ll buy a big bag of them at the grocery store. Chuck would eat bananas all day long if he could.”
Children stand at the edge of the fence, petting the animal. Chuck likes to have his head scratched, Miller said.
“Chuck is spoiled,” he said. “But we figured he had a hard start, so we wanted to spoil him.”
The friendly steer is famous in some circles.
“People don’t ask about our kids, they ask about Chuck,” said Shelley Miller, Jay’s wife.
The Miller’s children, Colton, 12, and Morgan, 15, sometimes hear talk of their pet at school.
“People come up to me at school, and they say: ‘How’s Chuck doing?’ And I’m like: ‘Who are you?’” said Morgan, a sophomore at North Forsyth High School.
To this day, she said, the dogs and Chuck are inseparable.
“They spend time together sitting in the pasture,” she said.
Added Shelley Miller: “When all the other cows are standing and eating, Chuck lays around. He lays a lot, and we think it’s because the dogs always lay with him, and that’s just what he does.”
While Chuck may act like a dog, deep down he’s true to his roots.
“He’s got a little black cow out there we think he’s kind of sweet on,” Shelley Miller said. “Her name’s Patty, like hamburger.”
For many cattle, the future is bleak. But not Chuck, who charmed the Millers and staked his claim on the farm.
“He’s got a lot of personality,” Jay Miller said. “He’s a pet. That’s all there is to it.”