Eight Animals Who Will Steal Your Heart This Valentine’s Day

Credit: Animals Asia Foundation

Bärack the Moon Bear

Bärack was among the bears being held on a bile farm in Nanning, China when it was handed over to Animals Asia Foundation in 2014. Bärack was seriously underweight and suffering from multiple health conditions. 

At his first health check, the vets noted a healed fistula on the belly (from where the bile was extracted from his gallbladder) and his left knee was damaged from a suspected trauma. He had almost no teeth left (farmers tend to take them out) and it is likely that his tongue was damaged in the process, as it sticks out of his mouth all the time. Bärack was put on long-term pain relief and later had to have his infected gallbladder removed.

Bärack. Credit: Animals Asia Foundation

In 2018, a cardiologist confirmed that Bärack has hypertensive disease and hypertrophy of his heart – a thickening which makes it harder to pump blood. In 2019, an ophthalmologist found that Bärack had nuclear sclerosis and scarring in both eyes.

Of course, there were psychological and behavioral problems, too. To improve his quality of life, Bärack was given specialized enrichment, paddling pools, and fire hose hammocks, which he really loved. The aim was to get him to his forever home at Chengdu rescue center as soon as possible but the bureaucracy meant it took eight years. However, in that time he had transformed into a relaxed, happy, and playful bear. 

When he finally reached Chengdu and was granted access to the outside world for the first time, Bärack was the picture of pure joy, doing repeated somersaults, rolling around in the grass, picking up logs and rolling them all over himself, inhaling deeply with his muzzle buried in the soil. If he could speak, he would tell us that freedom smells like wet soil, is as soft as grass, warms you up like the rays of the sun, and tastes like peanut butter and wildberry jelly. 

Today, Bärack is doing well. He lives in a “special care area” at the Chengdu sanctuary, and has a best friend, Derek, another bear who is completely blind. They share their den space and even their pool. Bärack is happy.

Benjamin the Calf

Benjamin was born onto a beef farm in Brazil, and his destiny seemed certain. But in 2020, fires raged in Pantanal, and they changed everything for him.

Actress and animal activist Luisa Mell traveled to the area with her team from Instituto Luisa Mell. They wanted to help rescue as many wild animals from the destruction as possible. And while doing just that, they found Benjamin wandering lost, with all four hooves badly burnt. Of course, they rescued him, too.

That wasn’t quite the end of the story as the farmer tried to have Benjamin returned to him. It would have been tragic to have to send him back to be slaughtered after all he had endured.  But when the farmer realized that the cost of the veterinary treatment was more than he would make selling Benjamim for his meat, he gave up and Luisa was able to take Benjamin from Pantanal to São Paulo where she has a small sanctuary. 

Today, Benjamin lives there happily and in safety. He has developed a close friendship with Diamante, a goat also rescued by Luisa, and they are as close as any friend could be.

Take a look at their beautiful friendship!

Bellota the Wild Boar

Bellota (Acorn) is a rayón, a baby wild boar. When only a few days old, blind and  malnourished, he was spotted desperately following a cyclist thinking that she was the mother he had lost. A kind person took him to his house and fed him, and a few days later Bellota arrived at Fundación Santuario Vegan.

They realized that the blindness was due to an infection but Bellota also had inflamed joints, which they put down to septic arthritis. It was a lot for so young an animal to cope with. 

Laura, the president of the sanctuary, took responsibility for him and has been his foster mom every hour since. Thanks to her care and attention, Bellota’s infection has improved but the damage to his eyes means Bellota may never regain his sight.

Whether he will have his eyesight or not, he has a wonderful home and family who will take care of him for the rest of his life. And Bellota is growing fast! He has made many friends from other species and every day he discovers new things. He constantly seeks the love and security that Laura gives him, and that’s all he needs, at least for the time being. But he does have one new friend… Castaña (Chestnut), another baby wild boar who recently arrived at the sanctuary. We cannot wait to see them grow together!

Lyra the Street Dog

Lyra was born on the streets of Romania but was captured by the pound. A local dog charity heard rumors about conditions at the kennels and after months of trying was finally able to get access. Inside, they found dozens of emaciated and dying dogs. They realized that the workers stole the money that was intended for dog food and were letting the dogs starve to death.

The rescuers had room in their van for 13 dogs that day, and told the workers they would return the next day to take away all the others. As they were leaving, a 14th dog – Lyra – ran through the gate, and the charity decided to squeeze her into the van, too. When they returned the following day, all the remaining dogs had been killed. Lyra had saved her own life.

At the rescue center, Lyra regained her weight and her health, but there was no home available for her and she spent three years in the sanctuary waiting. Then one day, a couple in the UK saw Lyra’s photo and read her story. They pledged to give Lyra the future she deserved. Two weeks later, they had a home check, and four weeks after that Lyra traveled 1500 miles from Romania to the UK to start her new life.

Today, Lyra wakes up deliriously happy every single day. She headstands with excitement as the first walk off the day approaches, sings in the car no matter how long the journey, runs fast and free in local fields, climbs trees, sleeps on top of tables, rolls on her back, plays with dogs, and shouts her head off when she just cannot contain her happiness anymore. There is a legacy to what she has endured – she is wary of strangers and sometimes still has seizures – but this girl is absolutely determined to wring every bit of joy out of life. And along the way, she has stolen our hearts, too.

Sol the Horse

Sol was used as a working horse in the state of Mexico, and was forced to carry large amounts of waste. It was a miserable existence for her, and for all the other animals like her, but Sol’s suffering did not end with exhaustion and injuries. When, no longer able to bear the burden she was forced to carry, she collapsed on the road. Instead of showing compassion, the man exploiting her physically attacked her, beating and kicking her as she lay in the dirt. She was just two years old.

Thankfully, her story came to light, and members of an anti-speciesist sanctuary, Seres Libres, fought hard for Sol’s liberty, and thankfully, they won. When Sol came to them, she was in a lot of pain from the many open wounds caused by protracted mistreatment and malnutrition. The team gave her the love and care all animals should be afforded and slowly she started to heal.

She was given the name Sol (Sun) because she brought so much light to her rescuers’ lives. Today, Sol continues to recover in a specialist hospital but once she is ready to go, she will be free to live her life with dignity and respect at Animales Libres (Free Beings).

We cannot wait to see her find her joy.

Garra the Southern Right Whale

In 2002, two young southern right whales came perilously close to the shore at low tide near Puerto Piramides, a town on the Valdez Peninsula in Argentina. As the water became shallower, one of them got his tail caught in the anchor chains of a moored whale-watching boat, and ran aground on the sand.

It was not possible to cut the chains beneath the water, and so the decision was made to tow him to shore, and deliberately ground him. Local guides, divers, and residents all worked together to collect buckets of water and ensure he remained wet while another group collected tools to cut the anchor away from without harming him.

It was a long process but the second whale never left his friend. She remained in the waters, calling to him, as though she was urging him on, and giving him breath. Eventually, his tail was cut free and as the tide rose,  the whale – now named Garra – returned to the open ocean with his friend by his side. He was sighted again a few years later just off the shore, and we hope he is still out there thriving.

Translated, Garra means “claw” but colloquially “to have claw” also means to have strength, power, and the will to live. To commemorate his rescue, September 25th was declared National Whale Day in Argentina. This wonderful being has certainly left a powerful legacy. 

Chichen and Itza the Pigs

On 7th February 2020, a truck that was traveling on the highway from Jalisco to a slaughterhouse in Ecatepec crashed. There were 250 pigs on board, and the accident – caused by the driver going too fast –  left many of them injured and hurt. 

Activists arrived at the scene determined to help and stop people from hurting the pigs even more. They managed to liberate some individuals, including Chichen and Itza, who were offered sanctuary at Granjita TyH.

Fernanda, the founder of the sanctuary, says that at the beginning the pair were very shy and didn’t even want to move. But over the weeks and months, they started to discover their own natures, recognized each other, and slowly, with lots of care, food, love, and patience, started to improve. Fernanda says that it took them almost two years before they had gotten over the trauma sufficiently and started to become playful.

Now, they are two very distinct beings with their own clear preferences and characters. Chichen is an extrovert, curious and playful and likes being around humans. Itza is more independent, doesn’t care about humans all that much, and prefers not to be petted. But she is not lonely! She has made a close friend in Mike, a pig who arrived at the sanctuary just a couple of months ago. Itza and Mike are inseparable. She takes very good care of him, and they cuddle up together every night. It’s a happy ending for this wonderful girl.

Ready to go vegan?

Go Vegan

Already vegan?

Get Active