North Street Camel: Welcome to the neighborhood, Sheik (VIDEO)
Residents driving down North Street Friday afternoon couldn't help from stopping to make sure their eyes weren't deceiving them.
Yes, that is in fact a camel. His name is Sheik.
And yes, he's going to be sticking around for a while.
"We've already had about 400 to 500 people reach out to us and ask when they can come see him; dozens and dozens of cars have stopped to take pictures, too," said Robb Heering, who left Florida with his 8-feet tall, 1,800-pound pet yesterday and arrived in town today — Friday, April 27 — after 25-hour drive.
Heering and his wife, Stephanie, rescued Sheik from a traveling petting zoo in Florida when he was only two and a half months old.
"He was taken from his mother at two months old, and young camels — especially young male camels — need their mothers," Robb explained. "What they did to him was extremely cruel...he was being mistreated.
"He looked scared and frail, and they were forcing him to sit and be pet," he added. "That's when I decided I wanted to rescue this baby camel and give him a better life."
The Heerings bottle fed Sheik three times a day until he was nine months old.
"We weaned him off of milk and onto grain, hay, carrots, and other goodies," Robb said. "But he still thinks of me as his mother."
Fast forward three years, and he's Ridgefield's new celebrity.
"Jesse Lee has reached out to us about having kids come over and see him," said Heering, an attorney who turned into an animal rescue advocate and camel milk entrepreneur after discovering Sheik.
"We'll probably be having people come over Saturdays, if we're around," he added. "Sheik can be everybody's camel.
The couple, who just moved to a 2.5-acre residence on North Street this week, founded International Camel Rescue (ICR) and Camel Life, LLC.
"I've learned a lot about camel cruelty, and the role of our nonprofit is to educate people are the globe about the cruelty that goes on with these animals," Robb said. "In Australia, they're killed because they can do damage to ranches. They're also killed in parts of Asia and Africa...
"Our little hobby has grown into a global enterprise," he added.
While the Heerings have multiple camel farms in Missouri and Colorado, Sheik is the only one they plan to have in Ridgefield.
"Camels are extremely smart, he responds to commands and when you call him by name," Robb said.
"And he can live up to 50 years so we're putting him in the will," he joked.
Read more of this story in next week's Ridgfield Press.