January 15, 1996 12:00 PM

CANCEL THE EMILYBURGER! EMILY the cow, a 3-year-old Holstein heifer, was all set to walk her last mile on Nov. 14 at the A. Arena & Sons slaughterhouse in Hopkinton, Mass., west of Boston, when she decided her future wasn’t behind her. Making a prodigious—and very unbovine—five-foot vertical leap over a holding-pen fence and into local legend, she fled to the woods outside town, where she hung out with a herd of deer, dined at a nearby farm, made cameo appearances in downtown Hopkinton and honed her evasion skills. Like some bovine Pimpernel, she was sought everywhere but never captured. “We had her cornered a bunch of times,” says Paul Arena, 40, son of Frank Arena, owner of the slaughterhouse, “but we just couldn’t get her.”

As word of Emily’s exploits spread, people began leaving hay for her in fields and backyards. After a story ran in the regional Middlesex News, animal lovers Robert Ahearn, Ernest Clark and Meg Randa stepped in. “Here was an animal that decided, ‘I’m not going to be killed,’ ” says Clark, director of graduate studies at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine.

Randa and her husband, Lewis, vegetarians who run a school for young people with special needs, decided to buy Emily—who was named, following her escape, by Paul Arena’s 4-year-old daughter Angela after her best friend—so she could join the school’s goat, two horses and pair of rabbits. Even the Arenas got into the spirit. First, they reduced the price from $500 to $350 because Emily had run off some of her value. Then, moved by the thought of the cow’s helping the school, they dropped the price to $1.

Accompanied by a band of sympathizers, the save-Emily forces began their hunt. “All I could think of was Emily out there in the snow,” says Randa, who finally made contact with the cow in the woods about a mile from the slaughterhouse. She and Lewis even announced to Emily that they didn’t use any animal products. Finally, at 8:35 a.m. on Christmas Eve, lured by a bucket of grain and no small amount of pulling, Emily was coaxed into a trailer and taken to the Randas’ school, in nearby Sherborn. She has already been cow-of-honor at a human wedding in their barn. “I think,” says Randa, “that she really knows she’s a very lucky cow.”

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