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Brave souls

A few days ago, I offered to foster three-legged Simba in my room. A little golden cross-breed, Simba was brought into the Chengdu bear sanctuary by his owner after he’d been run over by a car and badly hurt his back right leg. Theoretically a bear sanctuary rather than a dog and cat rescue centre, we do offer the occasional “outreach” programme for times like this where animals are clearly in pain or distress.
Lara our vet was happy to help and received the owner’s permission for what was the only thing she could do – amputate Simba’s leg. The operation went without a hitch and three-legged Simba sailed through the recovery with flying colours. The next day when the owner was scheduled to come and see her dog – we saw a no-show. As Wen Yan our translator sadly guessed, “the lady has dumped Simba”.

Simba is such a little cutie – the owner just doesn’t know what she’s thrown away. For such a small guy, he has a heart as big as China and bounces around the sanctuary as if he’s had three legs all of his life. Greeting newcomers like long-lost friends, toppling over grassy mounds and actually falling over when he tries to lift the wrong leg for a pee, brave Simba just picks himself up again and bowls on to the next adventure that life throws at him.

Just this afternoon as we returned from a walk, we passed by the rehab area for bears we’re integrating together before they’re moved into permanent “houses”. One gorgeous boy, Stardust, stopped destroying his wooden log and looked wide-eyed at Simba as though he’d never seen anything so strange or interesting in his life. Much to the amusement of his Chinese bear keepers Stardust followed Simba along the fence-line, absolutely positively enthralled by what he obviously took for a small yellow bear. The stalking continued for several minutes, as the two of them stopped every so often simply to stare. As we walked quickly back to my room, Stardust literally loped along beside us until we’d gone back inside – and then sat for the longest time gazing at the glass door almost willing his new friend to come out again. Tearing up clods of grass and throwing them onto his head, it was clear that he was in the mood for play and Simba was the perfect companion.

Meanwhile next door in his special-care garden, gorgeous brain-damaged Rupert was chowing down on his food not even realising that it was snowing. For the first time in years we had a lovely sprinkling of snow, which lightly covered the bears who were foraging contentedly outside, as their two-legged human friends just shivered. Another perfect day in bearland.

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