How a 2,500-Pound Bull Became the Neighborhood Therapist

Buster the Bull is famous around town.

Editor’s Note: America’s Best Pet Pals is a nationwide search for the animal friendships that make you laugh, cry, and purr. Reader’s Digest will be honoring the best in pet friendship in print, online, and on social media. This is a finalist in our “People to Animals” category. Scroll to the bottom to cast your vote for Buster. To see our full list of finalists, go to and vote in each category.

To make things clear, Buster was not my bull. Two weeks after I moved into my new farm, the 2,500-pound bull showed up in my barn aisle. He lived next door, and his pasture (which he’d just escaped from) ran very close to my house. I was afraid of Buster that day, but he soon became my confidant, therapist, teacher, and friend.

Somehow, he knew when I was home and would come to stand next to my house, and we’d talk over the fence. If I had a hard day at work, he heard about it. If something exciting was going on at home, he heard about it. He would stand or lie beside the fence and keep me company, give a knowing glance or breath, and I would feel better. When it was time to end the conversation, he’d turn and walk away. He had impeccable timing. To be honest, I did most of the talking and he did most of the listening, but you probably guessed that already. He was a very patient listener and born to be one: that’s why he had those big ears.

an elderly man pets Buster, the cowCourtesy Wynne E. Smith

One day, he famously escaped his pasture again and went for a walk around town. Many townspeople were afraid, but all he did was stand outside and graze until it was time to get back on his trailer, leaving us all wondering what it was he needed at the Dollar General.

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I began to post photos of Buster on Facebook, and his fame grew. He had admirers all over the country, and even internationally. He was everyone’s friend. One of his oldest admirers’ dying wishes was to meet Buster in person. Although he was very sick, he set his mind to getting well enough to make the two-hour trip to meet Buster and was finally given the green light by his doctor. On that day, Buster, who rarely ate apples except from his own tree in his pasture (he preferred pears anyway), happily ate the apples his admirer brought and posed for photos with a very frail old man who thought the world of him.

Buster eating an apple from a tree; Buster sitting in the grassCourtesy Wynne E. Smith

Last November, Buster himself started to feel ill. He took the medicine the veterinarian prescribed, but it wasn’t enough. He wandered deep into the woods when it was time for him to leave us. We thought he had more time, but Buster knew. My farm and Buster’s owners and admirers will forever have a 2,500-lb hole in our hearts because there will never be another like him. We knew.