Helen, a blind bison, hadn’t made any animal friends in the nearly three years she has lived at an animal sanctuary in Oregon. That is until she met Oliver, a calf born in February 2017.
For years, Helen the blind bison lived mostly alone. She roamed a field north of Salem, following the sound of her owner’s voice to food and barn.
When she moved to the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary in Scio — the cost of caring for her had grown too burdensome for her owner — Helen had a new, 6-acre pasture to roam, but she spent her time by herself.
And then came Oliver.
Oliver, a four-month-old calf, was born at the Lighthouse Farm Sanctuary from Betsy, a cow rescued from a dairy farm in December 2016.
Oliver runs from the barn to join Helen in the pasture every morning, where they share meals, graze together and nap together in the sun.
Before Oliver’s arrival, Helen would be skittish around the mob of sheep, goats and a blind pig named Luke that share the pasture, said sanctuary executive director Gwen Jakubisin, despite constant efforts to pair her with a “pasture pal” to encourage companionship.
“I catch them grooming each other which is amazing because I don’t think Helen has ever had that opportunity to express that motherly instinct before,” Jakubisin said.
“The change in her demeanor is incredible, her joy is palpable,” Jakubisin said.
Jakubisin likened their relationship to a loving nanny who cares for a baby.
“Betsy usually drops Oliver off at ‘daycare’ and roams around while Helen watches over him for the rest of day, and she’s cool with that,” Jakubisin said.
Jakubisin said their bond is so strong the calf seems to have a physical connection to Oliver’s coloring.
Oliver used to be his mother’s sandy fawn color, but now matches Helen’s smokey brown coloring.
“He’s actually turned into a baby buffalo,” Jakubisin said with a laugh.