We're stronger because of you, Andrew

The internet keeps us in touch with the world of the present and that of the past. Just recently, Mary Alice in the UK sent me the link to a website called Earth Protect, that brought back the memories of smiles and tears for the life of Andrew and so many bears we have loved and lost. 

On the anniversary of Andrew's death in 2006, this beautiful song and words by Maria Daines shows that our bears are gone, but never forgotten. Andrew’s grave by the river overlooks the grassy mounds of bears, dogs and cats, who have enriched our lives. The immortal words written on his stone – “We are not weaker without you, but stronger because of you” – remind us all of why we are here.

His death touched staff and supporters around the world – and on this day of his anniversary, we’re launching an exciting new campaign in his memory. As part of our Healing without Harm campaign, we are joining together with traditional Chinese medicine doctors and pharmacists in China who have pledged never to use or sell bear bile or products.

More about that in the next blog in a day or so – but, for now, Maria’s song"Andrew", and the message I sent to the team on that unforgettable day we said goodbye to our beautiful Anderloo: 

9th February 2006 

Dear everyone, 

I’m so sorry to pass on such sad news.........but we said goodbye to Andrew this afternoon. Early this morning he had a health check and ultrasound, which revealed that something was horribly wrong, and Kati and Phil then began abdominal surgery. 

I won’t go into it now as it’s late and everyone’s so shocked and exhausted, but surgery was abandoned very early on as it became obvious that there was nothing we could do. It was the most aggressive and ugly cancer I have ever seen in my life and I don’t think anyone can quite believe it now. 

The tumour removed surpassed anything we have seen before and, because the liver was so terribly affected (with approximately 5 per cent of its normal function remaining), Andrew’s blood wasn’t able to clot and he had been slowly bleeding to death. 

Even yesterday, he ate more than he’d eaten the whole week before; those soft gentle lips pursing for another slice of tomato, a second tub of yogurt and a blueberry muffin, causing us to wonder for a second whether we were right to bring his surgery forward. So many variables are involved – and in the past we have felt surgery essential, only to find nothing medically wrong as the bears have entered a “normal” pattern of lethargic, inappetant behaviour associated with hibernation of the species in the wild. 

Yet today, it was the killer we know so well... liver cancer; possibly originating from a tumour factor connected with the massive infection from damage caused on the farms, the demon that lurked silently in Andrew’s body, waiting for the chance to strike. 

No words can ever explain the grief everyone here is feeling – we cremated and buried our mighty Andrew at 6pm with local TV cameras and the San Francisco Chronicle recording another chapter in bear farming history – an outpouring of anger and sadness which is difficult to describe even now, but which united everyone here with the conviction and determination that Andrew will never die in vain.

I know too that this will be a horrible day for you as well – Andrew was so much more than our ambassador, our friend.... he was the bear who began it all; our noble, forgiving, gentle giant who will live in our hearts forever. 

RIP Anderloo, we love you. 


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