When you think of lions, you probably imagine proud creatures stalking through the savanna, baring teeth, with the wind flowing through their manes. In the case of many lions, that’s how it is, but for Guero, it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Guero spent his life — 15 years, which puts him at about 70 in human years — isolated in a cage in Mexico, bereft of medical attention and affection. When he was finally saved by a local animal rescue organization in conjunction with Colorado’s Wild Animal Sanctuary, he was showing signs of physical and psychological distress.

Guero’s story is heartbreaking to watch:

Guero was airlifted to the Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, where he received desperately needed medical treatment. His teeth had been worn down from chewing the bars of his cage, and about two years ago, he’d evidently broken his neck and never received treatment. The doctors worked diligently to repair his teeth and give him medical treatment for his neck — they decided surgery would be too risky for his advanced age.

After recovering in the hospital, Guero was transferred to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, only about an hour away.

The old lion has now been at the sanctuary for a few months, and despite the cruelty he endured, he’s proved to be full of love. He seems to be especially enjoying the company of his fellow sanctuary-dwellers after a lifetime of isolation.

It turns out whipped cream is the true connection between animals big and small.

Guero is elderly, and the staff of the sanctuary estimate that he likely only has a few years left. It’s not long, but the staff is dedicated to making them the most peaceful and happy Guero has ever experienced. “Even if it’s a year he lives,” Director of Animal Care Rebecca Miceli says, “we’re going to make sure that he’s comfortable and happy — good food, soft ground, some grass to play on and some fresh air to breathe. That’s our hope.”

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