Saved By Love: How The Life Of This Abused And Dying Lioness Was Spared
When Sheila the rescued lioness was brought to a facility, she immediately captured the attention of everybody she met. The big cat had a heart of gold, gorgeous blonde fur, and a unique personality, as well as a fierce demeanor.
Unfortunately, Sheila was riddled with a horrible condition that could lead to her demise. Love, like it often does, not only saved her life but also changed it.
Sheila Was Rescued And It Saved Her Life
In July 2009, The Department of Agriculture rescued Sheila after the successful launch of an animal rights campaign. As with other animals that are rescued, they were at the hands of horrible mistreatment but were able to get a second chance at life by being in wildlife sanctuaries. The Department was hoping that Sheila would experience the same results.
Luckily, Sheila’s new life would last for a few more happy years post-rescue. Although, that happiness seemed like it wouldn’t last too long. She appeared to not care about living anymore and it’s as if she wanted it to end. Why was this?
She Had Been Experiencing Poor Health
Other than resting and breathing, Sheila was simply too weak to do anything else. Malnourished and underweight, the vets were gravely concerned about her ailing condition. They watched over her and she lay dying and knew there would be only one outcome.
The question wasn’t “if,” but “when”? Nobody could do much about Sheila’s fading splendor and it’s clear that she was undeserving of this fate. Naturally, watching this animal’s life fade away would have been heartbreaking for anybody to witness.
Like Many Animals, Sheila Had Been Exploited
Forced to work in the entertainment industry in Texas, Sheila was merely a money-making tool for her abusive handler. And, as is usually the case, she was discarded when she became weak and worn down, unable to make her handler more money.
It’s a horrible and upsetting fact that stunning animals like Sheila would often be worked (in some cases to death), then simply thrown away like trash when they no longer serve a purpose for profit. She suffered immensely at the expense of her handler’s greediness, and, was left for dead after many grueling years of being overworked and mistreated.
Sheila's Agility Had Declined Over The Years
Sheila had been trained since, she was a young cub, to serve as the source of entertainment for a high society crowd who would marvel and cheer at her remarkable agility. However, none of that remained after she was rescued.
She had lost her coordination and her cat reflexes had disappeared. Her legs shook whenever she moved and she had to be fed by hand. Even to reach into a bowl of food, the weight of her head was too heavy to lift.
Stolen Animals Are Common In The U.S.
The Department of Agriculture had never come across a case as awful as Sheilas, but what happened to her is not an anomaly. Approximately two million pets are stolen each year and, for example, some are put into puppy mills so that their offspring can be turned for profit. They are sold at pet stores all over the world and pet sellers make large sums of money off of them.
Having been in the entertainment business her entire life, Sheila was subjected to performing nonstop. When she wouldn’t meet the outrageous standards of her handler, she was tortured. Unfortunately, the show must go on. As long as money is on the table, cruelty is the name of the game.
An Animal Welfare Organization Stepped In
Sheila’s recovery was getting grimmer and grimmer according to the Department of Agriculture. So, their only option was to turn her over to an exotic wildlife rescuer and education center called In-Sync. Sheila was welcomed with open arms, and they also knew that her chances of survival did not look good.
Determined to not give up on Sheila, In-Sync knew that euthanization was not out of the question. If she was going to survive, she needed an abundant outpouring of love and care to save her life.
She Was Experiencing A Loss Of Appetite
In-Sync’s course of action was to feed Sheila with essential vitamins to help give her immune system a much-needed boost. Despite this plan, Sheila wouldn’t even touch her food but turned her back on it. She didn’t have a any appetite and would just lay inside her cage.
Sheila’s caretaker resorted to reaching in and feeding the meatballs to her directly. Full of perseverance, her caretakers would do anything to try and get her strength back.
The possibility of euthanization hovered overhead like a shadow. As she couldn’t even stand on her own, it seemed like the most humane course of action. As Sheila regained some of her weight, they focused on getting her to walk.
When she tried to take a few steps forward, her legs gave in. Her whole skeleton was riddled with broken joints, and she was clearly in pain. It must have been tough to watch her suffer so much.
End of the Road
The vets did what they could to restore the lioness to good health, but Sheila’s health worsened over time. One day, she just dropped. She was dead to the world.
The hand-feeding no longer worked, either. The food they stuffed down her throat just came up minutes later. The vets were convinced that she was untreatable and that her recovery was impossible.
Despite their close care for Sheila, nothing seems to work. Her condition worsened each day. It was frustrating to the vets. They were pressed to make the final decision: to put her out of her misery.
An animal so beautiful and innocent deserves to go in peace, at least with dignity. It must have broken the staff members’ hearts in those final days. Maybe it’s what Sheila wanted too.
A Rare Beauty
What a waste it was to let go of such a beautiful animal, deprived of life’s joys practically from the day she was born, exploited to the point of suicide.
They must have contemplated the life Sheila could have had in South Africa, where buffalos and impalas, and other beasts run wild. Her life might have been very different. They made one final check, in preparation for her last treatment.
Last Minute Discovery
The In-Sync vets were tipped off by Sheila’s wobbliness and lack of coordination. They crossed-referenced these symptoms with signs of muscle deterioration and lymph node swelling and came up with a diagnosis.
They discovered that she had toxoplasmosis. This, along with a Vitamin A deficiency, explained her lackluster color and overall bad health. She had parasites in her bloodstream, which had been denying her an appetite.
Poor Animal Hygiene
Now that the vets had discovered the root cause of her suffering, Sheila’s doctors scrambled to get her medicated, but time was of the essence. The presence of parasites in her blood was just another reminder of the neglect her previous owner had given her.
Her meals must have been exposed to bacteria, served in a dirty environment, perhaps mixed with the waste of other animals. All this time, her immune system had been under attack by microscopic invaders, which were slowly killing her, sucking out her life force.
But just because they’d found a solution, the treatment wasn’t going to be an instant fix. Sheila was ever distrustful of humans, not surprising considering her history. Getting her to take medication was a constant challenge.
They had to strategize on how to get Sheila to take her antibiotics. These antibiotics were essential in helping her to overcome severe bacterial infections. This seemingly-simple task sometimes took an hour to complete. Sheila may have been weak, but she was huge and unyielding in her stubbornness.
Road to Recovery
Once they took effect, Sheila reacted positively to her new medication, which then became easier to deliver. After a while, she began to get used to her new carers. The glow of her coat gradually reappeared and would occasionally be seen moving around the corners of her enclosure.
The lioness was looking better each day. The doctors watched her development with pride. The bounce in her steps returned, and her muscle pains slowly disappeared. Sheila became happy and stable, probably for the first time in her life.
Once she was on the right road, her recovery time exceeded even the highest of expectations. One day she was just finding her footing, the next, she was bouncing around like a rabbit with an extra wiggle on her hips.
Her coat was shining once again, and her eyes were clear. She glared at her handlers as if boasting about her strength. She was ready to play. The staff of In-Sync Exotics watched with cautious optimism as they continued to feed her food and medicine.
Take To Each Other
In her darkest hours, while she battled an infected bloodstream and fading eyesight, Sheila could never have imagined herself running free in the wild with her kind. She was simply too sick and dispirited. Life was not worth living.
The antibiotics killed the bacteria that infected her system, but her spirit still needed repair. As she was moving into the final stages of her recovery, she made a meaningful connection with her neighbor in the next enclosure.
Finding Her Inspiration
Sheila gradually filled out following her treatments, and eventually, she caught the eye of a certain someone. That certain someone was Kahn, a handsome six-year-old lion who had been rescued four months earlier. He’d also suffered similar traumas.
A primal connection was forged between the two as they recovered under the care of the In-Sync staff. The staff dished out pills and medication, but it was Kahn that really pulled Sheila back to her full strength.
In-Sync inadvertently played the role of matchmaker for these two. A bond grew between them that surprised everyone. Even the veterinarians couldn’t believe it, but it’s not that difficult to understand when you think about it.
Kahn had suffered a similar fate as his neighbor. He, too, had been mistreated and demeaned in the animal entertainment industry. He was thrust in the spotlight, used, and discarded just like Sheila. Ultimately he was lucky. He was rescued and, by the time he met Sheila, back to good health.
Things in Common
Both Kahn and Sheila had been rescued from irresponsible owners. They both came into the facility in bad shape. Perhaps the lion had become a symbol of hope to Sheila, that she could shed troubles just as Kahn had. His presence was all the proof she needed.
They both found each other at their lowest moments. Both of them had been dragged across the country for profit, for shows and photoshoots. If people can find comfort in each other this way, why not big cats?
Kahn must have seen the lioness’ scars the day she was brought inside the sanctuary, both physical and mental. Kahn used to be beaten up too. He must have understood her pain and growled a roar of empathy.
Seeing her must have transported him back to his own harrowing experiences of constant hunger and living under constant attack. Kahn was at least a hundred pounds underweight when he was rescued.
Even as Kahn recovered, there was something visibly wrong with him. His growth had been stunted after being cooped up for such a long time. Not only was his size stunted, but he had been severely malnourished too.
Kahn survived those horrible conditions, but his health paid the price – both physical and mental. No one else could relate to Kahn quite like Sheila.
When Kahn wasn’t forced to perform balancing acts, whipped, or sent back and forth across a firing range of camera flashes, he was kept inside a barren cage, barely able to move. There he would defecate and urinate in the same spot as he ate his meals.
There he would become highly anxious, being unable to exercise or walk around. He developed a habit of gnawing on his tail as a coping mechanism. The tip of his tail was severely scarred and halfway chewed off.
Kahn’s violent past made him difficult to handle during his early days in the facility. He had no friends. As far as he was concerned, all the humans around him were predators, exploiters out to shame and hurt him for reasons beyond his comprehension.
It goes without saying that Kahn was aggressive. Interaction was difficult and dangerous. His carers felt under threat even when they approached to deliver his food. Their main challenge was to convince the lion to trust them. It took time, but he eventually began to accept them.
Settled in a New Environment
After a while, Kahn realized that the staff at the facility had only good intentions. The old suspicions he had developed from his life on the road gradually gave way to trust. He had become clean, comfortable, and well-fed.
His health problems had cleared up. He struggled to take all this in at first. He was in a new world of care and love, antithetical to the one he grew up in. Kahn had found a new home at last.
Kahn gained the confidence to explore this new world, full of better-natured humans. The staff built a staircase so that he could go up in his den if he pleased, where he would seek shelter if the weather wasn’t to his liking, or to sleep or play.
From there, he observed the facility’s other inhabitants. Some of them were in their own enclosures playing, others were still in recovery. It was from that perch that he first saw Sheila. He immediately empathized with her, and a new friendship was formed.
Effects and Reactions to Trauma
At certain times of day, Kahn and Sheila would walk beside each other like perfectly social creatures with only a fence separating them. They got to know each other as they walked about, learning each other’s traits.
Their friendship was initially built on sharing the same hardships, and although they both had different reactions, in the safety of the sanctuary, they bonded over the shared experience.
The In-Sync staff was amazed by what they saw. This was a treatment that went beyond what antibiotics or other medications could offer. They realized that something special was at play between Kahn and Sheila. Khan had truly brought Sheila back to the land of the living.
As their friendship grew day by day, the staff decided that it was time for the pair to take their relationship to the next level. They gave them their own space in a newly constructed enclosure.
The Sweet Couple
From the beginning, Kahn has been an essential part of her recovery. First from a distance, then up close, and finally intimately. Their friendship developed into something more as the days wore on. A quick glimpse into their enclosure would reveal playful activities and, sometimes, kisses.
Their bodies, chemically charged, exuded pheromones to attract and to give encouragement. Their pain had broken at last. After all the fear and suffering of their past lives, love made it all bearable.
In the small community where Kahn the lion and Sheila the lioness now belonged, their success story became a symbol of all the sanctuary hoped to achieve: a desire for love to win out over fear.
Now that they were sharing space, the vets made sure the lioness was spayed in order to avoid unplanned breeding. As cute as cubs would have been, they could not afford happy accidents, as the cubs would not survive in the wild, like their parents.
The Big Day
After ninety days of dating, the carers at In-Sync Exotics finally decided to let them have their own little “marriage” ceremony.
They were given their own enclosure on a permanent basis. Their handlers noticed, much to their delight, how Kahn politely let Sheila be the boss in their relationship.
For the first time in their lives, they were happy and healthy. They spent their days playing and snoozing on one another. Kahn was in every way a gentleman to Sheila, an ideal partner who didn’t mind giving her a certain degree of control.
Kahn didn’t like other lions ogling at his blonde wife, and she didn’t mind her husband being jealous. Just look at her with her feet up! What a beautiful, relaxed couple.
Sheila was robbed of her cubhood and thrown into forced labor as soon as she was born. Sheila would sometimes become engrossed in her playtime, amusing herself with cardboard boxes like a baby. She’d never experienced this before, learning for the first time how it feels to be free.
Other lions would watch as she tossed her box around. Kahn didn’t like this. He would roar at them to scare them off. This must have been music to Sheila’s ears, knowing she was taken care of and loved like never before.
Fate of Abusive Owners
Owning exotic animals is a controversial matter. But there is no doubt that cruelty and abuse are involved, of the same kind that Kahn and Sheila suffered. Their previous owners were banned from the ownership and management of wild animals or domesticated pets for life. Of course, others are still out there.
But thanks to animal rights activists, these abusers were slapped with legal penalties. Depending on the court’s judgment, they may also be given mandatory prison sentences. It’s safe to say that they won’t be showcasing wild animals again.
Happy Ever After
Sheila the lioness should have died given her suffering. It was the cruelty of humanity that put her at death’s door and the kindness of humanity that saved her. However, above all else, it was love that brought joy back into her life.
She miraculously lived on another day. Now she’s better than she’s ever been. If their story tells us anything, it’s that life can be so beautiful, even after prolonged suffering and pain. With a little time and love, we can still be whole again.