Socialization is a very important part of life at the sanctuary and we are always very excited to see friendships bloom amongst the animals. Sometimes, however, our residents need a little help making first impressions. That’s where we come in. We carefully plan and monitor blossoming relationships to make sure that both participants feel positively about one another. Integration, the moment where we introduce one animal to another, tends to be the most precarious time and we wait anxiously to see the results of our efforts. One of our most recent integrations was of Edwin, a newly rescued steer, and our good friend, Whitaker.
Edwin’s rescue story began when a kind passerby spotted him after being detoured from her regular commute to work. Poor Edwin was sitting by himself in a tiny, muddy pen, where he was lonely and uncomfortable. The woman who discovered him approached the property owner, who admitted he was apprehensive about the idea of slaughtering the steer (which had been the plan) and said he would be willing to relinquish Edwin if a home could be found for him right away. When alerted to his situation, we agreed to take in the forlorn calf and offer him a chance at a more fulfilling, friend-filled existence.
After allowing him ample time to settle into his new life, we decided to integrate Edwin and Whitaker. Since he had lived so long without any other cattle to frolic or play with, Edwin was visibly excited to meet his new friend. When he entered the pen, he went right up to Whitaker and affectionately put his chin on the steer’s back. Whitaker, who hasn’t had the easiest of times making friends with the older cattle, was a bit skittish and kept running up to Kerrie and Indran, two of his caregivers, acting shy as though he needed reassurance about this new, unexpected visitor. But Edwin was persistent. Following Whitaker wherever he walked, Edwin would make little closed-mouth moos, begging to be friends. When we were comfortable that there was no aggression between the two, we left them alone to bond.
Since then, Edwin and Whitaker have grown very comfortable with each other. Whenever I pass by, I always see them together, grazing in the pasture, sleeping in the barn, or grooming each other outside. All of these shared activities are good signs – signs of a budding friendship.
Though cattle are notably easy to integrate, that doesn’t diminish our excitement when integration is successful. Watching Edwin accompany Whitaker around the pasture is a wonderful sight to see. With his new pal Whitaker by his side, precious Edwin will never be lonely again.