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Assisi – our glorious yeti – walks free

Clucking quietly in the early morning, Assisi was clearly suspicious that “something” was going on. A lifetime of nasty surprises, pain and confinement on the bear farm before he arrived with us in February, ensured that he would still be somewhat cautious with all the new experiences at the sanctuary.

And, as the doors to his den opened out on to the grassy enclosure of House 10, he stood there, slightly frozen, before pulling himself together and braving the great outdoors.

The lower strands of the electric fencing had been turned off, because we knew Assisi had a heart problem and we didn’t want to risk a shock that might be his last. Long and lean, Assisi ambled out, his coat shimmering in the morning sun and we all smiled at his abnormally hairy paws – remembering that scientist Daniel Taylor Ides had written papers on his belief that the moon bear really is the original yeti.

Within a few seconds, Assisi’s natural “opportunist” nature took over and his big black nose was soon peeking out into the wide open space never before explored. Two more steps and he was straight into three piles of biscuits and tomatoes, which he polished off with loud appreciation and lip-smacking – still careful to stay on the concrete path.

This is almost the norm for many of the bears when they first go outside – as if they've seen some imaginary “keep off the grass” signs. Finally taking a step onto the grass – but keeping it to just one – Assisi then placed all four paws on the cement drain cover nearby, perhaps more secure on the hard surface he has only known on the farm.

A couple more sniffs of the breeze and becoming ever more brave, he finally began to venture out – and then there was no stopping him for the next hour or so. His kind sponsors, the Auckland SPCA would have been proud. Confidently striding along the enclosure, right to the very end, investigating the platforms, hanging tyres, log piles, a pool filled with only a few inches of water (no surprises on his first day), and all the while enjoying tasty treats the whole way round.

Vet Jen whispered “almost as if he's done this his entire life”, and she was right. Panting slightly with the exertion of a gentle stroll, but without an ounce of caution as he explored, our brave Assisi was calm and confident as he happily embraced his new kingdom of days.

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