As we've written about before on this site, animals can be rejected by their mothers for many reasons, and for Dave the takin, whose appearance took on a mixture of a goat, buffalo, and a moose, he proved no different after being rejected by his mother.
However, after finding comfort in the most unlikely of friends, his life soon took on a story of its own.
For those who aren't aware, takins are a breed of goat-antelope native to the Eastern Himalayas and are characterized by their white, shaggy skin and elongated horns. What's more, along with the giant panda and monkey, the Sichuan takin, a sub species residing in parts of rural China, is even considered a national treasure there.
But Dale wasn't born in such faraway lands. Due to being endangered the takin was actually born at Cincinnati Zoo in Ohio.
Thus, every takin birth is good news for conservationists, and as their forested, natural habitat has been blighted by globalization in recent years, it appears that births like Dale's might be the only way to save takins from extinction.
For these reasons, the staff at the Cincinnati zoo were excited to meet their new friend, with Dale being the seventh takin to be born there.
After an eight-month pregnancy, Dale’s mom, Sally, gave birth, and staff expected it to be the start of a loving, long-lasting friendship. Of course, as we stated earlier, that didn't quite happen as Sally expressed little-to- no interest in her newborn.
“His mom didn’t know quite what to do with him,” zoo worker Dawn Strasser told USA Today in a lengthy interview. “She didn’t want to take care of him so we brought him, up to the nursery.”
While there is no way of fully knowing Sally's reasoning, specialists believed Sally abandoned Dale because he had difficulty standing.
After much persuading and intervention from workers, it was certain that Sally would not change her mind, so it was then in the hands of zoo workers to nourish Dale and make sure he developed.
That said, workers were keen to bring another animal into the fold for companionship, as Strasser explained. “Dale’s a herd animal, so he wants a companion."
After Dale's needs became apparent, workers introduced him to Blakely, an Australian Shepherd dog. A long-term resident, Blakely arrived from a local rescue shelter when he was just seven months old, and slowly gained a reputation for being a comforting presence around other animals.
“He’s like the best employee ever,” Strasser exclaimed. “He’s like my boss. He’s always in a good mood. Takes criticism well, doesn’t talk back.”
But why does a zoo rely on a rescue dog? Surely they'd have specialists on hand for these matters? Well, yes and no. While zoos often have a great team of experts to assess situations like Dale's many employ dogs as caretaker animals, and Blakley's role for some time has been to take care of animals who struggle to adapt to the living arrangments.
Furthermore, Blake's role is to not only help struggling animals adapt to their environment but also show them the appropriate way to behave.
And he's done this on numerous occasions, with animals as varied as a cheetah cub, a skunk, and even a baby warthog. But unlike most baby animals, a takin's growth is rapid, and by the time Dale was introduced to Blake he was already bigger than him.
But though Dale's size wouldn't matter, Balke's job wouldn't be easy. Not only could Dale barely use his legs, but he was also incredibly shy, while his poor energy levels meant that he was taking more naps than he should have been.
Still, Blake had seen it all before and had built up a great level of patience and know-how to deal with all kind of troubled animals. “He has to tolerate all the little baby stuff,” Strasser went onto explain. “Chewing on, sucking on, pulling his feet, pulling his tail. [But] he’s a companion, he’s a socializer and he’s a trainer. He spends lots of time with the babies when they’re little. He teaches them how to have appropriate behavior.”
Another of Dale’s problems was his overzealous personality, leading him to get carried away at times by using his hoofs to kick out at things. “He’s kind of like a bull in a china closet,” Strasser joked. “He flips around but then he wants to come lay on your lap like a big dog. But he’s 50 pounds and smells really musty.”
But Blakely wouldn't let Dale's innocent excitement scare him away. Instead, the admirable dog wasn’t afraid of a bit of rough and tumble, but most importantly, he was good at reigning Dale in and letting him know when enough was enough.
The play fighting wasn't just for Dale's own enjoyment, though. It was also beneficial for Dale's muscles, and the boisterous fun with Blakley proved a godsend to staff as they had had trouble convincing Dale to let them exercise his muscles. But Blakely wasn't met with such indifference.
“[Dale’s] like, ‘Okay, I can follow my buddy and we’ll just go. It’s all okay,’” Strasser said.
Spending time with Blakely also appeared to give a Dale a boost in confidence. “Blakely also offers a calmness,” Strasser revealed. “So if he does get anxious or nervous, he’ll go stand next to me or next to Blakely. If we’re okay, he’s okay.”
Adorably, when Dale's energy levels decreased after a long day with Blakely, he'd often snuggle up with his new best friend. “These guys get along because they’ve learned to get along,” Strasser said. “They don’t know to hate each other. If we could apply animals to humanity, this would be a nicer place."
But the relationship wouldn't last forever. Takin grew leaps and bounds in more ways than one, and it was soon clear that Blakely's work had run its course.
So, in a decision that was still leaving many in the zoo concerned, the consensus eventually led to Dale returning to his mother, Sally.
Releasing a statement on the matter, Paul Reinhart, the zoo's keeper, said, "We started by giving mom and baby visual access through a mesh screen. After that went well, we put them together for short periods. They are now together all the time and getting along great. Sally nuzzles him and responds when he initiates play."
It was news that delighted everyone who had monitored Dale's progress and confirmed how brilliant and reliable Blakely was. For these reasons, we're sure Dale will always have a soft spot for the work Blakely did with him.
Isn't this just the cutest story ever? If you have any similar stories or would like to leave a comment, then you can by writing in the comment section below.