The Animal Kingdom can be fascinating yet unexpected at the same time, and you never know what to expect next, especially when one animal enters another animal’s territory out there in the wilderness. With so many wildlife parks closing down due to lack of funding, Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park in Oklahoma, has decided to host and become home to all kinds of different animals, as terrifying as it may be. On the one hand it could be a great opportunity for different species to form special bonds, but on the other hand, it could become extremely dangerous.
Meet Bonedigger, the fierce, massive Barbary lion, desperately in need of socialization, who grew up under special circumstances, and Abby, the feisty dachshund pup who can run circles around any mess she makes. How do these two animals’ stories intertwine? Well, the zookeepers certainly weren’t prepared for what happened when the tiny Weiner entered the lion’s enclosure at the park.
To find out how this story unfolds, Click the ‘Begin’ button!
Bonedigger’s Early Days
Bonedigger certainly didn’t have a typical upbringing. When he was first born, disabled animal trainer and big cat enthusiast, John Reinkene brought the cute little cub to live in his own house!
Bonedigger’s only friend was a tiger, aptly named Tony after the cereal mascot. The two would play together as cubs, but Bonedigger was extremely protective of John. If Tony became too playful, Bonedigger was quick to squeal as fiercely as a lion cub can to warn Tony that he might hurt their caretaker. Bonedigger didn’t take well to others, but his budding friendship with John was undeniable. With both cubs getting bigger, it was time to move them off to the Greater Wynnewood Animal Sanctuary.
It was time for Bonedigger to move out. Click ‘Next’ to see how he adapted to his new home.
Moving To The Park
The Greater Wynnewood Animal Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma is doing the work of hundreds of wildlife sanctuaries. With funding low, many sanctuaries are shutting down, but this animal park has been more than happy to take these animals in, and Bonedigger was no different. Thanks to their kindness and generosity, they’ve become a full-fledged zoo, and a major Oklahoma attraction.
They’re home to plenty of diverse residents from big cats, to playful monkey, skunks, kangaroos, birds, bears, and even endangered species! They have tons of interactive exhibits where you can socialize with rainforest animals, tiger cubs and more! But not all of the animals at Wynnewood Animal Park want to be interacted with. In fact, there are a few loners at the park, some that have been too dangerous to socialize. Is Bonedigger one of them?
Click ‘Next’! Bonedigger moves to the Animal Park and some new troubling behavior is brought to light.
Bonedigger, just four months old at time was not one to be trifled with. He was a pint-sized lion with a big cat temper. He would bite, attack the sides of his enclosure and chase strangers out in a stand-off of strength and size.
But maybe Bonedigger’s intimidation tactics were just a sign of insecurity. When he was just four months old, this fluffy-maned lion was diagnosed with a metabolic bone disease, leaving him disabled in comparison to other big cats at the Wynnewood Animal Park. But because of his harsh circumstances, he bonded quickly with John Reinkene, the double amputee who knew firsthand the struggles of being disabled and helped rear this beautiful animal.
A second animal with a fiery temper and fierce gang lives at the Wynnewood Park, giving Zookeepers a run for their money. Click ‘Next’!
Abby and the Gang
Free of enclosures, four dachshund pups ran wild across the paths of the Animal Park. At the food court, they begged off of guests for food, then made their way to the parrots and monkey exhibits to taunt the residents. Then they raced around, under the feet of guests, swerving and viewing other animals just like them, all living at their animal park.
Abby, the leader of this gang of troublesome dachshunds is an 11-pound chocolate pup with a feisty temperament. Although dachshunds are small and cute, they’ll give chase, pull stunts, and make trouble for their owners and unsuspecting family members. If you own a dachshund dog, then you love them, but know to expect the silliest tricks.
A famous Wynnewood zookeeper has a plan for Abby. Click ‘Next’ to find out what he intends to do to get this pup in line!
A Possible Solution?
The face of Wynnewood, Joe Exotic, is a zookeeper among many other things. This cool zookeeper was trying to run for the American presidency in 2016. Now he wants to be the Libertarian candidate for governor of Oklahoma. He’s also a country music artist. You have to hand it to Joe Exotic for having such awesome ambitions. He’s a beloved member of the Wynnewood Zoo team and his opinion is extremely valuable.
When this fun-loving zookeeper first met the four-month-old disabled lion cub, Bonedigger, he decided it would be best to socialize the creature. Unfortunately, there weren’t any other lions at the park to socialize him with and even if there were, it could be risky. Instead he proposed that they introduce Abby to Bonedigger.
Socializing is risky, especially for a big hungry cat like this! Click ‘Next’!
Cats and Dogs
Abby looked like a tasty snack for many of the residents at Wynnewood. In fact, resident Siberian Tigers could gulp her down in one easy bite. This 11-pound dog was merely a treat for a well-behaved big cat, and besides, you’ve heard the saying, “They’re getting along like a bunch of cats and dogs”? Would Bonedigger, who at full weight would be 500 pounds (That’s nearly 45 and a half times the weight of Abby!) ever get along?
Zookeepers were skeptical, but they considered it. After all, Joe Exotic was right, they had to socialize Bonedigger as soon as possible or he would be a nightmare in the future. He may be hostile towards new or unfamiliar zookeepers and guests, which could lead to injuries and a bad ending for Bonedigger. As zookeepers were deliberating, the looked out of Bonedigger’s enclosure and noticed Abby, but what was she doing?
Click ‘Next’! Abby is caught doing something incredible!
While out on one of her morning runs, Abby takes notice of a new resident at the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park. That’s right—it’s none other than Bonedigger who was nearly the same age as her. She was very interested in the lion cub and spent some time relaxing near his enclosure or hanging out with her dachshund buddies at the fence.
Bonedigger seemed to take notice of the puppy that was spending so much time around him as well. Sometimes they’d watch each other or attempt to communicate through the fence. If Bonedigger ever met Abbey would he be friendly or feral?
Another Zookeeper takes Notice of Abby. Click ‘Next’ to hear his side of the story!
The Team Agrees
John Reinkene, Bonedigger’s disabled zookeeper and only friend seemed to notice the same problem. “Nobody else can go in the cage with him. He runs them out, gets aggressive with them,” John said about Bonedigger. The Barbary lion wasn’t very good at making friends, but a peek into the tendencies and behaviors of this species in the wild show that that’s just not healthy.
After a bungee jumping accident gone wrong, John Reinkene lost both his legs and was forced to relearn to walk on prosthetics! This amazing zookeeper wasn’t ready to give up his passion in life, so he persevered through his recovery and the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park was happy to keep him on their team! After spending some time with Bonedigger, he started to notice that Abby had taken a liking to him. Maybe Joe Exotic was right.
But why was a dog possibly the best choice? Is this crazy or genius? Find out when you Click ‘Next’!
A Lion’s Best Friend?
Lions and dogs aren’t necessarily the dream team—or not at least the one we think about, so what in the world was Joe Exotic thinking? Joe Exotic knows a lot about tigers and big cats. Just like John Reinkene. He’s a big cat enthusiast and expert zookeeper.
Dogs are social creatures. They love to play, be friendly, and give their loyalties to other expecting nothing in return. That’s why we love dogs! They’re happy, wholesome creatures who like to run, play, and eat. If anyone has a good chance at befriending the most unfriendly person in the world, it’s a dog. It’s nearly impossible to hate something adorable. And believe it or not, babies are so cute because they use this as a weapon and survival advantage! Dogs are the babies that never grow up!
It’s a stand-off between lion and dachshund when you Click ‘Next’!
A Tense Meeting
Lions are social creatures and have to learn to be social. Now that Bonedigger was soon to become a full-grown lion, the time for him to develop other meaningful animal relationships was now. John Reinkene had his eye on Abby. He noticed the dog knew how to take care of herself, and with any luck, she’d have no trouble around this fierce creature.
The zookeepers put Abby on a leash and slowly walked her into the cage. Another zookeeper held Bonedigger back. The fierce lion cub backed away into John Reinkene’s arms while Abby tugged at the leash, trying to get close the mysterious animal! Despite looking like a yummy sausage, she wasn’t terrified of Bonedigger in the least. Maybe the lion was afraid of her!
The Animals are introduced, but something goes horribly wrong! Click ‘Next’!
Zookeepers decided it was best for Bonedigger to decide whether he wanted to meet Abby or not. They gave the lion cub a little slack and he advanced toward the pup, curious of whether this animal was food or a friend. Abby was extremely hyper. She wanted to get off the leash, jump up and play with her new friend!
Bonedigger advanced towards the dachshund with zookeepers ready to pull him back if he tried anything. He pressed his nose into the pretty pup, then pulled away. The dog howled excitedly, and Bonedigger backed up, producing his best roar, which was, at that time, just a squeak. Knowing that this was a bad sign, zookeepers quickly pulled Abby away.
When zookeepers take Abby in for another try, things get tense. Will this pair ever learn to be friends? Click ‘Next’!
Things are Looking Up
For a second time, zookeepers lead Abby into Bonedigger’s enclosure. By now, the six-month-old lion has calmed down. Zookeepers thought of introducing him to another animal, but they had determined that the other animals under their care may not have as good of a chance with the disabled lion. While they had several big cats, it would be unwise to introduce a disabled big cat into a group of rough and tumble kings of the jungle.
Now they were just hoping to try their luck with Abby one more time. Zookeepers brought the excited dog in who hadn’t been scared off by Bonediggers attempt at a growl. Instead she saw this as playtime. She greeted the cat with a wag of the tail. Bonedigger paced around his enclosure. When she barked, Bonedigger didn’t get spooked.
Click ‘Next’! Zookeepers are on edge when the lion and dog are let loose for playtime!
Crouching Dachshund, Hidden Lion
Things were looking up for the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park zookeepers. Maybe Bonedigger and Abby would become great friends. All that was left to do was see how these animals fared on their own. Abby and Bonedigger were released into an enclosure together. This was a risky exercise and all the zookeepers knew it. No matter how cute, Bonedigger was still a wild animal. One bite out of Abby and she’d be his supper.
Abby rushed over to Bonedigger’s favorite blanket and his toys that zookeepers had set out in the middle of the enclosure. She began to roll and wriggle around on the blanket as bonedigger paced nearby. After a few minutes of them acclimating to the space, Bonedigger quietly made his approach, as if stalking his prey.
Bonedigger and Abby come face-to face. This lion’s next move surprised everyone. Click ‘Next’!
Abby sat up, nudging one of Bonedigger’s toys and looked at the animal. She wasn’t afraid in the slightest but was this merely naiveté or did this dog really know that Bonedigger wasn’t a threat? She watched the lion stalk closer. Zookeepers were moments from calling the whole meeting off. The lion cub’s behavior looked too much like he saw a tasty snack rather than a new friend.
Before they could reach the pair, Abby rushed up the lion and attacked him with sloppy dog kisses. He moved his head away and swatted her with his paw. Abby bounded to the side, the paw swipe glancing off her, as if it didn’t hurt one bit. She began to hop around him, rear end held high in the air, chest pressed to the ground, looking for him to engage her in a game. The lion’s muscles relaxed, and he gave her one big kiss with his giant tongue!
Click ‘Next’! Abby and Bonedigger move into their new enclosure, unfortunately it’s much different than what they’re used to…
A New Enclosure!
Bonedigger and Abby were welcomed into their new enclosure. After all, zookeepers didn’t want to tear the pair apart. Despite the two maturing, their bond hadn’t been broken. It seemed that Bonedigger really cared for Abby and wanted to take care of her.
Before, Bonedigger had been kept in a grassy enclosure when he first met Abby, but now they were in a brown, sandy habitat. It had been decked out with two houses—one for Bonedigger to sleep in and one for Abby. There was even a little observation deck for them to climb up onto. Luckily for Abby, zookeepers had put some of the pooch’s favorite toys in the enclosure.
Zookeepers breathe a sigh of relief, but will Bonedigger like the other dachshunds, Abby’s best friends? Click ‘Next’!
The other dachshunds were mild-mannered compared to Abby. They were all a little rowdy, but Abby ruled over the fantastic four, always in charge of their antics. She was a bit bossy and the other dogs allowed her to cow them around. This posed an entirely new problem for zookeepers.
It was possible that Bonedigger bonded with Abbey because she intimidated him, despite her stature. What happened if the resident lion saw these next three dachshunds as a tasty little offering? While everyone knew that Bonedigger was a bit of a softy, lions are wild and unpredictable animals. You never know what they’ll do, especially around an easy meal. Hopefully with Abby there, the lion wouldn’t hurt the other dogs. They released the dogs and waited to see the big cat’s next move.
Bonedigger meets the other dogs, and tensions are high! Click ‘Next’ or you’ll miss out on the full story!
With John Reinkene and Joe Exotic present, the dogs were released into the enclosure. They happily swarmed around Abby, their best friend and playmate since birth. These dogs, Milo, Bullet, and Angel were unafraid of Bonedigger which was especially shocking because now Bonedigger was a fully-grown lion!
Dachshunds have a big dog complex despite their pintsize nature. They think they’re a lot bigger than they are. They might not look like or bark like big dogs, but they boss each other around and play just like them. Bonedigger was apprehensive to see so much activity in his cage. He was just getting used to the company of Abby, but now that three other dogs were in the cage, he was a little unsure of them, maybe even a little hostile. He growled at them, flashed his teeth and showed his stature.
Will Abby be able to calm her giant friend down? Click ‘Next’!
A Fab Five
Abby was unimpressed by Bonedigger’s posturing. She barked at him, as if yelling at him for being so standoffish. He paced around the cage and avoided the dogs. Unafraid, Abby bounded up in true dachshund style and showered the lion with sloppy kisses. The two played together and Bonedigger calmed down.
During this time, Milo, Bullet, and Angel rushed over and joined in the fun. While Bonedigger seemed a little nervous at first, he immediately warmed up to the three new dogs, giving each of them kisses with his tongue which was easily the size of their heads. While they were an easy mouthful to him, he didn’t see them as prey. This lion accepted their love and companionship. The five friends soon laid out in the sun and relaxed together. High fives were shared among the zookeepers.
Click ‘Next’! What the dogs and lions they do next will make you say “Aww!”
Now Milo, Bullet, and Angel were all fully introduced into the enclosure. They seemed happy to be around their old friend and their new lion pal. They were all eager to test out their new house as well. Come play time, the dogs were more excited than ever to join in the fun!
The dogs loved to chase Bonedigger out across the enclosure, then he would chase them back. If Bonedigger noticed a flea or a bug on Abbey he would try to bite it off, an act of true care and tenderness on his part, as his teeth rivaled the dogs in all accounts. It was also an exercise in trust, but if Bonedigger indicated that there was a bug on their necks or backs, they’d have no problem sticking their necks out for the big cat to nibble at.
Abby pulls a stunt that might jeopardize her relationship with Bonedigger! Click ‘Next’ to find out what she does!
After a while spent in Bonedigger’s enclosure, Abby was comfortable with Bonedigger. Once in a while, one of the other dogs would get to rowdy and upset Bonedigger. He might roar at the pups or chase them around, but he would never get angry. It seemed that he favored Abby and let her get away with things the other dogs weren’t allowed to do.
During feeding time, Bonedigger happily stepped towards a pile of fresh meat. The dogs were called over to munch on some kibble. Despite having their own food, the dogs were keenly aware of Bonedigger’s feast of raw meat. Milo, Bullet and Angel knew there was nothing they could do and kept eating their kibble. The brazen Abby barked, startling the lion from his meal.
Bonedigger is called away from his dinner. What Abby does next will make you gasp and giggle all in the same breath! Click ‘Next’!
Bonedigger approaches Abbey and looks at her cautiously, wondering what it is she’s interrupted both their dinners over. Does she need something? She stretches out her neck, so Bonedigger assumes she has a bug on her. He leans down to bite it off and zoom!
Abby leaves the lion in the dust! She races over to his pile of meat, collecting the biggest steak she can. It hangs down, dragging across the ground when she walks. Bonedigger watches, shocked at what his best friend has done. He watches her lay down with the massive raw steak and try to tear into it. Shaking it off, Bonedigger goes back to his food, hoping the steak will occupy her.
After meeting Bonedigger, Abby changed, and you won’t believe how! Click ‘Next to find out for yourself.
Louder than a Lion
After meeting her lion friend, Abby started to change. This startled zookeepers, but the amazing differences in her behaviors were fascinating. Abby started to exhibit lion-like tendencies. For example, she began to mimic some of the noises that Bonedigger makes.
When lions see other lions, or in Bonedigger’s case, any big cat, like tigers, he does something called Puffing. Puffing is a noise that sounds like a pfft. When lions make this noise, it means they want to create peaceful alliances with other lions. Bonedigger does this to establish his relationships at the park. And Abby learned that all from repeated exposure!
Has Bonedigger learned anything from the dogs? The answer is yes, you’ll laugh at his crazy dog-like behavior when you click ‘Next’!
He’s Like a Dog
Bonedigger has some dog-like behaviors. This swap of behaviors and lifestyle in companion animals isn’t uncommon. We see this between dogs and humans oftentimes. Have you ever seen a dog and an owner that look like they were made for each other? They weren’t made to look like each other even though it’s cute to think. Rather, after we spend quite a bit of time around someone we love, we begin to mimic their facial expressions.
Bonedigger and Abbey mimic behaviors. Bonedigger loves to play like a dog. In fact, John Reinkene says that “When he hasn’t seen me for ages, he gets all excited and runs up to me.” The lion and his zookeeper often cuddle, both laying, Bonedigger’s head resting on John’s lap as he runs his fingers through the lion mane!
Bonedigger and the dogs get separated! What they do next will shock you! Click ‘Next’!
The Weed Eater
The first test of Abby and Bonedigger’s bond came when zookeepers came to clear the weeds out of their enclosure. Up until this point, the four dogs and Bonedigger had never been separated before! And separation was unfortunately inevitable, as the dachshunds had to be let outside of the enclosure. This is because the small dogs with big dog attitudes think it’s a good idea to attack the head of the weed eater!
With the dogs out of the enclosure, it was hard to tell how Bonedigger would react. After all, he’d been friends with Abby since they were both six-months-old and had never gone a day without her since, nor had he missed the other pups since he met them. They’d been this disabled lion’s support for years.
Abby and the dachshunds are let outside of the cage and Zookeepers were not prepared for Bonedigger’s reaction. Click ‘Next’!
During the separation, Bonedigger paced around his enclosure, whining and waiting for his friends to come back. He cried, looking through the fence at his friends. When you’re together 24/7, it’s hard to be apart! When Abby, Milo, Bullet, and Angel return to the enclosure, Bonedigger was ecstatic to see them all again. According to John Reinkene, he counts each pooch to make sure they’ve all returned, then gives them all the cuddles and kisses they missed out on when they were away.
And this is their reunion after only five or ten minutes of separation! Imagine how they’d react if the separation was longer! Also notice now the dogs don’t run off when they’re let loose from the enclosure. They’re equally eager to go see their lion friend. To John, this is a normal occurrence when it comes time to use the weed eater. “Every time we do that, it happens,” he says.
Abby has big ambitions and becomes a Dentist when you Click ‘Next’!
An Aspiring Dentist
Abby and Bonedigger have a strange ritual that you’ll often find the two engaging in. Is it a regular tooth cleaning? Is it a sloppy kiss? We don’t know. Abby and Bonedigger will sit in front of each other and give each other big kisses on each other’s mouths. Some speculate that Abby is trying to clean Bonedigger’s teeth.
While that might sound neat, why is Bonedigger who has a tongue as big as her heard, licking her back? Maybe these animals just really care about each other or maybe they are making an attempt at cleaning each other only to come out smelling like dog breath and whatever lion breath smells like. While we don’t know what they’re doing, there’s not a thread of doubt that it’s a loving and reciprocal gesture between two creatures that mean the world to each other.
Abby learns an amazing trick from Bonedigger. Click ‘Next’ to find out what he taught her!
Have you ever tried to produce a perfect dog bark? One that actually sounds like a real dog? Unless you’ve got a killer party trick, you probably find it impossible. Pretending to have another accent can be difficult, let alone sound like an entirely different animal! Animals all have different vocal chords and humans and dogs are just not made to produce the same sounds.
Abby showed off quite the talent when she mocked one of Bonedigger’s growls! That’s right—dogs and lions have different growls and after hearing Bonediggers a bunch of times, Abby had no problem learning how to mimic the sound! Talk about a talented pup!
Where are they now? A brief look into life at the park for Bonedigger, Abby and the other dogs. Remember to Click ‘Next’!
Where Are They Now?
Today, Bonedigger is nine-years old, and he and the dogs have been together nearly their entire life. Their unlikely bond has been heartwarming for zookeepers and guests alike—a chance to see this disabled lion and the dogs that all look after and love each other. The happy five are still going strong and despite his disability, Bonedigger is still in a healthy condition.
Fortunately, their lovely home, the Greater Wynnewood Animal Park has never been better. Attractions are bringing guests in and making people from all over the world smile. Additionally, the park is making enough money to care for their amazing animals and also take on new ones that are desperately in need of a home! But it seems like the Animal Park will never see another pair quite like Abby and Bonedigger who stole the world’s hearts with one incredible friendship.