A giraffe gave a lick to a dying zoo worker whose last wish was to visit Blijdorp Zoo in Rotterdam, Netherlands, where he had taken care of animals for 25 years.
Mario Eijs, who is mentally disabled, suffered a brain tumor and was practically unable to walk and to speak when he expressed his last wish to pay a final visit to the co-workers and animals he loved.
After the 54-year-old was brought to the enclosure of giraffes on a stretcher provided by the Dutch Ambulance Wish Foundation, one of the zoo’s giraffes reached down and nuzzled Mario for a goodbye kiss.
“These animals recognised him, and felt that (things aren’t) going well with him,” Kees Veldboer, founder of the Ambulance Wish Foundation – which transported Mario to the zoo – told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad. “(It was) a very special moment. You saw him beaming.”
“It was very nice that we were able to work on the last wish of this man,” Mr Veldboer added.
Apart from saying goodbye to the beloved animals, Mario also had the opportunity to chat with his collegues he had known for more than 25 years for one last time.
The Ambulance Wish Foundation, founded back in 2007, has 200 volunteers who help to turn the patients’ last wish into reality by transporting them in special ambulances.
The story of a tender giraffe’s kiss is not the only case in which animals feel illness in humans, no matter if they suffer from conditions with visible symptoms or not.
One of the most prominent examples is a labrador retriever’s story who, back in 2010, was trained to detect people with bowel cancer and other dogs have been taught to identify people with lung cancer.
Moreover, according to a study conducted in 2007 and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, there’s a cat that could detect people dying of terminal illnesses at a nursing home. Oscar, that’s how the animal is named, stood by 25 people until their last moment, which allowed the physicians to spot patients who only had several hours to live.
The charity offered the zookeeper the chance to say his farewell not only to his colleagues, but also to his favourite animals that kept him company for the past 25 years.
“Mario got a lick on his nose after a lot of snuffles,” Foundation worker Olaf Exoo said in a written summary of the day.
Exoo said it was “a last greeting to each other that gave everybody watching goose bumps.”