Diane Niswander of Findlay pets a cow Tuesday at Spahr Jersey Farm. Milking a cow was a bucket list item for the 73-year-old woman who frequents the Not an Ordinary Place dayhab center in Dunkirk for adults with developmental disabilities. (Photo by Randy Roberts)



As bucket list items go, milking a cow seems a simple enough wish to grant a gal living in rural northwest Ohio.

So on Tuesday, 73-year-old Diane Niswander of Findlay pulled on her sneakers and a black felt hat, donned a purple T-shirt featuring a cow with a girly bow on its head, and did just that.

She was aided by David Spahr, a fourth-generation dairy farmer at Spahr Jersey Farm, though in reality she needed very little instruction. After a quick tour of the farm, including a visit to a barn full of calves that had been born within the past 24 hours, Niswander was more than ready to get to the task at hand.

Entering the milking parlor, she matter-of-factly approached her subject and gave it a good squeeze. Milk did, in fact, spray out, and Niswander’s mission was complete.

Back at the handwashing station, she agreed that it had been a good day. And that she was ready to head back to Hardin County.

Niswander is one of about two dozen adults with developmental disabilities who attend the Not an Ordinary Place dayhab center in Dunkirk.

Owner Beth Bell said clients there spend their days working on art projects, volunteering at local libraries and animal shelters, gardening and raking leaves, and taking daytrips to area attractions. Bell takes clients for one-on-one outings whenever possible, which is how she became aware of Niswander’s affinity for cows.

“She went crazy-nuts when we went by a farm that has a lot of cows,” Bell said, adding that she’d feared for a moment that Niswander might bounce right out the car window.

“I love cows and I want to milk a cow and that’s what I want to do before I die,” Bell recalls Niswander proclaiming.

“And I said, ‘OK, that’s just what we’ve got to do.'”

Bell spent the next several months seeking out an appropriate dairy operation to visit. And in the meantime, her own son, who also has developmental disabilities, bought and gifted Niswander with a cow arm band to wear.

“I find it important to try to honor this population’s wishes whenever they have requests that I can fulfill,” Bell said.

Angie Arrington, Niswander’s guardian, said Tuesday’s ride from Dunkirk to Hancock County had been a spirited one, with lots of excited chatter about cows.

“She’s always wanted to have a cow in her backyard,” she said of Niswander. “She’s always trying to get us to buy her a cow.”

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