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That was Babs …

So sad to let you know that we lost Lucky Rui on Thursday after she was found collapsed in her den at 8am when our staff entered to feed the residents of Bear House 5.

Breathing, but clearly in distress, she was quickly anaesthetised and brought over to the hospital where Senior Vet Heather and team inserted a tube into her larynx and began a full examination. The final goodbye was heartbreaking - her bear team and vet team friends all came in to say goodbye to a family member who had been with us since October 2000.

Lucky Rui was named by her remarkable and very generous sponsors, the staff and students of the Chinese International School in Hong Kong who have sponsored several bears over the past few years. However, there was something about her original name from when she first arrived eight years ago that we couldn’t let go and Barbara was mostly lovingly referred to .... as Babs.

No one could say that Babs didn’t have an attitude - she could be a sweet and loving bear with both people and animals alike, but also had an air about her that commanded respect at every level. You didn’t mess with Babs - she was her own woman in every sense of the word, and as long as you played the game by her rules then everything was fine.

The frequent bear reports that came in saying that Babs had done this or that never failed to make you smile because you knew that she was leading some poor victim a merry dance and, at her age, well she was jolly well entitled to do anything she liked.

I thought you’d also like to read the beautiful words sent to me by Heather and our Senior Bear Manager Nic, both of whom knew Babs so well.

From Heather:

It’s difficult to know where to start when talking about Babs/Lucky Rui. She was a feisty, contrary little bear jam-packed with attitude, despite her tiny frame. Instantly recognisable due to her pale muzzle, short legs and dreadlocked coat, she was a bear that we all knew and loved.

She spent eight glorious years at our centre, wrestling, playing and enjoying the grass under her feet and the sun on her back. However, years squashed in a bear farm cage had taken its toll on her limbs and spine and she was on multiple arthritis medications hidden in yummy fruity shakes and gooey marshmallows, which allowed her to continue enjoying climbing into baskets for a nap or “racing” her equally arthritic buddy, Jurgen, to the nearest food pile.

Sadly on Thursday her tiny body gave in and we found her collapsed in her den, unable to move. An emergency health-check revealed that her arthritis had reached a critical level and damage to her muscles meant that she had no chance of recovery. Sadly we said goodbye to our brave little bear.

And from Nic, who read the "Spirit of Hope" poem at Babs’ funeral:

Just last week Barbara weighed in at 73 kg. I’ve known her almost two years now and had great pleasure in working with this wonderful old character. Despite her size, her age and mobility problems, Babs was one tough cookie.

She was a bear very well known to everyone and barely a week goes by when she is not mentioned in a bear manager and vet report. She was usually the last out of the house in the morning and very often the last in the evening to return.

Winter time she would often prefer to stay out, making her bed in a bear-made ditch/pit perfectly lined with straw and bedding to make the perfect sleeping place. But this was Babs – everything on her own terms.

She could hold her own too, and the other bears she lived with knew this and respected her. Only last week, she defended her food and took on Ballman almost twice her size. But this was Babs.

She wasn’t the most beautiful bear, with her dreadlocked fur, but this was Babs, and she was gorgeous.

We loved her in life, will love her in death and will miss her tremendously.

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