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Our precious survivors

The poly-tunnels - our quarantine area - are fast becoming a place of smiles. Many of the bears are visibly changing from the skinny and suspicious - and often understandably aggressive - arrivals of just two weeks ago. 

It is heart-warming to see the characters they really have, deep inside, slowly, painstakingly coming to the fore - and to know that these will one day, hopefully soon, be the new and mischievous “Jaspers”, “Banjos” and “Woodleys” we’ve so come to love and admire.

“Poodley” - so named because he could be a clone for our own “Woodley” with his cute squashed face, squat square body and desperation for food of any type, taste or variation is fast becoming a favourite. Oh dear, there’s that word again, when we’ve promised as a team we just won’t have favourites. Well sorry, I can’t help it - this little guy is as brave as they come.

With a hernia in his abdomen, painfully dried and cracked paws and a personality as big as China, Poodley makes attention-seeking “raspberry” sounds with his mouth as he “asks” for just one more gummy bear hiding in my pocket. Watching him playing with green leaves and branches with all the delight of a child, I feel that, rather than us rescuing him, Poodley and the other surviving bears have actually rescued us and lifted us all out of the saddest time of our lives.

Looking down towards the end of the corridor, I see Heather, our senior vet, gently trying to feed poor angry “Plug” with his fifth helping of fruit and honey shake today. 

No longer swiping out continuously at this awful person he thinks is going to damage his body once more, he is at last beginning to recognise the love and devotion that Heather and our vet and bear teams are longing for him to accept. At one point I swear I saw his eyes close in bliss – just for a second or two - before opening them again with fear and suspicion blazing there once again.

As we walked over to see Watermelon waking up from his afternoon doze, we all agreed that there is something “not quite right” with this sweetheart of a bear, apart from the obvious mobility problems from when he first arrived. 

Is he a little “Rupert”-like?.....does he have brain damage like our beautiful bear of little brain who arrived over seven years ago and now lives happily in the special care area of the sanctuary? Why does he move his head so strangely and not focus on us or the food right in front of his eyes? And why is he the only bear in the whole wide world that has refused the last gummy bear in my pocket? 

A few seconds later as he gleefully sucks at another of Heather’s special shakes, we know that we just have to take each day at a time and pray.

Meanwhile, there’s a little squat bear at the other end of the corridor that won’t see the last gummy bear go to waste.

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