Rescued Calf Finds Unlikely Friendship After Being Saved From Auction

Susan Klingenberg’s life took an unexpected turn after she saved a small calf at a livestock auction. But when she brought the little guy back to her house, he was greeted by one of her other pets. And while initially Susan had been pretty nervous about how the pair would interact with each other, something quite remarkable happened.

A life-changing decision

Little Buckets Farm Sanctuary/Facebook

Hailing from Maryland, Susan was an analyst in the business sector. She’d stayed at the same firm for over two decades, and something needed to change. With her career in full flow, she made a decision that would go on to change everything — and it was one fueled by pure emotion. This major life event came in 2009.

Susan’s promise

Sadly, Susan’s mother lost her life that year. Before she passed, though, her daughter made a promise: she intended to buy a farm for the family. Apparently, it’s something they’d always spoken about in the past. So, a short time later, Susan fulfilled her vow and purchased a plot of land that was only a few minutes away from her old childhood home.

Huge aspirations

And that’s where Susan stayed for the next six years, looking after a variety of creatures. Yet deep down, she knew that her aspirations would outgrow the farm. While she wanted to create her own refuge for rescued animals, her own estate could only hold so many. In search of a solution, the now part-time business analyst started to scope out a new base of operations.

Making the move

In the end, Susan found the perfect spot, but it meant saying goodbye to the place she’d always called home. Yep, the new farm was located in the state of Virginia. So, alongside her 19 animals, the farmer left Maryland behind in May 2018. So would her leap of faith pay off?

Come on in!

Well, we’d say so! After getting things set up at the farm, Susan began to welcome a whole host of animals in need of shelter. Cats, dogs, horses, goats, donkeys — if they required help, she was more than willing to give it to them. And just a few months on from her move to Virginia, her hard work was recognized in a significant way.

The perfect Christmas gift

Yes, in what Susan saw as the ultimate Christmas present, her sanctuary won non-profit status in December 2018. And since then, the place has only gone from strength to strength. The Virginia resident quit her business analyst role in 2022 to focus all her energy on the animals, while the farm’s social media presence continues to grow.

What’s it called?

The sanctuary boasts roughly 11,000 followers on Facebook. As for Instagram, its audience numbers more than 57,000. And if you’re wondering what Susan chose to call her kind-hearted new venture, she dubbed it the Little Buckets Farm Sanctuary. And the inspiration behind that choice is sure to tug at your heartstrings.

Susan’s Bucket List

Explaining the name, Susan wrote up a post on the Little Buckets Farm Sanctuary website. She recalled, “In 2017 I decided to make a Bucket List. And on that list was going to a livestock auction to save a life.” As she soon discovered, though, attending such an event would have a major impact on her emotional state.

“A really hard thing”

Susan continued, “I knew it was going to be a really hard thing to do because of what I was going to see, and the fact that I couldn’t save them all. I cried in the parking lot going in.” Given her love of animals, that reaction shouldn’t be too surprising. But no one could’ve predicted what happened next — not even Susan!

“The best life possible”

“The calves were first,” Susan wrote. “Once the littlest calf came out, the auctioneer looked right at me. No one bid on him and so I did, and I got him for $10. He was at most a day old. So I literally carried him to the trailer. I’d never raised a calf before, but I was determined to give him the best life possible. I named him Bucket for Bucket List.”

A positive presence

And Bucket’s presence in Susan’s home really had a positive effect. As the animal carer wrote, “He’s been the most amazing animal, friend, teacher, advocate, and so much more. Who could ever have discarded him at such a young age? But that’s what the dairy industry does. He’s one of the lucky ones to be saved and to get to live his life out.”

Choosing the name

That’s what ultimately influenced Susan when naming her animal sanctuary in Virginia: she named it after Bucket. Mind you, when in 2017 she’d first brought the calf back to her Maryland home, a worrying thought must’ve been bouncing around in her head. How would the other animals take to the new arrival? Or more specifically, one furry resident in particular.

“Wing it together”

In addition to those concerns, Susan had also been feeling pretty crummy about the situation Bucket found himself in as they arrived at the house. Speaking  in July 2018 to YouTube channel The Dodo, she noted, “I felt horrible. I knew he’d been ripped from his mom. It was just going to be a long journey. We were going to wing it together.”

Getting comfortable

So, Susan let Bucket into her home. And right away, he zoned in on one of the beds sitting on the floor. The calf got comfy and was fast asleep in minutes. But whose bed had he just commandeered? Well, it belonged to Susan’s St. Bernard mix. Her name is Colton, and she’s a rescue dog.

Playing it safe

To avoid any possible friction, Susan didn’t throw Bucket and Colton together straightaway. Understandably, she erred on the side of caution, and decided to introduce the pair slowly. Yet this wasn’t a surefire approach to success: it still could’ve ended in tears. So how did things go? The charity founder described the animals’ first meeting while talking to The Dodo.






“Nose to nose”

Susan revealed, “I didn’t put Colton and [Bucket] together the first morning. I had a fence between them. And then, they were just sort of going nose to nose.” So far, so good. The Virginia resident continued, “I decided to put them together, and they just started walking around, hanging out together.”

A growing bond

And it soon became apparent that a real bond was building here. As Susan recalled, “Bucket would lay down and [Colton] would just sit down right with him. They were very, very inseparable [for] the first few days.” The duo were so cute together! Their owner had to have been relieved that they had taken to each other so quickly.

Why did it work?

What had made this budding relationship tick? Cows and dogs aren’t exactly a traditional pairing! Susan shared her thoughts on the matter and offered an interesting perspective. From what she was seeing first-hand, Bucket wasn’t really behaving like a baby cow, especially around Colton. Instead, his traits seemed to mirror those of a puppy.

An adorable sight

And that couldn’t have been clearer than when Bucket and Colton played together across the farm. YouTube footage showed it was like watching two dogs having the time of their lives. The pooch cheekily chewed on the calf’s ears as they ran around, getting closer to each other by the minute. It’s safe to say that the animals soon seemed the best of friends.

Watching on…

Susan’s heart must’ve been beaming once she picked up on just how close they’d become: her actions at that livestock auction had made all of this possible. So, instead of intervening, she left Colton and Bucket to their fun. Why break up such a sweet partnership? Yet as the calf got older, the dynamics threatened to change.

“Gonna be a big steer”

Susan touched on that in another video on The Dodo’s YouTube channel in May 2021. She said, “Obviously Bucket’s gonna grow. I mean, he’s gonna be a big steer. It was like, ‘Okay, he keeps getting bigger and Colton isn’t gonna obviously get any bigger!’ I always supervise them together, but luckily, as Bucket grew, their play didn’t change, really.”

A massive shift

“Bucket was very conscious of his size at that point,” Susan continued. “Now, he’s over 1,000 pounds.” She wasn’t exaggerating when she said he’d be a big boy! That makes it all the more remarkable that he and Colton were able to maintain their bond despite the massive shift in size. But Bucket’s part in that can’t be ignored.

“He was adjusting to her size”

As Susan told The Dodo, “As [Bucket] was getting bigger, he started doing this kneeling-down thing. Like, it was to get down to [Colton’s] level. So, he would kneel down, butt in the air, and then they would continue to play. It was just the cutest thing by the fact that you felt like he was adjusting to her size.”

Still nibbling those ears…

Bucket clearly didn’t want to lose his friend, so he put in the work. As for Colton, her behavior around him didn’t change one bit after he’d hit his growth spurt. She still went for his ears without a care in the world. Seems as though there’s an animated Disney movie just waiting to be made about this beautiful, unique bond!

“Just like your pet”

Meanwhile, Susan also shed a bit more light on Bucket’s character during her chat with The Dodo as well. Apparently, he and Colton are practically mirror images of each other. She stated, “Bucket is no different than Colton from a personality standpoint. [He’s] just like your pet. I can call Bucket in the field and he’ll come over. It’s the best feeling.”

Another beautiful friendship

Anyway, that’s not the only wonderful relationship that’s developed on Susan’s farm. In addition to her bond with Bucket, Colton was drawn to another animal living there, too. Her name’s Willow, and she’s a donkey. From the moment that her mother gave birth to her, the dog couldn’t take her eyes off the gorgeous foal. It made for a lovely sight!

Not identical

Since then, Colton and Willow have become really firm friends. But their relationship is a little different to the one that the dog shares with Bucket. For instance, they’re nowhere near as boisterous with each other, even when they’re playing together. There’s no nibbling of ears here! The pair are very gentle and chilled while hanging out around the sanctuary.

“A calming nature”

Why is Colton so good with these other animals, though? Not all dogs are like that! Well, Susan offered an insight on that front. She told The Dodo, “Colton somehow knows when [the animals at the farm] all need a little special loving, and she has a calming nature to her. But more like an older sibling, you know?” Did Bucket pick up on that, too?

“Two peas in a pod”

Speaking of Bucket, it seems only fitting that we end on this note. Reflecting on his unshakeable bond with Colton, Susan said, “[They’re] kind of like two peas in a pod. [It was] almost like they knew each other forever. There were no questions asked in their friendship. It was just there. I just feel like it’ll be a forever friendship.”

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