This Disabled Lion Forms Sweet Friendships With Everyone He Meets

Bonedigger, a disabled lion at G.W. Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, has made some unlikely BFFs in his zookeeper, John Reinke, and a Dachshund named Milo. The lion was born with a metabolic bone disease, leaving him mildly disabled in his front legs. Reinke, who is himself disabled, personally raised the lion and formed a closed relationship with him. The big cat used to live in his home, where he bottle fed him until he was too big to live indoors any longer. At 500 lbs., Bonedigger looms over both Reinke and his tiny canine friend Milo, but that hasn’t scared the pup one bit over the course of their five-year friendship. Several other Dachshunds who live at the park have joined Milo in comforting the lion, providing lots of cuddles and playtime for the cat. Reinke told the Daily Mail, “Milo does his best to copy Bonedigger when the lion tries puffing to communicate with other lions in the park…Bonedigger’s like a dog and when he hasn’t seen me for ages he gets all excited and runs up to me.” I don’t know about you, but this animal park sounds like my personal heaven.

Reinke’s struggles with his own health makes him empathetic to Bonedigger’s plight. After a bungee jumping accident in 1994, Reinke was told by doctors that he’d never walk again. After five years of rehab, he learned to use his legs again, but frequent infections eventually prompted him to amputate them. He raised a tiger named Tony at the same time that Bonedigger was living in his home, and he credits the two cats with helping him to heal. Reinke and his wife have two sons, and he spends nearly every day with the big cats. Reinke has even begun caring for two new tiger cubs who need some extra TLC. No word on whether Bonedigger has ever made friends up with any fellow lions, but it sounds like he’s shared enough joy with his current buddies to last him a lifetime. [Daily Mail UK]