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Special visitors for the bears

Just recently we had some very special visitors on site – celebrity TV vet Marc Abraham, who swapped his Southwick, UK clinic for our sanctuary in Chengdu, Leann Pindar who heads up Lovesniffys UK (a company devoted to enhancing the lives of our very best friends), and fabulous Aussies, Kristie Poole and her sister Cass and Cass's partner Will, who are all long-term supporters of Animals Asia. (From left, Kristie, me, Cass and Will.)

Kristie previously organised a phenomenal event in Australia where comedian Arj Barker entertained the audience so generously for free and then named one of our January rescued bears Manuka!

Veterinary surgeon Marc, who has been recognised for his animal welfare work, was out for just a few days, but took full advantage of the time on site, rolled up his sleeves and plunged straight in to assisting our veterinary team! Nothing was too much trouble as he took blood, worked with our vet, Mandala, in ultra-sounding a gently sleeping Harley, helped her to extract one of his canines and two incisors, and mucked in with the team in offering the bears some good veterinary help, not to mention much tender loving care.

In between, Jenny and Saber in our education team had another surprise for Marc, Leann, Kristie, Cass and Will when they invited everyone to join a Dr Dog animal therapy visit in Chengdu. This special visit saw the beautiful canine ambassadors visiting a blind facility called Dialogue in the Dark, which has 36 centres across the world, including Shanghai and Chengdu. While the dogs shared their unconditional love and saw smiles all round – the teachers and students of the blind school had an even bigger surprise in store for us!

The afternoon saw us all walking in a blind person’s shoes in one of the most astonishing experiences of our lives – where the blind offer sighted visitors the experience of their world. For around 70 minutes, we were in total darkness.

We were given a cane and had various obstacles to overcome (walking on a bridge next to a river, shopping, crossing a road, finding a door bell, ordering a coffee in a cafe, etc). All this just in a room with simulated noise, but with our senses working overtime. It was an indescribable time and some of the statements at the end were amazing, showing just how profoundly the visit had affected us all. The young girl leading us around was, of course, herself blind.

The rest of the days were packed with visiting all the bear houses on site and meeting the bears – including beautiful old Oliver and "follickly challenged" Asia, feeding some apple to a very grateful Peter Bear, named after our UK Ambassador and friend to both Animals Asia and Marc, actor Peter Egan.

In a press release after his visit, Marc said: “I’ve long been a fan of the difficult work Animals Asia achieves in China, so feel incredibly privileged to have been able to witness it first-hand and work alongside such a skilled, committed, and passionate team – even assisting in an operation to remove a fractured tooth.”

Hardly one to be sitting around, Marc is currently lobbying the UK Government to end puppy farming with his PupAid.org e-petition, which has now accumulated well over 100,000 signatures since May! Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year – and welcome back Marc, Leann, Kristie, Cass and Will!

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