Sunday, December 28, 2008

...a big cat holiday...

...rhyme to twas the night before christmas...

Twas the holiday season and all through the rescue,
The cats were all roaring and chuffing a few.
Their bellies were full with large meaty meals,
In hopes that all days would give such full feels.

The leopards were snug curled up in their straw,
The tigers all resting not raising a paw.
The cougars in boxes, the bobcats in cedar,
The Christmas decor, it couldn't have been neater.

When out in the center there rose such a clatter,
All the lions started fussing expressing the matter.
Away to the fence line, the tigers they dashed,
Servals went running as if lightning just flashed.

The moon shining bright on the midnight dew grass,
Gave luster of feeding as if the gator would pass.

When what to the cats wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight giant reindeer.
With a little old driver so lively and real,
In a moment they thought 'an eight Christmas deer meal!'

How excited they were, the cats acting tame,
They roared, chuffed, and growel each willing name.
Come to Ula, no to Pecha, to Lester, or Max,
Those deer look tasty, just look at those rax (racks)!

But they didn't land here fore Santa gave whistle,
And away from the center like down of a thistle.
But they heard him exclaim as he made them a deal,
Merry Christmas to all, and tomorrow a huge meal!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

...peek-a-boo with tony...

I went to visit those crazy young cats we just moved, Oti and Tony. They are right near the front gate so just a jaunt away from where we put on new gloves.

They both greeted me with loud chuffs and nuzzling against the fence, acting as though they hadn't had human contact in years! Chuffs, by the way, are a greeting tigers do when they are saying 'hey! whats up!' It is a friendly greeting, very hard to explain....kind of sounds like 'fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh' really fast, no voice, just air sound. Anyways, these guys are so nice and since they used to be the focal point of visitors walking in the gate, their new enclosure does not allow them to see as many people as they used to.

So I greeted them back and scratched their faces through the fence. Oti walked away and into their box. Tony, however, proceeded to walk behind his climbing tower and peeked over. He bent his ears down, even with his head, and peered over the tower. I could only see the top of his fluffy noggin and just a smidgen of his amber colored eyes.

I knew what this meant. A lot of cats at the center LOVE to play peek-a-boo, so I thought to myself maybe Tony does too and we just never knew because there is obviously no where to hide in a circus cage, especially when you are a 400 pound cat! What we do, for all the cats who will play, is go up to the fence (just like with little kids) and say 'Where is Tony?! Where could he be....TONY!!' Then normally the cat will jump from where they are hiding and barrel into the fence, chuffing the whole way to you. It really is quite cute!!

So I did just that. I took a step from the door and turned around pretending to be looking for him....his eyes just following me.

I saw his head raise up.
I turned around....he ducked down just peering.
I looked the other way....he raised his head up again.
I pretended to leave.
Tony jumps over the climbing tower and rams into the fence.
Greeting me with nothing more than a LOUD chuff!

It was so cute. You almost expected him to be wagging his tail, tongue hanging out, and smiling with delight, as if he were a dog.

chuff. chuff. chuff. the old cage before peek-a-boo!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

...oti & tony, homeward bound...

Oti (2) and Tony (3) are two tigers waiting eagerly for a new enclosure! The rescue center received a phone call Labor Day regarding a black leopard (Majae) who needed a new home. On arrival, Joe (owner of the center) decided we would not only rescue Majae, but a lion (Kira), a cougar (Cody), and two tigers (Oti & Tony). ...oti relaxing in the old cage...
The conditions these animals were in was the worst the rescuers had seen in years, if ever. The cages were small, the floor covered in rotted and decaying carcasses, so decayed it was hard to tell what they were given to eat in the first place. Their water bowls were dry with dust on the bottom, evidence they had not received water in days.
Although badly starved and severely dehydrated, the owner of the cats seemed to not be alarmed as she parked her BMW in the driveway, neglecting to fill the several dry dishes outside.

Rescues like these are very heart-felt, it really makes you proud of helping these cats. They have all since been fattened up with proper diets and several medicated, even gone through surgery. Cody went to a sanctuary in Minnesota, but Kira, Majae, Oti, and Tony still reside at the center, however, Oti and Tony are still awaiting their new enclosure!

Can you believe it takes anywhere from $15-20,000 for initial cage costs!? Not including the time it takes to build one and all the donated supplies from friends of the rescue center! On Wednesday, their wish came true, and although we had to play musical cats, they finally received their new home!
It was a long day of trying to shift four cats into new enclosures. Seminole and Santasia had to come out of a temp cage and into a brand new one...Seminole shifted easily, jumping immediately into the circus cage and driven 1/4 mile to his new home, Santasia was a different story. It took her 3 hours to get into the circus cage! When we finally did move her she was so distressed, but very, VERY happy to be back with Seminole and to meet new neighbors (a couple of lions and a group of 8 frisky tigers!).

It took 6 of us to roll Oti & Tony (already living in a temporary circus cage) to their new site and we opened the door.....THEY SHOT OUT! They jumped right out and ran around their small, but better than a cage, new temp home. They played with their boomer ball, jumped on their tower, and ran after each other. It was AWESOME to see them running and playing....well worth the wait!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

...the nine...

Since my blog is about my big cat experiences, I will follow the outline of my previous posts and stick with....big cats!

'The Nine', as we call them, are a group of nine tigers all in one huge enclosure, fully furnished with 2 1/2 boxes, an electrical spool, and a pond! They are from several different rescues, but because of their young and close ages when they arrived, they ended up together as well
This is one of my favorite groups to feed just because they create so much commotion before being fed! They moan and they groan and they chuff....sounding more like a herd of cows than a group of tigers! They climb around on their boxes and even play a game of leap-frog, jumping over each other to see who can get out first to get the 'big thing'.

The big thing is the large part of the meal. With large groups,like The Nine, they will get a big thing and several small chunks strewn about their enclosure, making sure that every cat at least gets one chunk. However, a chunk is probably 3 times the size of a normal dinner pot roast for us!

The nine are all very different. You might think all tigers look the same or even how we tell them apart. Well, their stripes are like finger two humans have the same fingerprint, thus no tiger has the same stripe pattern. Many of them are big (really big) and many are smaller. Some are timid and some are aggressive, some are very lovable and others would just like to 'eat you for dinner'.

Anyways, The Nine include: Beaker, Rose, Taj, Denkum, Jesse, Emily, Pda and two is really hard to know their names and which cage they belong to!

So today I took a movie of The Nine exiting the shoot to get food!...this is what I like to call a good game of leap-frog!

Monday, December 1, 2008

...oh the lions!...

So I have come to the conclusion that the lions are definitely, DEFINITELY, not my favorite breed of cats. Sure they are pretty and noble looking, but many are just rotten! I have not met one yet that I can say I like.

Sure I feel terrible looking at their scars from previous owners or their short legs, stubbed down by deformities from malnutrition, but sometimes I just wish that they would take a little more consideration into what the workers feel...ha, never going to happen.

I would say there are, hmmm, give or take 40ish lions at the rescue center. And I ask no questions why they are there, because you can surely tell why one would never want to keep them as a pet! WHY?!
Clancey is very annoying, always trying to stalk you and being more than difficult to shift sides (especially for females...he really dislikes girls!). Rake, is so food aggressive he never thinks twice about whapping one of his 5 harem lionesses. King is nice, until he decides he doesn't want to be. Tao is just obnoxious. Of course these are the males, but frankly...the females are no better example!

Rappie sounds like some sort of machine, loud semi-truck, harley revving lion. That is just her normal breathing. When you look at her she rumbles, her breath taking a misty, fog state and blows into your face. The Southern Belles, a group of 7 lionesses, are so slow and spoiled. They always stick their paws out of the smallest cracks and try to paddle your leg with their claw paws....a paddle, by the way, is like getting hit with force by a boat paddle, not just an easy stroke through the water.

I'd have to say Kisa, would be the closest one that I like. She lives with Max, a male of the largest at the center (about 600 pounds). She loves to have rubs through the fence, but will get very upset when Max comes to get some attention too. She roars her stinky breath in his face. It is so funny to see 600 pound Max shrug back and jump away from this neurologically impaired Kisa!

I am sure a lot of their temperment is because they are lions and tend to be more aggressive and territorial in the wild. Many of these traits also show when they are in captivity.

It really is amazing, the noises these beautiful cats make. When they roar, when the growl, even when they grumble, it rattles your chest. It seriously vibrates all your insides. I would say it is something everyone should experience once...hearing all the commotion that is!

I do like the lions: the roars, their mane, the prides they form. I suppose I should just be more specific in saying I just do not enjoy their attitudes.

parker & tao


rake & wedge (2 lions)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

...the grim reaper at the foot of my bed...

Well, he wasn't here to take me away.
And in fact, I didn't even see him, just smelled him.

You may ask what exactly I am talking about...well what I mean is... is laundry day!!!....

See my clothes reek. As I have previously stated, I work with big cats. I clean up their poop, feed them raw meat, and also help/assist/haul butchered meat....along with the occasional tiger spray or gutting incident. This job is messy and, as you can guess, extremely fragrant when I arrive home.

Laundry is a job. Cleaning your clothes everyday is pointless, especially when they are going to get just as dirty and smell the same everyday. Nine layers of clothes: underarmor, then tight longsleeve, tank top, tshirt, long sleeve loose tshirt, tighter non-hooded sweatshirt, fleece, hooded sweatshirt, and vest are a lot to wash day after day. Yes...the smell seeps to the very bottom layer too!

So what I do is take the nasty, dirty layer off at work and leave it in the single wide trailer (where everyone else does too) to let them dry and wear my other eight layers home, separate them, and let them air out a little. I wear the under layers for about a week and the top layers for 3-4 days depending on how stiff the caked on mud/blood/gut juice/dry water is on my have to have some mobility!

I didn't used to leave my clothes at work. I actually used to put them on the chair in my room. They smell awful and when I said the grim reaper was at the foot of my bed, I actually meant that my clothes smelled dead. I now only put my layers in my room, right next to my air freshener. Problem solved.

Anyway, today I did laundry since I got the day off. You wouldn't believe it but my clothes actually come out almost spotless! Seriously, Tide does wonders!

believe it or not this was 2 day wear on the pants and only one on the sweatshirt.

Friday, November 21, 2008

...communicate through roars...

So around here there is always something to talk about. Lions are always roars and the rest roar all around the rescue center. It is pretty cool...I really like being part of all the fuss...

This week was busy. Tuesday was a long day (probably pushing 10 hours!) and was full of feeding, cleaning, putting up christmas decor around the main path, and many animals for butchering. Every other day has been just as long...8:30 am - 6ish pm.

About this butchering...I wasn't so keen on this in the beginning...swearing up and down (to myself, of course) that I would not help with the process. Number one reason, when the chest cavity is cut open it smells just rotten (seriously, your head is right there and I would rather not be shot in the face is steamy, moist air). When I say rotten, I mean like stagnant, old sweet corn, mixed with chewed cud, digested intestinal air that really puts a gumball size knot in your throat. However, Ive gotten used to this smell (even without having to use vicks to mask the smell). Second, I guess it just took some time for me to realize that we were not killing these animals. They die from natural causes (pneumonia, cancer, age, weather) and if they were not used as meat for the cats they would probably just be buried and decompose in some field pit with other cows. It helps that you never see them alive. But we got 13 animals in to butcher! Although it sounds morbid, it is really great we have so much food for the cats! The weather has been warm, then cold, then rain, then cold which makes farmers cows and horses just keel over. Butchering is actually quite interesting. Ive gotten to see a lot of anatomy. Really BIG anatomy. The size of a draft horse liver...HUGE! Lungs of a bull...HUGE! You just have to get used to it, take a deep breath and hope for an exhale, not an upchuck.

Besides that, I stepped in some cow poop (which really stunk), gave all 191 cats meds, wiped out on a cow leg in the cooler, and picked up a whole load of guts off the floor and held them in the bobcat so we could dump them in the compost....never really held up guts before, but it was defiantly something new and experience worthy. Gotta say this is no job for the weak at heart, squirmy stomached, or slacker.

Our favorite cougar Cody left on Tuesday...he was rescued with a group of 5 other cats and was claimed by a sanctuary in Minnesota. It was sad to see him leave since he has been living in the building since labor day. Every time you went near him he purred so loudly it sounded like a truck. He also LOVED to be pet and rubbed! It is awesome being able to pet a big cat.....something Ive dreamed of my whole life! Simply amazing.

A leopard, Angle (angel), also passed away this week. She passed on her own, without euthanization. She was very skinny and had had a very hard life previous to the rescue center. Atleast she was comfy in a warm straw bed, with a huge chunk of meat in front of her.

close up of cody!

cody relaxing.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

...and it begins...

Well, we left on time....
Perfectly packed by Don.
Eight hours later, dinner, cars unpacked, room set up...
....and I'm alone.....

First days are boring. Settling in and finding a spot for all my warm clothes, is redundant. Grocery shopping the same in every town, city, and state around. I mapped out my stomping ground and set up my internet/cable tv (hey! no cable at home and slow net...sure its one of the first things i did!!!) A slow and relaxing day in a schedule that would become very demanding, cold, and llllooonnnnng.

I don't work Mondays, every other day give and take. But Tuesday was great. My first day was cold and rainy but ultimately all of what I had expected: dirty, wet, cold, and SPECTACULAR! It consisted of hauling a lot of meat to the near 200 'big' cats at the rescue center: tigers, lions, cougars, servals, ocelets, bobcats, lynx, etc. Let me tell you, cleaning enclosures is a sinus clearer.

There is a baby at the center, a baby serval. He is very cute and very fluffy...looks more like a baby cheetah rather than a serval. I can't wait until we can play with him. For now he is bottle fed and kept away from keeper staff so he doesnt get any infections before he is vaccinated.

here is the new boy with jean.