Other Voices: Well cared for, loved buffaloes don’t need saving | TheUnion.com

Other Voices: Well cared for, loved buffaloes don’t need saving

Six years ago I purchased two buffalo calves as pets. The bull was named Bill and the cow, Napini, a Choctaw name my Choctaw mother chose. I chose these animals as pets because of my heritage. It was a tremendous pleasure for my family, friends and I to watch them mature.

On Sept. 5, 2008, they surprised us with a beautiful calf. She was born on my cousin’s birthday who had just passed away from a heart attack. His name was Duke. In memory of him, she was named Minko, which means “Duke” in Choctaw. Soon after, I purchased the donkey, Whiskey, a rescue, from my friends, Bill and Katie Gonzales. They all became a happy family.

My pets were always a favorite attraction for visiting friends and relatives. Many pictures and stories went to China, Morocco, Brazil and numerous parts of the U.S.

My animals have always had the space, food, water, shelter and love they need and deserve. Many can attest to that.

A few months ago, I noticed a woman, almost daily, parked at my fence on Dog Bar Road. She was feeding and talking to my animals for two to three hours every visit. I didn’t pay too much attention as they’d always drawn many spectators.

It soon became obvious she was obsessed with the buffalo and donkey. Soon, her husband seemed to be just as involved and they were using my barn and facilities as if they owned them.

I never knew when they were there or not. They seemed to believe they could come and go anywhere, or anytime they wished. I don’t have a clear view of the barn, or road fence from my house.

I’ve had these animals, healthy and content for six years. There was never a problem until they were fed strawberries, melons, apples and other things they hadn’t eaten before. Once the bull showed signs of distress a vet dewormed all of them. Unfortunately, by then it was too late for Bill.

There was already too much damage.

When Bill died, Napini started acting strangely and aggressively. She started tearing up things in and around the barn. I was hoping it would pass, but it didn’t.

I awoke on a Saturday morning to a horn honking at my gate. The gentleman told me my buffalo were loose. I followed him to where they’d been seen last. After a fruitless search I returned home to see how they escaped. The cow had ripped through two fences. She was determined to find her mate.

The three – Napini, Minko and Whiskey – eventually entered an enclosed yard and I thought we had them, but Napini was not going to be contained, and she and the calf bolted through the driveway gate. Whiskey opted to stay. The people around Tiger Tail and Buck Ridge were fantastic during this ordeal.

After a number of days, I stated the animals might have to be put down as a last resort. These weren’t two Yorkie terriers on a stampede. These animals can easily kill a human.

As the days passed, I grew more and more concerned about liability. When Kathy Labelle heard that I may have to put them down, she frantically called and said she would accept responsibility that day.

An agreement was sent to her by Bill Gonzales, via fax, to be signed and returned by 5 p.m. that day. She wasn’t heard from again until my buffalo returned home.

She wouldn’t accept any responsibility while they were a risk, but as soon as they were safely confined, where they’re now content, she claims ownership.

My wife is an officer on the board of directors of AnimalSave. We’ve saved three animals ourselves. I volunteer 20 to 25 hours per week at Hospice. Do we sound like we would abuse our pets?

Gary Dugger lives in Grass Valley.

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