Baby Giraffe Makes An Unlikely Friend That Saves His Life

If movies like The Fox and the Hound and Ratatouille are any indication, people love a good story about an unlikely animal friendship. Every moment of these films — the friends’ first meeting, their first fight, their adventures — warms the heart, mainly because you just know that the friendship between a grown man and a rat wouldn’t happen in real life…

And yet, we’re constantly surprised by the animal kingdom’s refusal to follow the rules. A lion, friends with a child? A monkey as a pet? These are things that should only exist in Disney movies…but one South African farmer saw for himself just how true to life these movies can be.

In certain parts of South Africa, it isn’t unusual to find yourself face-to-face with a fanged/horned/venomous animal. In the place where elephants freely roam, residents are used to seeing what we would consider to be “unusual” sights…

Kruger National Park Safaris

And yet, something about what one man saw on November 17th struck him as odd. As a South African farmer, it took a lot to shake him — but then he saw the crumpled, oddly-shaped figure in the distance. 

It was a giraffe…and it was just a couple days old. The animal looked up at him with heavy, doleful eyes — and the farmer knew he had to call the closest rescue organization. Unfortunately, the giraffe wouldn’t exactly fit in with the nearest one.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

The closest organization was called The Rhino Orphanage, located in Limpopo. Their specialty, obviously wasn’t in giraffes, especially in young, barely-clinging-to-life giraffes. But then they heard the farmer’s story, and immediately headed over.

Caters News Agency/New York Post

For the first 18 hours, the rescue team prepared for the worst. The baby was so sick, he became comatose. Like the giraffe’s mother had done, abandoning the sick baby would have been the logical move…

But the rescue team refused to give up. Dr. Pierre Bester installed an IV catheter, which provided the giraffe with fluids and nutrients he needed to survive. All they could do was wait for signs of life…and the doctors weren’t waiting alone.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

As soon as the giraffe had arrived at the rescue center, one animal was obsessed with him — and it wasn’t one of the rhinos. Instead, the rescuers were shocked to find Hunter the Belgian Malinois sitting with the baby giraffe.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

As the giraffe struggled to regain consciousness, Hunter lied by his new friend’s side. Maybe it was Hunter’s compassion, maybe it was the IV medication, or maybe it was a combo of all three, but after hours of waiting, the giraffe finally stirred…

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

…and opened his eyes! Though the rescuers were delighted, no one was happier than Hunter, whose best friend was finally awake. But just because Hunter liked the giraffe didn’t mean the feeling was mutual.

Madagascar (2005)

But as soon as the giraffe locked eyes with the pup, they were inseparable. “Just when we thought it couldn’t get any cuter, sweeter, and more heartwarming, this happened,” said the Rhino Orphanage of a tender moment they caught on video.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

In the video, the two friends are side by side, cleaning each other and snuggling. For a newborn animal who days before had been on the brink of death, the giraffe was certainly looking lively — and he needed a name that reflected his curious, vibrant personality.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

So, the rescue organization named him Jazz. From then on, Jazz and Hunter were never without the other. As with anyone recovering from a serious illness, though, life wasn’t always snuggles and hugs for Jazz. 

CBS Baltimore/Maryland Zoo

The rescuers at Rhino Orphanage knew that Jazz’s road to recovery would be rocky, especially since the baby was abandoned by his own kind. There was no telling when he would fully regain his strength…or if he would at all.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

Jazz’s journey back to health needed to begin with a single step. “He managed to stand up a few times with the help of our carers,” the orphanage stated. But he walked on “very unsure legs,” totally unaccustomed to his own spindly limbs.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

“Baby giraffes are notorious for being labor-intensive,” the Rhino Orphanage wrote on Facebook. Even with Hunter to keep Jazz company, the rescuers had their work cut out for them, especially given one of Jazz’s unique characteristics. 

The Lion King (1994)

Well, it was unique to the rescuers, that is: Jazz’s imposing height was proving to be a challenge, since they were used to dealing with rhinos. But they knew Jazz was worth the extra effort and gave him days of intensive care.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

A week after his rescue, the employees at Rhino Orphanage went to Jazz’s pen to see how he was doing. At first, they were delighted: He was standing up…but his neck was sticking out of the pen at a strange angle.

Luckily, Jazz wasn’t in any danger. On the contrary, when the rescuers saw what he was doing, they quickly started to film: He was munching on Acacia leaves! They posted the adorable video to Facebook like the proud parents they were.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

The only one prouder than the rescuers was Jazz’s partner-in-crime, Hunter! “The bond and understanding between Jazz the giraffe and Hunter our Belgian Malinois is astonishing,” the rescue group wrote. But the friends may not be together forever.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

“Possibly soon he will be able to go home,” said orphanage worker Janie Van Heerden. We hate to imagine Jazz and Hunter apart, especially since they’ve grown so close since Jazz arrived at the orphanage…

Jerome Delay/AP

We’re hoping that Jazz and Hunter somehow stay together. After all, Hunter was there for Jazz when he was at his lowest, even though they were different species. To keep the friendship strong, the rhino rescue can look towards other organizations for advice.

The Rhino Orphanage/Facebook

“Don’t Forget Us, Pet Us” was an animal sanctuary in Massachusetts, and for a long time, it was the home of a blind cow named Baby. Limited by her inability to see, the staff knew she’d likely need care for the rest of her life.

Luckily for her, the sanctuary’s owner, Deb Devlin, went above and beyond to give Baby the round-the-clock care she required. While Baby was generally content, something wasn’t quite right with her.

The staff was at a loss. Was she lonely? There weren’t any other cows for her to befriend at the sanctuary, after all. As time went by and Baby continued to mope around the farm, the staff grew desperate. Then, they had a revelation: what if they introduced Baby to another animal entirely?

Enter Lulu the pig, whose legs were accidentally broken by her mother when she was just a piglet. Though Lulu and Baby were different species, they both had special needs. The staff was willing to bet their unique experiences gave them a gentleness and intuition that would mesh well.

08-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

Not only did Baby and Lulu both have disabilities, but they had similar backgrounds, too. Having been rescued from slaughterhouses in the United States, they seemed to share a similar demeanor.

There was only one way to tell if they’d become friends: have them meet! Much to the staff’s delight, Baby and Lulu immediately bonded! “I had tried to pair Baby up with other animals, and it just didn’t work,” one of the caretakers explained.

02-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

“I didn’t think the pig would be aggressive to the cow, and the pig was plenty sturdy. If the cow accidentally bumped into her, [Lulu] would be OK,” Deb also explained. She and the rest of her staff kept their fingers crossed that this unlikely friendship would work out…

For the next eight years, Lulu and Baby would form a tight bond. The staff often referred to Lulu as Baby’s “seeing-eye pig.” During that time, they were rarely separated and they displayed a friendship that astounded everyone who worked at the sanctuary.

While many of the other animals at the facility had free range to go and do as they please, Lulu and Baby were different. They had to learn to have fun much closer to home than the other animals due to their respective disabilities. Luckily for them, that wasn’t an issue!

Baby and Lulu did practically everything together! Even mealtime wasn’t just a routine activity; it was a chance to chow down with a friend. Thanks to Lulu, Baby’s blindness wasn’t as much of an issue.

09-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

Sadly, after eight years together, Lulu’s time on Earth had come to an end. After her passing, Baby the cow was once again left in the dark without her seeing-eye pig. What was she going to do without her best friend to help her get around?

Baby’s demeanor changed almost instantly. “After Lulu’s passing, Baby mooed for two days. She also walked in circles frantically,” Deb recalled. “She was unable to walk straight or she would hit fencing. I tried [to pair her with] a sheep, a goat, but nothing worked at all.”

Growing worried, Deb attempted to have Baby mingle with various other animals, but nothing seemed to be able to replace her lost friend. Yet, just when all hope seemed lost, another rescued animal arrived at the sanctuary…

It was a baby calf! The sanctuary staff hoped to get the two animals acquainted immediately. “The day the calf arrived, I had set up two small areas divided by an eight-foot gate. I was hoping to acclimate the two side by side first,” Deb explained.

Deb hoped the animals would become used to being around one another. “Baby could get used to her noises, movement, smell, sounds… She was so in tune to those things, not having her sight.” Deb was anxious, but she was about to learn that she didn’t have to be…

05-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

“When the calf unloaded into her small pen, she was nervous and timid. She quickly saw Baby and she blasted that gate off its hinges.” Deb recalled. “It was still secured on one side by a chain so she jumped the four-foot width of the gate and ran to Baby’s side.”

06-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

And just like that, Baby’s spirits were up! The spunky new arrival—who’d escaped a slaughterhouse just like Baby—took one look at Baby before she set off like a rocket for the cow. Any worry they wouldn’t get along was immediately tossed aside!

04-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

Of course, no animal could replace Lulu. Still, Baby took the little calf under her wing, so to speak, protecting her and doing all of the things that Lulu once did for her. It was as if she was the little cow’s official tour guide!

“The bond was immediate, the love instant, and even though Baby has never had a baby… she takes care of, protects and nurtures this little calf… all the things Lulu did for her. It is so incredible!” Deb said happily.

07-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

Now, the rescued cows could recover together. While Baby’s friendship with Lulu was truly one-of-a-kind, it seemed as if she found a way to continue that with her new friend. Of course, she would always have her beloved Lulu in her heart! After all, pigs make the best of friends.

01-blind-cow-pig-calf-baby-luluFacebook / Don’t Forget Us Pet Us

Just ask these two animal lovers, Steve Jenkins, a real estate agent and bagpipe player, and his husband Derek Walter, a magician. When Steve received a phone call from an old friend in the summer of 2012 asking if he wanted to adopt a micro-pig, he was hesitant…

Micro Pigs have become a trend, and it doesn’t take much thinking to understand why. The little piglets are absolutely adorable, not to mention they’re definitely a unique pet compared to cats and dogs! Still, did Steve really want to adopt his own?

After all, he and Derek had already taken in two rescue dogs, two cats, a turkey, and some koi fish. Would there be room for another four-legged friend? He said he needed to think about it. A few days later, however, he received another call.

Steve Jenkins/Facebook

The woman on the phone said that she needed Steve’s answer as soon as possible because other people were interested. It was enough to make Steve bite the bullet. With Derek at his side, he went to pick up their new pink baby.

Esther The Wonder Pig/Facebook

Her new dads named her Esther, and they saw how underfed and sunburnt she was. But once she was home she made a speedy recovery. She was adapting quickly to the busy household, playing with the other pets, eating normally and even using the litter box.

Once Esther had some time to adjust, it was time for her to be checked up by a vet. The purpose of this was just to see if she was healthy, but the doctor noticed something that nearly knocked her dads off their feet.

It was obvious to the vet that Esther’s tail had been clipped, which is usually only done in commercial farming. However, micro-pigs aren’t bred for commercial farming. In other words?

It turned out that Esther was a regular old piglet! Whether the woman who contacted Steve had scammed him or if it was simply an honest mistake, Steve and Derek never knew. Could they raise a regular pig? How big would Esther get?

Having already fallen in love with the piglet, they decided to keep her. She acted no different than the dogs did: well-behaved (most of the time) and extremely friendly.

Although the vet had said she was underweight and would probably only become about 90kg (or 200 lbs), she already weighed 250 lbs by her first birthday — and she was still growing.

She loved every creature in the house, and they all loved her back. The family only grew larger after Esther’s arrival, with the addition of another dog and even a turkey! Steve and Derek’s hearts were so big, they couldn’t resist.

Once Esther was fully grown, she weighed around 550 lbs! She was an unstoppable force of love, joy, and loyalty, but she was growing so big, she could barely fit in the house anymore! It was time to make some adjustments…

The guys created an Indiegogo page to raise money to swap their house for a farm! It would act as a sanctuary for rescued farm animals, with Esther as the guest of honor. Their home wasn’t the only thing they changed for Esther though…

Esther’s dads couldn’t stop thinking about what would’ve happened to Esther if they had not adopted her. When they looked into Esther’s eyes, they could see so much emotion that they became vegetarians in her honor.

Esther was becoming more and more popular on social media, so Steve set up a website: EstherTheWonderPig.Com, where she quickly gained even more fans. Steve and Derek realized that more people should learn Esther’s story.

Esther The Wonder Pig/Instagram

In 2016, they published a book about their loving addition to the family: Happily Ever Esther. It detailed how she responded to her dads and her pet siblings, how they became crazy about her and how wonderful a pig can be.

The book was incredibly successful, and Esther’s story was now spreading like wildfire. It wasn’t long until Steve and Derek were invited to present a TED talk about their big little girl.

Derek Walter/Facebook

Her story influenced many people, inspiring them to come visit her, convincing them to become vegetarian, or just shedding light onto the loving nature of pigs in general. Her dads called it the “Esther Effect.”

Does the couple regret adopting their not-so-micro-pig? Not for a minute! They are happy to see their sanctuary slowly fill up with more and more wonderful animals.

CBC

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