The folks over at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham knew they had a great one in Max, the steer.
The big guy arrived as a three-week-old calf in October 2007. They knew he touched a lot of visitors with his affinity for giving kisses and getting scratches, but they didn't know exactly how many until they reported over the weekend that Max had died.
"We’ve posted many times when animals die. Every time is hard. Some times are very hard," wrote Sherry Samuels, the museum's animal department director, in a blog post on the museum's website. "This is one of those times for so many people. Keepers arrived this morning to find Max dead. This was unexpected as all appeared fine Saturday."
Immediately, the kind words and thoughts for Max started rolling in on social media and in comments on the museum's website.
"Max would ALWAYS come over for shoulder skritches, and I really felt like he *knew* me. I’m really gonna miss his larger than life presence and his wonderful nature. My heart goes out to everyone who knew him even better than I did, everyone who will miss him, everyone who found a friend in Max. We’ll miss you, buddy," wrote one museum visitor.
"When my kids were learning to talk and wanted to go to the museum, they would say that they wanted to go to see the 'cow' (we thought they were a bit young to correct their terminology), and when we now practice the alphabet, 'M' is for 'Max.' He will be truly missed by our entire family and by many of our friends and relatives who have come to visit Durham and left with fond memories of the museum and, especially, Max," wrote another.
Another called Max "an institution."
"We rubbed his nose just yesterday," he wrote. "My son will be devastated. We are so sorry for your loss. The big ranch in the sky just got a good one."
Some friends of Max have even taken to sharing pictures or drawings with museum staff and donating to the museum in Max's honor.
"Max is a huge loss for all of us and will certainly be missed," the museum's Leslie Pepple tells me. "He was certainly one of a kind."