A paraplegic dog and a piglet that fell from a livestock truck have struck up a heartwarming friendship at an animal sanctuary. Winston the golden retriever and Wilma the pig are “inseparable”, according to Charlotte’s Freedom Farm founder Lauren Edwards.
The 37-year-old has spent the past five years providing a safe haven for animals rescued from the farming industry in Ontario, Canada. The five-and-a-half acre site is now home to more than 200 pets, many with health conditions, including pigs, ponies, peacocks and pigeons.
Winston and Wilma met on the farm last September shortly after being adopted separately. “Wilma looked like a puppy in a piglet costume,” said Ms Edwards.
“As soon as I brought her into the house and let her out of the cage, she met Winston and within five minutes they were bouncing around the house and playing together. She would drop her body into him. It was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. They just bonded.”
She added: “She latched on to him. He was the first animal she met at the sanctuary and they were both so young. I think they just made each other comfortable.”
Ms Edwards knew she was destined to work with animals from a young age. She spent much of her youth trying to save insects missing wings and on one occasion skipped playing with her friends to rescue dragonflies injured in torrental rain.
(Image: PA Real Life)
She bought a farm in 2015 and two years later hand-reared her first rescue animal, a lamb called Charlotte. Her penchant for animal care snowballed and by the end of 2019 her two-acre site was bursting at the seams with more than 100 residents.
“I then took in a couple of baby goats and baby lambs and, at one point, I was bottle feeding five of them”, Ms Edwards said. “That’s when I realized rescuing farm animals was what I needed to do. There is only one other farm sanctuary in the area, so there were loads of animals needing somewhere to go.”
Moving in December 2019 to the larger Freedom Farm, which she named after Charlotte, she started seeking out animals with special needs that needed rescuing. Ms Edwards is one of four members of staff at the sanctuary.
Winston arrived in July 2021 when he was eight weeks old. “Because he had no arms, he was struggling to eat and fight for his place with his siblings,” Ms Edwards said.
But the dog’s health problems did not end there. She continued: “Two months after I took Winston in, I realized something was weird about his chest and ribs area. We did x-rays, and they found out he didn’t have a sternum. Overnight, he was no longer allowed to play with his siblings, as he had no protection over his chest if something happened.
“A few days later, someone asked me if I would take in Wilma. She was tiny and it was safer for her to play with Winston.”
(Image: PA Real Life)
Winston and Wilma soon became inseparable and moved into Ms Edwards’ home, where they watched TV together, played in a ball pit and explored the farm side-by-side. There were fears their bond would break when Wilma joined the farm’s other pigs during Winston’s surgery, but the pair sought each other out after his recovery.
“It was really sad as they weren’t able to see each other as much. But I got Winston a Wilma pig toy which he cuddled every night” she said. “Once he was able to go out, he immediately went to see her.
“Now, even in the snow he wants to see Wilma and will go to her gate. Likewise, she always runs over to the gate, when none of the other pigs do, to say hello to Winston. They always have this connection.”
Winston, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, still spends every day with Wilma. Ms Edwards says their heartwarming friendship is so inspiring she is now determined to save thousands more animals.
She said: “I’m living my dream. Being able to help all these animals and to witness all these brilliant friendships is so rewarding. I feel like the luckiest person in the world and couldn’t ask for more.”
She added: “Maybe, one day, I’ll have another 100 acres, so I can take in even more animals.”
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