Animals: They were here first
Freedom Never Forgets
Harrods department store in London used to have an exotic animals section. Thankfully, it’s no longer there and for the most part, those days are over when animals were put on display in cramped cages for humans to pass by and gawk, or even worse, tease and torment them.
In 1969, two men happened to walk through Harrods and came upon the caged animals. Two tiny lion cubs caught their eye. They noticed that even for a cub, the cage was too small. In that moment, they decided to do something about this, but only had enough money to purchase one. That little cub went home with these two gentlemen, and I say that with every sense of the word, because this cub was raised with all gentleness, yet with the intelligence of firm consistency, using only the tone of their voices to let the lion, named Christian, know what was acceptable or not. They created a space for Christian in the basement of their friend’s furniture store. The two men, Anthony Burke and John Rendell, made life as best they could for Christian, filling the lion’s den with all sorts of toys and activities. Christian grew to 185 pounds, yet never showed aggression toward his caregivers.
However, the day came when they had to make the decision to find a better home for Christian. By happenstance, two filmmakers who had produced the famous documentary about Elsa, the lioness in “Born Free”, came to the furniture store and found out about Christian. They offered a solution, why not take Christian to Africa where the Adamsons (the couple in the film who raised Elsa and other lions) could help Christian adapt to life in the wild? Of course, Anthony and John thought that the best idea, and soon they were on a plane to Africa with Christian on board.
The story keeps going well for Christian. He adapts to his new life. But the best part is when Anthony and John return for a visit after a year. Christian recognized them and embraced them with a hug that might have scared onlookers, but was only full of love and gratitude for his rescuers. The story gets even better on their second visit a few years later, when Christian anticipates their arrival by waiting on a large hilltop rock the day before their plane was scheduled to land, as if he knew they were coming. When he saw them walking toward him, he ran and gave one last hug to the men who gave him his freedom, then he introduced his pals to his new lioness lady.
Here is the link to the YouTube short video of their first reunion. It’s a very grainy image shot in 1971, but nevertheless is an astounding piece that says something powerful about how love, gratitude and freedom runs deep no matter the species.
Here is a link to an article from Today.com which tells more of the story.