Christopher Vane founded the Little Bear Sanctuary in Florida in memory of his late mother, who instilled in him the value of compassion. He has rescued almost 150 farm animals.
When Christopher Vane remembers what his mother, Ursula, used to say in her final years on Earth, he fights back tears. “When I die, I’m going to have a barn up in heaven with all the animals and they’re going to remain with me,” she said.
Sadly, Ursula died just six months before her son founded Little Bear Refuge, a no-kill farm animal sanctuary named after her. (In Latin, Ursula means “small bear.”)
Vane, 58, told TODAY, “She was my biggest supporter.” “She instilled sympathy in me.” She has always had a soft spot for animals. I’m sure she’s keeping an eye on us.”
Little Bear Sanctuary has rescued over 150 animals since its beginning in 2017, many of them from hoarding situations. It now houses 74 pigs (soon to be 75) and 29 sheep, as well as cows, chickens, goats, and a 15-year-old tortoise named Keisha. Abused animals and those saved from slaughter can live out their lives in peace at the no-kill, no-cage sanctuary.
Five rescue dogs like running about and visiting the other residents, who include two donkeys, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, or the pigs Shrek and Fiona — or Shrek the goat.
There’s even an unusual couple: a 1,000-pound Yorkshire pig named Casper and a slim 200-pound potbellied pig named Elvis.
Vane claims he doesn’t have a favorite animal, but he does have a “soft spot” for Willy, a 300-pound pig who was the sanctuary’s very first rescue.
He described him as “quite the character.” “He meets everyone and enjoys belly massages,” says the narrator.
Many people buy pigs as pets, only to give them up when they become “too large.” Willy’s owner had taught him to sit like a dog for goodies before what occurred to him. Willy taught other pigs to sit when they entered Little Bear Sanctuary.
He remembered, “Two weeks later, they were all seated for their reward.” “I’d heard that pigs teach each other things, but seeing it in person was incredible.” It just serves to solidify their intellect.”
Vane wishes that more people were aware of how clever pigs are, as well as the fact that they are designed to be large. Unscrupulous breeders malnourish pigs on purpose and sell them as “miniature” before they reach maturity and their full weight. A couple of Vane’s rescued pigs were underweight due to chronic malnutrition before being saved, and as a result, they developed bone deformities.
“We really have to stop receiving people’s pet pigs because I think it’s become a problem,” he added, saying that the sanctuary receives calls from individuals wishing to surrender their pets on a daily basis.
Vane manages Little Bear Sanctuary with his husband, Randy Sellers, who works full-time as a service consultant for a car manufacturer. They both have a strong affinity for animals and are now vegetarians. Even though Sellers ate fish on their first date, their passion blossomed.
“He’s a huge help,” Vane remarked. “I’m not sure what I’d do without him.”