February 27, 2012 - June 30, 2017
Loving Adoptive Parents: Gary, Debbie, Alexandra, and Justin Valdata – TX
Loving Sponsor: Jaisi Jiles - Anchor, IL
When 5 year old lion Mwali passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, the loss that CARE experienced was overwhelming...and so was the outpouring of love from everyone whom Mwali had touched in his young life. Because of how many people who were deeply impacted by him and his death, we could not just tell one story to memorialize Wali. We chose to include many stories from the people who worked with Mwali and knew him best. The below intern graduates, volunteers, board members, and CARE staff all took to social media following the announcement of Mwali's passing and posted their #MwaliMemories in an effort to come together from wherever they were to remember one of CARE's most iconic and lovable animals who left us far too soon.
Nicole Wahler: I still don't have words to explain the heartbreak of this loss. You were so young, so full of life. The last time I left CARE I would never of thought it would be the last time I would see you. You will forever be in everyone's hearts, the most beautiful lion I have ever seen, Mwali💕
Rachel Rossetti: As excited as I was to come to Maine I never wanted to leave the people and animals of CARE behind. The day I left, heidi and I talked about this, she knew how hard it was going to be and gave me a life lesson. No matter how long you'll be gone or how far away you'll be always say goodbye to your loved ones. Always say I love you. You never know when it will be your last. That night I went around to every single enclosure and said goodbye, I'll miss you, I love you, be good, and I'll see you soon!
As naive as it sounds while I was gone I pictured CARE to stay in a bubble, a bubble where nothing changes. So when I got back it would be like I never left. So I was in complete shock when I heard the news.
Mwali, you were our win. I'll never forget how many sleepless nights heidi sacrificed, researching to figure out why you stopped eating. Day in and day out hand feeding you and packing the ground meat full of vitamins. When you finally starting acting like yourself we would look at you with amazement, tears in our eyes and then look at each other.
I'm so sorry I wasn't there to say a final goodbye Mwali. I'm sorry I'm not there for Noel and all of the other babies grieving because the king is gone. I'm sorry I'm not there for Heidi. The one who sacrifices everything. It doesn't seem real.
I will miss everything about you, Mwali. Your stubbornness to lock up, how your mane smelled when it rained, your absolute beauty beyond any male lion I've ever seen. I'm so grateful to have gotten to help take care of you ❤️
Samantha Donth-Hancock: I am very rarely found without words, but here I sit mourning the loss of our Mwali and all I can think of are the broken hearts of every person who Mwali touched. Noel has lost a soulmate, Araali and Zuberi have lost a magnificent father, Heidi Berry-Krahn, Derek Krahn and family have lost a son/brother and CARE has lost our King. You will FOREVER be in our hearts and souls. Rest peacefully our dear king for you are loved.
Gary Valdata: My heart is literally torn in two pieces as yours is Heidi and the others in CARE's family. God creates life. Each one is precious and never needs to be taken for granted. Within a short period of time, my Mom, Sister, several friends younger than me and now Mwali have passed into eternity. All created spirits return to where they came from; the Heart of God! My only peace is to know I too will return to where they are one day and to love and cherish all my family, friends, and every other human or animal God created. Please strive to walk in love every day and never to take a precious life, like Mwali for granted! Love to All, Mwali's Dad. An Honor to say the least.
Mallory Pfeifer: We did not know that morning
What sorrow the day would bring,
The bitter grief and shock severe
To part with the one we love so dear.
You were gone before we knew it
Only God knows why.
It broke our hearts to lose you
But you did not go alone,
For part of us went with you
The day He called you home.
Though your roar is gone forever
And your mane we cannot touch,
We will never lose the memory
Of the one we love so much.
Rest Easy, Mwali ❤️
David Hancock: Our CARE family has lost our King. I find it difficult to express my emotions and thoughts at a time like this. I can say that for the CARE community we are at a loss for words. Mwali was only 5 years old, which makes his passing even more upsetting. I can say with confidence that he was a very loved and cherished cat at CARE. We will all miss you Mwali. We will smother Noel with love in hopes to ease her pain of your passing. I have spent the day reading all the post on all social media and I'm so thankful for the outpouring of support and love.
Brie Butler: Pictures could never do justice to the intensity, beauty, purity, and gentleness that your eyes held. Words could never express how much fulfillment, wholeness, and love you brought into my life. My heart will always ache for you Mwali❤️
Jade Kaylor: This sweet, goofy boy. No words are enough to describe his immense and awe-inspiring presence, or the feeling of sheer excitement when he roared. I can't explain the way it felt to fall into his big, amber eyes or hear the thundering as his giant paws hit the ground when he came running to you. The void that Mwali is leaving in this world is deeper than most.
Krista Cope: There are no words. I wish I had spent more time on the other side of your fence in April. I wish I had taken more photos of your beautiful face. I thought I would see you again, year after year. I cannot commemorate you with a single photo. You were too beautiful, too perfect. Your love for Noel couldn't be described. My heart aches once again; for CARE, for Noel, for everyone.
This will always be my favorite photo of the two of you that I had ever had the lucky pleasure of taking. You have no idea how much you are missed.
Melanie (Moe) Quain: No photo could ever give your beauty justice. I never thought that the last time I was at CARE would be the last time I saw you, I wish I made more time to visit. We'll all miss you Mwali, you'll forever be my favorite male model💕
Abby Boop: The most handsome lion in the world! He was an integral part of my tour and a personal fav! I loved to showcase his dark mane. I even had a joke in the tour about how the Lion King lied to us with Scar being the bad guy and having the dark mane. I like to say it was wrong b/c Mwali was awesome & his mane was dark.
Stephanie Cahoon: There will never be a lion with more beautiful highlights than Mr. Mwali. I am still in disbelief at the news that he is gone. I can't fathom not hearing his chatty voice from the fence or his powerful roars again. CARE lost such a vital part of the pride last week and my heart hurts but going through my pictures of him made me so happy to remember how goofy he was and how he loved to pose for the camera. Please keep everyone at CARE in your thoughts ❤
Morgan Cahill: Mwali: May the rainbow bride be layered in shoulder chunks, liver, and leg quarters. May there always be sunshine for you to bathe in. May your hair never have a bad day. May there be many high perches for you to roar that magnificent roar at the sight of your whole kingdom and the horizon. May you meet you ancestors, and enjoy a wonderful afterlife knowing there is nothing more that can hurt you.
If only these creatures knew the impact they have on us at C.A.R.E. They leave paw prints across our hearts that not enough people understand.
Melanie Klein: What a devastating loss. It's been such a shock and I am at a loss for words. I know I'm not the only one. The CARE family is mourning one of the most amazing lions to have ever walked this earth. It was such a pleasure to have been in his presence and see him grow up. Thank you Heidi and Rachel for spending 24/7 with Mwali last year when he was sick and not giving up on this boy. You are what CARE is all about!
Jamie Reed: I kept thinking over and over this isn't real but it's finally sinking in now, even if there is still a feeling of wrongness in the fact that you are gone.
From the first moment I saw you as a tiny, scruffy cub and all you wanted was to be held until just a few weeks ago when I felt your incredible roar in my face and was in awe of your power, I have adored you. Sweet, fierce, goofy and MAGNIFICENT boy. So MANY people loved you Wali, we always will.
Kelsey Prediger: It's hard to find the words when a life is suddenly gone. I will miss hearing your roar and silly greetings when I visit, it won't be the same. Heaven gained a true King! Here Mwali is enjoying the wind in his mane with his queen by his side. Rip buddy!
Lisa Thompson: Mwali, there is no way you could ever know how many lives you have impacted!! He made my life better!
Devin Root: I'll never forget you big guy. You were one of the sweetest, most gentle creatures I've ever encountered. You behaved as an honorable king should. You were a great father, husband, and son. I remember sitting with you for hours feeding you turkey meatballs when you were sick. You'd grumble at me, and I could never tell if you were happy or annoyed with me, but you ate them anyways. When you got healthy again, you and Noel used to argue over who got to say hi to me first whenever I showed up, and that made me feel very special. I wish I could have seen you more in your final months. You were a truly wonderful animal and an excellent ambassador for your species. Thank you for inspiring me. Sending love out to all my dear friends affected this loss. I'm always here if you need me. Sleep sweet, Mwali.
Beth Cinadr: Extremely saddened to hear of a tragic loss at CARE this week. Mwali the handsome lion. I was one of the lucky ones to have met such an important animal to CARE, and will never forget those moments that deepened my passion for these creatures.
Please keep lioness Noel and the entire CARE family in your thoughts and prayers.
Laura Frazier: Heartbroken doesn't even begin to describe how I'm feeling. I'll never forget my adventure with Heidi to bring this little dude home to CARE. He grew to be such a beautiful, regal lion. Mwali will always hold a very special place in my heart. Sending all my love to my CARE family, and my sweet baby Noey. I wish I was there to comfort you all ❤️
Mwali (Muh-wa-Lee, named ‘Thor’ at the time) was only two months younger than our baby Noel when we were contacted and told that he was in need of a home. What a perfect match! Both lion cubs were in desperate need of the companionship that they would provide to one another as they grew up. Heidi, CARE’s Executive Director, drove all the way from Texas to Indiana to pick up the new baby. He was fuzzy, cute, and most importantly, he was a SWEETHEART- which is such a relief when you are introducing new human caretakers into the equation.
Bringing the new little guy back home to CARE was a joyous yet nerve-wracking experience. He was good with people, but would he be good with Noel? A person can guess and estimate the outcome of introducing two cats all they want, but the truth is no one knows what will happen until they are put together.
Introducing big cats is a delicate thing even when they are babies. If they don’t like each other, for whatever reason, there is very little a human caretaker can do to remedy the situation. Taking in Mwali was a bit of a gamble, so the CARE staff were naturally a little nervous when the big moment of introduction came. Mwali (‘Wali’ for short) was placed on one side of a secured fence, and Noel was placed on the other. What followed could only be described as unbearable cuteness. Noel started acting like a blushing school girl. She hid behind the legs of the directors, tilting her head and making little ‘mauw!’ sounds at the handsome little boy. She would look at Wali, make a shy noise, then look up at the directors, make a noise, then look back at Wali and make another noise. It was precious!
Feeling that the last major hurdle was crossed, the directors opened the gate separating the two, and they did spectacular! Aside from a few instances of one telling the other to ‘please remove yourself from my personal space at this very moment’, they were very sweet to each other. From that moment on they began their journey of trust and togetherness and are an inseparable pair.
Mwali has grown into an incredibly impressive lion. He has unusual coloring and a magnificent mane (really, he has rock star hair)! He is just stunning and loves his Noel more than anything.
November 12, 1999 - April 29, 2017
Loving Adoptive Parents: Paul & Siena Hier – Show Low, AZ
Loving Sponsors: Pam Reed - Arlington, TX
From CARE Intern Graduate, Heather Fraser
Tawney had stolen a part of my heart from the moment that I saw her and it is terribly heartbreaking to know she is gone.
When I arrived at CARE in the spring of 2015, I was overwhelmed and in awe of the beautiful, amazing animals that I was going to have the opportunity to care for. When I met Tawney, something just instantly clicked. I could see her soul in her eyes. She was one of a kind and with just a few minutes with her I could tell that she could see my soul as well. We shared a bond that cannot ever be explained in words. I had never had such an apparent and wonderful connection with any other animal before, not to mention with a mountain lion.
When we were told we would be able to pick our top 3 to begin to spend time with, I immediately, without a doubt, knew Tawney would be my number 1. As my bond grew with her and the more experience that I gained while working with big cats, the more and more I fell in love. I would spent hours some days just sitting by her cage and letting her lick my hand through the fence.
There were tough days at CARE, days where you work from sun up to well after the sun goes down. On those days, where you had no energy at the end of the day to even crawl into bed, I would spend time with Tawney, even for just ten minutes and it would take all of the stress away.
Tawney was the sweetest girl and she loved love. She could have the most intimidating stare but once she saw you she would make her duck like squawk and come running over to get attention. She would just sit right next you and purr so loud and look at you with the most incredible eyes that I have ever seen.
Tawney loved attention so much, she was actually the hardest to photograph for me because the second she saw me coming she would get up and run over so fast I would never get the chance to capture her. I would give anything to have the feeling of trying to snap a photo of her and hearing her ridiculous squawk and purr again!
Tawney, wherever you are now, I hope you are surrounded by love every single day, like you were at CARE. You will forever have a very large piece of my heart.
April 22, 2002 - April 24, 2017
Loving Adoptive Parent: Stephanie McCollum - Hurst, TX
Loving Sponsor – Blythe Holzgraefe – Southlake, TX
Written by Krista Cope, CARE Intern Graduate
There are animals that steal a part of your heart, and then there are animals who steal a part of your soul.
Flash was beautiful. He was kind, and gentle. He loved. When people speak of Flash, you are likely to hear how he cared for his love; his Lily. I’d like to think that Flash could see the pain, the hurt that needed healing. I say this, because that is when Flash entered my life.
Five years ago, I was introduced to a “snuffle”. I was then asked to make the sound myself. I thought, “well, this is impossible and none of these cats are ever going to like me.” As it turned out, a lot of them liked me. Two in particular were named Calamity and Beast. I lost both of those cats within the same week. You realize, for the first time, that a walk around the compound is never the same when a cat passes; but you may find yourself unexpectedly being drawn to another cat. For instance: a big, chubby white one. Flash seemed to immediately take an interest in me, and I fell in love with his personality and his snuffles. No matter how long the gap of time between visits, he was always happy to see me, always eager to jump down from his favorite platform to snuffle a hello. Once, I accidentally made him jealous and he ignored me for an entire week. He eventually forgave me, but it was torture watching him snub me and give his attention to other volunteers. We eventually found cancer, but Flash was always so strong and resilient. He was always there, in his enclosure, on his platform, waiting.
When you have known for a while that your favorite cat is sick, a phone call can wreak havoc on your world. I received that phone call a few weeks before he passed. Heidi strongly suggested I do everything in my power to get myself to Texas to say goodbye. So, I did. I knew when I saw him that he was on borrowed time, and I will forever be grateful to Heidi for willing him to live an extra few days so that I could be there for him, the way he had been there for me. It had been two full years since I had last seen him, and he held that against me for an entire day. He seemed happy to see me, of course, but it wasn’t until my second day of sitting by his side that he finally showered me with the chorus of snuffles that I had so longed to hear. I slept next to him for three days, and the morning I left CARE to return home, I told him how much I loved him, how much I will always love him, how badly I will miss him, and that he needed to let go and be with his love; his Lily. He looked at me with those beautiful blue eyes, and snuffled his final goodbye to me before I had to leave.
There are people who love these animals with their hearts, and then there are people who willingly surrender a piece of themselves, with the silent understanding that it will remain entwined with that animal’s soul forever.
November 15, 2001 - September 14, 2016
Loving Adoptive Parent: Lianne Pearson – Coppell, Texas
Loving Sponsor: Ian - North Dakota
From Heidi Krahn, Founder and Executive Director:
Every night I go to bed thinking about the cats that may be sick. I worry if they had enough food to eat or water to drink. I worry about if they're too hot or too cold. I worry about them getting weak and tired. I mostly worry about the ones that are older or the ones that may be ailing.
For the past two months there hasn't been a night where I have gone to bed without thinking of Clyde. Well into the night, I would research his strange condition. When he first got sick I was very worried, but I felt so strongly that he was going to get better. I moved him up to the house in a transport cage so that he could be monitored and given the loving care he needed. I felt like he was going to be one of CARE’s great victories.
I wanted you all to understand how difficult it is to care for a sick tiger so I started posting bits and pieces of his medical care on Instagram and Facebook. I could see that he wanted to eat, but his body would not allow it. We tried every kind of meat and texture that we could think of. Finally the answer came in the form of ground beef in a baby bottle pureed in a blender. He ate 10 pounds of beef over 10 days. It wasn't enough for him to survive, but it made him strong enough to go back into his enclosure with his sweet sister Bonnie.
Everyone was so excited at what appeared to be Clyde's rebound, so the idea of having to tell people that he had begun to slip again over the past weeks was a painful one. I moved him back to the house so he could be given a second round of TLC. We could only get him to eat a few bites of meat a day. I made the decision to move him back to be with Bonnie in the hopes that maybe their special bond would aid in his recovery, but it still didn't work. A part of me wanted to tell everybody what was going on, and then the other part of me thought "Why should anybody else have to go through this torture?". Every day, despite our desperate efforts, we watched him wither away more and more. It was one of the most heartbreaking breaking months I've ever had. The helplessness was unbearable. CARE Curator, Rachel, and I had tried to feed him constantly through the last few weeks but he ate nothing.
I talked to doctor after doctor and I read through mountains of documentation concerning diseases that affect appetite. I tried experimental medications and our vet, Dr. Bill came and sedated him several times in the hopes of finding some sort of answer. Ultimately we couldn't find anything.
It's very hard to make decisions about letting go. Almost 15 years ago I held tiny Clyde in the palm of my hand only moments after he was born. His mother was being boarded at the facility before CARE was even CARE. I had no idea his mother Kenya was pregnant.
One November morning I watched Kenya, the giant white tiger, give birth and clean her little baby. She chewed the umbilical cord as all good mothers do. She chewed shorter and shorter and shorter... Then I realized she was trying to chew on the baby's leg. The crazy person that I was years ago, ran into the enclosure, distracted Kenya, and took the little baby away. You all know that baby as Bonnie. I saw something else in the corner of her house- the remains of a little, newborn tiger. Kenya had killed it and ate most of it. The terrifying sight reinforced that I was making the right decision by taking little baby Bonnie away from Kenya.
I took Bonnie to the house, I clamped her umbilical so she wouldn't bleed to death, and I handed her to one of my kids. When I got back to Kenya, she was having another baby. Before she had a chance to eat this one, I went back into her enclosure, I quickly distracted her into leaving her house, and I lifted the lifeless little baby into my hand. It was a boy - a lot smaller than Bonnie, and his lungs were full of fluid. I flipped him upside down and cradled his shoulders. He still didn't breathe.
After several massages and breaths (and a mouth full of amniotic fluid from mouth-to-mouth) sweet baby Clyde took his first breath. It was the first breath of over 100,000,000 breaths he would take in his lifetime. The exact moment of holding a little baby tiger in your hands as it takes its first life-giving breath is something that is indescribable - as is the moment when you hold them as they take their last breath.
I don't like talking about that last breath as much as I like talking about the first and all the ones in the middle. Did you know that Clyde had to wear a preemie diaper when he was a baby because Bonnie liked to pacify on poor baby Clyde's body parts? Did you know Clyde was a night owl, preferring to walk about when most of the other cats slept? Did you know that Clyde hated to go into his lockdown so we could clean his enclosure? We often had to design elaborate toys on ropes and strings to coax him to go where we wanted him to go. Did you know that Clyde did not like chicken? Of all of CARE's cats, only Ace and Clyde dislike the most coveted of all the big cat treats.
There were so many special things about Clyde - so many things that make me feel blessed to have been able to see, feel, and experience between his first breath and his last. So many snuffles... so many kisses... so much love...
Where ever you are please take a moment and appreciate those in your life who bring you joy. Celebrate each breath you share with your loved ones, and on this special day, let's give a little extra thanks for that fuzzy faced white tiger named Clyde and the 100,000,000 breaths he shared with us all.
June 24, 1996 - June 17, 2016
Loving Adoptive Parents: Paul & Sarah Beauregard – Dallas, Texas
Loving Sponsor: Kimberly Swaner in honor of Nigel and Nala - Murray, UT
Beautiful, long lives full of love are something we all wish for and this is exactly the life that Serena has had at CARE. While we are sad to announce her passing, less than a week before her 20th birthday, we also celebrate the time we have had with her. She was a bright and unfailing light who shined for a very long time. She was both loving and fierce. She was welcoming to her human CAREtakers and friends, and shared her love (and her many vocalizations) with everyone. We hoped so much to celebrate her milestone birthday with her, but she grew weak, frail, and very, very tired. 20 years of life for a tiger is no small feat, so we gave her the peaceful release that she deserved. Please join us in remembering her unequivocal beauty and grace and the most perfect snuffles in the entire world. She was so special, to so many people, so we asked two people very close to her to write her memorial.
From adoptive parent, Sarah Beauregard -
When asked if I would like to write Serena's memorial, I instantly felt honored yet also not worthy. You see, I might have been Serena's adopted mom for the last 6 years, but her relationships were endless. Serena's openness and love for communication made her a magnet. She let anyone that walked by her have a chance to be her friend, especially if they had some chicken. In the beginning of our friendship, Serena and I would spend hours just laying on either side of the fence just being in each other's presence. Over the years, having a child of my own, I had less and less time to make the 2 hour trip to see her. Yet, Serena always led me to believe she remembered everything about me and what we had. I will never forget a single story Heidi (CARE's Executive Director) has shared with me about Serena's birth, to being the fiercest cat on the property, and her unshakable love she had for her mom Lacy. From my first encounters witnessing Serena attacking the neck of our gift of a huge stuffed bear from, ultimately destuffing it to the core - to this past Thursday watching her laying in the light of her last moon, we will always be grateful for her, her beauty, her fearlessness. Rest in sweet peace my love.
From CARE intern graduate, Brie Butler -
To say that everyone who had the privilege of meeting and working with Serena loved her is a bit of an understatement. So many of her CAREtakers throughout her 19 years were so deeply touched by her, and I speak on behalf of everyone when I say that her passing leaves us with heavy hearts. We all have a different story and reason to why Serena was just so special, whether it was her fierce but loving demeanor, her quirkiness, or her never-ending snuffles.
Looking through my Serena pictures and videos brings such sadness, yet such happiness and joy for all of the memories I have of our time together. Serena first captured my heart and soul six years ago when I started my first internship at CARE and it was the spunk and energy of Serena that taught me how to be the animal caretaker I am today.
I first arrived at CARE with a love of animals and the childhood dream of working with tigers and big cats. Despite this, I did lacked the confidence to work with and connect with the cats and was unable to express the love I had for them like so many people who could interact, work, and snuffle or “tiger talk” with them so naturally.
Shortly after my arrival I started to feel more comfortable as I spent time with all of the cats but it was the bond that I started to form with a certain spunky and talkative individual who brought out my own enthusiasm, my own affection, and even my own snuffle. That individual was Serena, the beautiful tiger with so much fire and yet so much sweetness to entrap anybody who walked by her. She encouraged and brought out my self-confidence to really work with the cats and give them all of my love and enthusiasm. That engaging and intense personality of hers, that affection, that spunk, that contentment, and that snuffle all helped to shape who I was and who I am as an animal caregiver and as a person.
Serena, CARE will never be the same without you and from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for everything you helped me with and all of the memories, the laughs, the snuffles and most importantly, the love you gave me. Rest easy sweet girl.
May 1, 2001 - May 4, 2016
Loving Adoptive Parents: Christopher, Kathleen and Donovan Ray of Dallas, TX
From Heidi Krahn, Executive Director and Founder
In the past two weeks it as though I have been carrying the weight of the world around on my shoulders. I know that you know things are not the same. Losing your lifelong mate Kate has been difficult, but there is more. You have been feeling weaker every day. Food does not taste the same. Some days you can hardly get out of bed. The worst part is that your boo-boos are growing really fast. I see it in your eyes… but I don’t want to spend one sad moment with you. I have wasted so many days living in dread of death that I missed the beautiful days that could have been spent with others who have passed.
Your CAREgivers and I decided to give you the most fantastical birthday ever. What a special day it was. You didn’t know it was going to be your last and I tried to pretend I didn’t know. I made the decision to surround you with all the magical things that made your life perfect…the things that makes CARE so perfect!
Snuffels, toys, turkey cake and most importantly all the love any tiger could want or need. You see it isn’t often we CAREgivers know that it would be a last birthday. In a way we all received a gift on your birthday. You laid by the fence for hours while we all kissed and loved you. You were so strong that day. It was a perfect day. You reminded us all of your strong younger days before cancer began destroying your incredible body.
I don’t know if people understand how heartbreaking it is to say goodbye. I was there they day you were born. You took my breath away that day and continue to do it now even if it is only in my memory of you. You have blessed so many people with your magnificence and beauty. CARE and the world has lost a puzzle piece.
I would like to share your gift to me to others. I wish that every person would treat the ones that they love with joy and happiness every day. Don’t ever waste a day mourning loss before the loss. Live every day to its fullest…don’t waste a day, hour, or minute… celebrate every birthday like it’s your last. This is how you changed my life sweet Rascal.
It is time for me to do what I do best now…care for all the others I am still entrusted with the stewardship of. I will think of you often and smile because I know for certain.......YOU KNOW HOW MUCH YOU WERE LOVED!
Estimated June 1999 - 12.9.2015
Loving Adoptive Parent: Shaun Buckley – TX
Loving Sponsors: Jamie Reed – Dallas, TX; Nikki Ottoson - Alberta, Canada; Amanda Weller - Maplewood, MN; and Laura Macias - Red Oak, TX
From Jamie Reed, CARE Director of Development/Board President
There will never be anything I can say that will memorialize Tabula in just the right way. So, instead of trying to write a perfect memorial for a perfectly imperfect lioness, I'd like to think of it as my love story - the story of how I fell head over heels for an incredible, loving, spirited, stubborn, goofy, grumpy, absolute mess of a cat.
Tabula had only been at CARE a few days when I first met her. She looked like an overstuffed, and slightly worn, teddy bear. She had bare, black skin on her ears where the flies had bitten and bald spots on her elbows where the fur had been worn away. Her face was wrinkled and slightly scarred and she was fat! Rolls cascaded down her body and squished her face into a permanently confused expression. That lovable, sweet teddy-bear look was very misleading!
Photo from Krista Cope
I hadn't considered that she might be scared being in a brand new place, surrounded by strangers. I didn’t know that she was half blind, probably adding to her fear. And she WAS scared. She was TERRIFIED. And fear does not a friendly lion make! When I approached her, she lunged at the fence between us, snarling and growling with more ferocity than I had ever seen. She scared the daylights out of me, as well she should have. After that, I stayed as far away from her as possible.
Her previous owner asked CARE to take her in. However, it was a rough transition for Boo. When she got to CARE, she didn't know where she was, who we were, she couldn't see well, and she was all alone. Just image how that would feel. My heart broke for her, and I began to understand her fear and aggression.
Over time, she stopped being so afraid of the grass under her feet, the huge Texas sky over her head, and the activity that surrounded her at the facility. She ventured out of her small lock-down area to explore. She was fed a good diet and started shedding some of the weight. She basked in the sun and her anger and fear diminished. While she had started enjoying her new home, she was still scary to me. But one day, it just happened. I remember locking eyes with her and being frozen in my tracks. Intense is the word to describe those eyes!
We stared at each other for what seemed like an hour. Then she rubbed the fence, smooshing her wrinkly and worn face against the chain-link. As she rubbed, she made low growly noises. They weren’t threatening sounds, but what I came to think of as lion purrs. She flopped her massive body on the ground, rolled on her back, and started swimming with her big floppy paws in the air, doing some weird lion version of an upside down breast-stroke! She made me laugh out-loud and I warmed to that big, scary lioness.
That silly backstroke became her signature move when she was feeling frisky and that single interaction started a relationship that I would have with her for the next 5 years. Over those years I grew closer to her and I learned her quirks, like how to start calling to her long before I approached her enclosure to let her know I was coming so she wouldn't be surprised. Or, when I sat down next to her, to get up very slowly so I didn’t startle her. Being half blind made things a little scary sometimes.
I learned to gauge her mood and I learned that she liked it best when you talked to her in a high, sing-song voice. She would even "swim" along with your voice, stopping when you stopped and starting back up again when you did. I learned that you had to put her food right in front of her face so she could find it and good luck locking her up in her lock-down area - somewhere she went willingly on her own but don't you DARE close that door on her!
The whole time I knew Tabula, I wanted nothing more than for her to be able to talk. I wanted to know if she was happy in her new home. I wanted to know if her declawed paws hurt her when she walked, despite the soft grass. I wanted to know if there was more wrong than just failing eyesight. I worried about her mind. Boo was not completely stable. She would have periods of paranoia when everything around her was an enemy. The fence, her ball, the air, even her own leg were not safe and she would growl and snap her jaws at the threats. More than anything, I wanted to know if she knew she was safe and loved.
She was not always volatile though, most of the time she was content lounging around and rolling in the grass. She was happy to have her friends sit down by her enclosure and talk to her. I did that often, benefiting from the comfort she brought me and wanting to comfort her as well.
Photo from Rachel Malone
While I got a lot of time with Boo, it was never going to be enough. That's been really clear in the last few weeks. But, the reality is that nothing can prevent old age, not the best care in the world can do that. I just have not been ready. I have not wanted to say another good-bye, and to one so special. She was still so full of life, so spunky, still Boo.
Photo from Heidi Krahn - November 25, 2015
But, her body was giving out, she was tired, and she was hurting. It was her time, like it or not. And in the end, all that really matters is that as long as she was here, she was loved, and I was one of the lucky ones that got to love her.
Now, I look at each and every picture, video, message, and tribute to her since she passed away, just as I always do after a loss. I see how many people she touched and how many people cared about her. It warms by heart when I need it most. I added some of my favorite posts from the people that knew her best at the end of this story. She left behind an army of people devoted to her!
In the end, Tabula found a home here with us and she thrived on the love given to her. She was a testament to the devotion that is given so freely by the CARE family. I miss her terribly, I think I always will, but I am so glad I got to know her. Love you so much my Boo, my precious girl!
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” – Winnie the Pooh
May 6, 1997 - July 13, 2015
Loving Adoptive Parents: Christopher, Kathleen & Donovan Ray of Dallas, TX
Loving Sponsor: David and Carla Montroy – Frederick, MD
Zeus, a name known in Greek mythology as the God of the sky and thunder and also ruler of Mount Olympus, was nothing short of great. Upon some of my first encounters with him I thought he was very loving, regal, and majestic and many visitors to CARE repeated those exact words. He was one of our bigger boys and easily filled the shoes of our gentle giant with a huge heart.
Shortly before my arrival to CARE Zeus had lost his lifetime partners, two female sisters, with whom he had shared his kingdom for nearly 17 years. Elley passed in November and Jezzabell passed away just short of one month later. With winter coming many worried about him becoming depressed and lonely causing him to lose his fantastic health.
I arrived to CARE January 14th and it didn’t take me very long to find myself drawn to Zeus. He didn’t come to the fence too often but as I was around regularly he would chuff at me and moo for attention, especially when I would say his name. As time passed I could feel his eyes full of wisdom watching me from across the compound, just waiting for me to be in earshot to greet me with one of his sweet chuffs. It seemed that we had both found each other for a reason, he was in need of a friend and I was as well.
As changes happen it was decided he should get the big enclosure out back that was vacant to have some more space and better accommodate some of the other members of CARE. This change worried many people, tigers are great and strong animals, but a huge change could easily put a lot of stress on them. Zeus was going on 18 and had just lost his girls. After the first day he was already at home! I had gone out to spend time with him and give him treats (chicken drumsticks) to keep him happy and comfortable in his new environment. Sure enough he was ready for my company and came to the fence and put his paws up next to my feet while I was writing in my journal. After a while he dozed off, then woke up and decided to roll in the wild flowers. This was the day that I fell in love with him.
From that day forward, I would bring him his treats and go on evening walks with him. Most nights I stayed there past sunset until I could no longer stand the mosquitoes. I really loved seeing his excitement for chicken, even in his old age, he would trot across to greet me! One day we even watched a crazy storm roll in together. I found myself spending time with him any chance I got; it was hard to leave his side. From his sweet chuffs, kind eyes, to his powerful presence, I was in love. Never had I expected to form such a strong bond with a white tiger. Sometimes he wasn’t very interested in the meat we fed him, so I would go cut the finest filets for him and hand fed him through the fence. To my excitement I found out his 18th birthday was just one day before my 25th birthday, so I made him a birthday cake out of ground turkey and chicken. That silly sweetheart was so excited that so many people were there to sing him happy birthday that he walked right by his cake!
As my time was coming to a close, I was having a hard time accepting I had to leave him. My friends joked and called him my boyfriend because of how I talked about him to strangers and spent hours a day by his side through the fence. One evening I wrote this in my journal: I'm hungry and cold but Zeus is cuddled up against the fence on the other side from me. I've rarely loved something so much it hurts and he is one of those exceptions. Every moment I get with him is a blessing. I only have a couple weeks left and I don't know what I will do when I leave. He is the sweetest, most gentle tiger ever. I could lay out here with him for eternity. It's just so peaceful, I feel like I'm in another world. When I look into his eyes, as Executive Director Heidi Krahn puts it, “you can see the universe”. I can tell you as the day came to leave, it was one of the hardest goodbyes I have ever had to do.
When I got the phone call from Heidi my heart dropped, my chest got tight, the news was hard to bear. I had known this day wasn’t too far off in the future, but I had hoped I would see him again when I planned to visit in August. Thankfully Zeus didn’t endure any of the pain and suffering all too many cats do when they become older in age. I am so grateful to say he passed away peacefully in his sleep on the morning of July 13th, 2015. As heartbreaking as it is to lose him I truly believe it was his time. Just seconds before receiving the call I had been going through my pictures of him and posted one of his goofy photos as a happy birthday to my friend. So I like to think that he was on my mind as he went on to tiger kingdom. I also must note that morning we had some terrible storms, so bad I woke up to the loud thunder and bright lightning. It had continued through the morning and was predicted to last all day. I lost all motivation to do anything that day. But then almost immediately after hanging up the phone, the sun came out and it was one of the most beautiful days we have had this entire summer. I like to think that this was his way of telling me he was in a better place and he wanted me to be happy.
He has forever etched a huge place onto my heart, as well as many other people. He will be missed dearly. I will cherish every memory I have of him, especially the nights he would sleep against the fence just trying to be close to me. Rest in peace my gentle giant, Zeus.
Written by Kelsey Prediger, CARE Intern, Spring 2015
July 10, 2002 – February 10, 2015
Loving Adoptive Parent: Sandy Blakley
Loving Sponsor – Karen Helms
Lifetime Guardian: George Thompson
This has been the hardest letter I have ever written. I had started it in my head, in my phone, and on the computer what seems like a hundred times in the past week. I think about how many people love the animals of CARE. I think about how much I owe to the animals. I also think about how much I owe to you, to convey in words a life from start to finish with integrity and respect. Most of all I want to honor Arctic.
It is hard to see the screen through the tears right now because I know the realization is setting in for you, that sinking feeling in your heart is becoming overwhelming, that feeling we have all become too accustomed to in recent months. Another magnificent creature is no longer with us.
I don’t want this story to be one of tears, but of joy. Arctic first came to me as a wee little cub. His smell was as sweet as a field of flowers. His eyes were as blue as the summer sky. His heart was as big as Texas. Immediately my heart grew twice its normal size just to accommodate this little bundle of joy, as did the heart every person who came in contact with him from that day on.
Arctic was the most beautiful blessing I think I had ever seen. His fur so soft and sleek, and that tail! His tail was indescribable. He was the most athletic of the cats. He could jump from a standing position straight up to the 11 foot perch in his early years. His eyes were as deep and soulful as the sea. A person could get lost gazing into his eyes. I could talk about his beauty all day but there was so much more to him.
Arctic was the highest maintenance cat at CARE. Although CARE had built him a wonderful 20 ft. tall enclosure with waterfalls and air-conditioning, it was really no life for a snow leopard. Arctic was loved by so many. We offered him all we could in captivity but he deserved so much more. He deserved the mountains without thaw. The hardened land where bacteria cannot live. Of all the animals that have lived at CARE, Arctic was the one whom we all wished to be free the most, free up high in the mountains where the air was cold, where he was meant to be. We all fantasized about a giant snowy world for him. This is where I envision him to be now.
I think Arctic was most known for his ability to fight for his life. He was always fighting one antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria or another. When he got too tired to fight, I would fight for him. I can’t tell you how many days and nights I spent bringing him back from the brink again and again. He would recover, yes, but every illness took its toll. The last couple of years have been considerably harder than the past. I always knew that we were going to have to let him go someday, but I was always happy when we made it through these storms. I was always happy to give him more good days. Those good days still significantly outnumbered the bad up until two weeks ago.
It was different this time. I knew this time was different, but after fighting all these years, how do you give up? His sickness had returned, and it eroded the very last bits of his body’s ability to live a quality life. A decision has never been so hard. Several tearful, sleepless nights I held his paw. The realization set in, he was not coming back to us this time. The fight was gone from his eyes. It was clear that it was time to end his stay with us.
There is so much to be appreciated and learned from Arctic: beauty, patience, respect, tenacity, spirit, and love just to name a few. Even in death, Arctic will teach us. In the following months, we will be explaining how Arctic’s existence will be significant to the future of all snow leopards. He still has a role to play. Just as rare and exceptional as he was in life, his legacy will continue in a rare and exceptional journey.
For now, let’s simply remember Arctic and the amazing amounts of joy he gave to so many with.
CARE Founder/Executive Director
June 6, 2014 - October 1, 2014
Loving Adoptive Parent: Lisa Kittredge – Addison, TX
Caring for animals brings infinite amounts of joy to those who choose this path in life. It is not without its hardships though and there is never anything more difficult than losing the animals we care for. We have had to say goodbye to many of our beloved friends, and it is never, ever, easy. However, we a fortunate that so many of our friends have gone after long lives, especially in recent years as our animals reach geriatric ages. In those cases, although is hard to watch once strong and powerful animals weaken and fade before our eyes, but we count ourselves lucky that we have time to prepare ourselves a little, and in some cases, even get to say our last goodbyes. We end up celebrating their long lives, hopefully made better by our care, while we mourn. Occasionally we are blindsided, losing an animal so quickly, so inexplicably, or so young that we are left devastated and confused. Unfortunately, on October 1st, we experienced this devastation when we found 3 month old Jelani lifeless.
He was so full of life just the day before, and then suddenly gone. With no visible signs of injury or trauma, our vet rushed over to perform a necropsy to give us answers. The necropsy offered none. All of his organs; his heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver showed no disease or abnormality, only a perfectly healthy little lion. After performing several lab tests and looking at all the info we have, our vet has determined that Jelani most likely had a congenital heart defect and it just stopped. Putting so much love, care, and experience into raising these cubs to be strong and healthy, only to lose one is shattering. We only know that we could not have done anything to prevent this, and his brothers are fine.
Although Jelani had only a brief time on this earth, he touched everyone who met him. He was the sweetheart, the mild-mannered cub, the gentle one. We also know that he touched so many of you who have followed the cubs' lives since they were born. You have seen them grow, their personalities emerge, and have imagined them developing into big, strong, magnificent adult lions. We know that this sad news will affect many of you, and we wish we were not delivering it. We are mourning, and we know you mourn with us. Jelani, his brothers, and all the animals at CARE have touched many hearts, and we ask you to please keep them there, in your hearts, and your thoughts.Read more
November 23, 1996 - June 19, 2013
Loving Adoptive Parent: John Stanzack
I did an internship for C.A.R.E. in the fall of 2010. Although all the cats were awesome in their own way, of course we each had our favorites. Princess, though absolutely gorgeous, was not one of the stand-out cats for any of the three of us interns initially.
Honoring her name, she would often sit in the middle of her enclosure proudly and beautifully, not really caring what anyone else was doing. She also was the only cat at C.A.R.E. that hated getting her morning meds in a meatball and avoided it at all costs. She would rarely come take her meatball and if she did she was so smart she usually would find a way to eat everything but her medication. This made her a very hard cat to get to know. About midway through our internship, Princess became very ill. She had to be moved into the vet clinic and given 24 hour care. Slowly, we were able to get Princess back on her feet. Though this was an exhausting experience, it was also one of the greatest most rewarding experiences of my life. Our time spent nursing her back to health made us form a special bond with Princess unlike any of the other cats at C.A.R.E. Once you got to know Princess and earned her trust, she was easily one of the sweetest and most loving cats and had an awesome personality. No matter how long I would be away from C.A.R.E., Princess would run up to the fence and sit next to me when I came to visit. She always made me feel like she remembered who I was and instantly put a smile on my face every time I saw her. Princess became one of my favorite cats at C.A.R.E. and will always hold a very special place in my heart.
-Written by Intern graduate, April Hensley
We at CARE were very sad to say goodbye to our Princess. She was losing her battle with cancer and her condition & standard of living was rapidly degenerating. It was time to let her go. While we are deeply saddened by this loss, we are continually amazed at the strength and longevity of these animals. Not only did Princess live a long life, but she did so in relative comfort for some time with the cancer inside of her- living far beyond the terminal timetable she was originally given. It is a testament to these animals’ strength and spirit, and is something that is truly awe-inspiring. We are honored to have known Princess and we take pride in knowing that she lived peacefully and comfortably during her time at CARE.
May 21, 1994 - 2007
Many years ago I saw something that would change my world….a beautiful baby tiger. I never in my wildest dreams could imagine something more beautiful. It truly took my breath away. It was the most beautiful experience I had ever had.
This day started when I heard a noise. I ran to find out what all the commotion was about and found a baby white tiger taking its first breaths of earthly air. He was perfectly beautiful. The first snow white tiger we had ever had. I immediately fell in love with the little fuzz ball. I called him Whitey, obviously a temporary name that would be changed later when a better one that fit his personality would arise. Well…the day never arrived.
Whitey grew fast, as do all tigers. He was full of his own adversity with eye surgeries. I have always grown attached to the underdog, so Whitey was a perfect fit for me. We spent many months recovering from surgeries and loving each other in the comfort of my home. When it was time for him to grow up, he left me for Calamity, who became his life-long mate. Being tigers the two were more independent and solitary than the family oriented lions. They lived together but were separate spirits. All was well.
As with all stories there is a beginning middle and an end. The end of the story begins with a diagnosis of malignant melanoma for Whitey. A massive tumor arose from nowhere and had massed to soccer ball sized in the matter of two weeks. He only had a matter of weeks to live. With great sadness people filed in to give the regal man one last good-bye.
I spent the night with him a few days ago as he recovered from anesthesia after his biopsy. The cold blustery December wind blew and a cold mist fell over us like a blanket. As I looked at the bright Texas stars, I shared with him stories about our past together, including the times I would ride on his back, I many pounds lighter and he much stronger. I told of stories of rubbing sore gums while he was teething and soothing an upset belly. This was long ago when I was able to hold him in one hand. Now I held his massive paw with deepened sadness. The same paw I spent years trusting with my life.
I had difficulty leaving him the next morning. I knew I would not have the time to be with him all the time due to all of the other work at CARE. Calamity was quite distant and detached, as a tiger would be in such a situation…staying far away. In the following weeks, in which Whitey would take his last breaths somewhat alone, saddened me greatly. I wish I could bring him back to my home he lived in as a cub, and love and hold him in his final days. As you all know it is impossible.
Today is yet another cold, wet blustery Texas day. I worried about Whitey alone in the cold. At daybreak I rose to check on my old friend. I could not find him anywhere. It was as though he was gone. I frantically ran back to the house where Calamity laid. With tears in my eyes I yelled where is he?…and over her back rose the massive head of Whitey. He laid his chin on her back. What an amazing site to behold. Whitey was not alone. Calamity now cared for him. This again was the most beautiful experience I had ever had.
Within days, Whitey made his final journey to the running grounds of Brutus, Maji, Momma, Malachi, Jake and the others who have taken the trip before him. They lead his spirit without fear to the other side. As I laid beside his motionless body saying my last good-bye, I realized how blessed I was to have this wonderful man in my life. I know he will remember how much he was loved in this life. With my final kiss on his still warm nose I realized yet again this was the most beautiful experience I had ever had.
Written by Heidi Krahn, Executive DirectorRead more
Born May 19, 1991
I can’t say Good-bye to my best friend…
We think of best friends as those who are:
Always there for us
They make you laugh when you want to cry
They make you cry when you need to cry.
One touch of their hand gives clam to a troubled heart
The memories you share are both bitter and sweet
They are there to celebrate the good times
They more importantly do not leave your side no matter how bad the outlook.
There is something about having a best friend that makes the world okay
I can’t say Good-bye to my best friend…
I was there for her at nine days old. I held her and kissed her, fed her and cleaned her and she grew. I loved her and she loved me. She was there when I married and for the birth of my children. She was there for me when I divorced and I thought the world would end. She brought me back to my feet always lending me her heart when I needed it most. I may have helped her take her first steps, but she has been the one who has kept me walking forward, ever since.
We spent the last week together. I had to be with her in the end. When the life left her body I wanted to say good-bye to my best friend. It is so hard to say goodbye to someone who has been with you through so much of your life… I guess I prefer saying until we meet again.
I can’t say good-bye to my best friend
Her name was Lacy.
We spent 18 years together.
She was my first tiger.
I will miss her.
Until we meet again my sweet best friend – Heidi Krahn
Loving Adoptive Parent: Marilyn Swindler
February 12, 1986 - September 22, 2008
About 5 years ago Tabby began to deteriorate in health, which is normal for a 17 year-old tiger. As days went by, she showed signs of a desire to make her final journey. Several months later she fell to depression and sickness: she would not leave her house, sores appeared all over her body—we knew we had to do something quickly. This is when we moved Tabby to the vet center. Her health improved immediately with the love and attention offered there. We then moved her back to her outdoor enclosure, where her health again took a turn for the worse. This process happened 3 times in the following 6 months until she finally did not have the strength to stand. I went to her enclosure, very sullen, and sat with her trying to make the decision if she was able to make the trip just one more time. The interns brought the transport cage to her enclosure. After coaxing her, Tabby (literally, falling side to side) staggered into the transporter.
We brought Tabby to the life-giving vet center, which is where she has lived for the past 5 years with a small indoor and outdoor area. She had a mattress to keep her tired bones comfortable as well as pillows and blankets and many stuffed animals (her “babies”) to play with. She carried her “babies” as if they were her own, cleaning and loving them, almost as if she were giving them life and they giving life to her. Her greatest gift of all was not in what people had given to her, but that of what she had given to them. It may be our love and interaction that had given her the desire to live the past 5 years, but it is her overwhelming strength and love that keeps us going even today. Tabby passed September 22, 2008 at the wonderful age of 22.Read more
April 28, 1982 - July 30, 2006
Momma arrived 18 years ago terrified, and in desperate need of love. Momma came to CARE with a kind heart, despite her previous abusive home. She was Brutus’ loyal companion, as he was her strength and protection. Side by side, they began their journey together. They learned to trust their new surroundings, and accepted the unconditional love given to them at CARE. From that point on, they were home. Their roars were proud and strong, as they became the “pride” of CARE. Thank you for donating your time and love to CARE. Your giving has allowed Momma to live peaceful fulfilling life that she rightfully deserved. In this time of mourning for our loss, we are reminded that Momma is in a better place. Her spirit is now whole again as she is reunited with her soul mate, Brutus. Together, their spirits will live in our hearts. The story of Brutus and Momma will continue to inspire us. Hopefully, they will remind all of us that together we can embrace life and make a difference.Read more
May 19 1988 - December 5, 2006
Loving Adoptive Parent: Marsha Little
Each cat at CARE is unique and special, but Adderly was particularly special as he sought over the years to tame his wildness, and to share this beautiful spirit with those who were close to him. It wasn’t easy for Adderly. Even though he was born in captivity; he especially exuded the spirit of his ancestors in the wild. He preferred to be alone, and somewhat distant from his human companions. Deep down he desired to express his loving spirit, but his wild instinct seemed to take over, making it hard for him to be with people. His spirit was beautiful in itself, but as he grew older, he made a courageous transformation. The love within him began to take over, and he allowed people to come in and share his beautiful soul. It wasn’t easy for him, as he straddled two worlds. Yet, I believe that was his greatest gift-sharing such a wild spirit and sharing love. He was unique and special, and will be greatly missed. Adderly died peacefully in his sleep, December 5th, 2006 at the age of 18.Read more
May, 8 1993 - December, 2 2005
A beautiful leopard arrived in Bridgeport in August of 1993. He was frightened and wild. Without his new home he would have been euthanized due to his extreme aggressive behavior with his past owners. After several months of intensive and constant love Malachi realized he could trust humans. He became one of the gentlest spirits to bless the grounds of CARE. He was happy and strong. Unfortunately in the summer of 2005 the nightmare of his early life returned to haunt Malachi and all of those who grew to love him. He was viciously declawed before his arrival. Now, twelve years later a mass grew on his foot. The claws had been growing inside his foot. Tireless months of care and four surgeries were followed with the heartbreaking news, cancer of the foot….leg…then finally, the lymph nodes. Malachi’s life was over soon after the news. Malachi will be greatly missed.Read more
1982 - October 30, 2005
Loving Adoptive Parents: Paul Frey and Curtis Hutson
One of the most beautiful creatures that ever blessed the grounds of CARE was our Brutus or “Papa” as he was often called. Many years ago, with nowhere to go, a terrified and angry African Lion found his home in Bridgeport. His life of abuse and neglect were evident by the scars on his face. No one could escape his awesome presence, incredible power, and great demand for respect. Endless love, compassion and selflessness given by the CARE family allowed Papa to become the cornerstone and protector of all who entered the gates of CARE. We celebrate the 15 years of trust and love he learned to share. On October 30, 2005, due to old age, Brutus (Papa) was laid to rest at the estimated age of 23. We celebrate the phenomenal life and gift of Papa and all the dedicated individuals he grew to love.Read more
September 1, 1991 – July 24, 2006
Jake is our facility mascot. He had been purchased as a pet and abandoned at three months old without food for nearly 2 weeks. His feet were horribly infected and his digestive tract was dysfunctional. For months, Jake teetered between life and death. With the love from all who encountered him, including his mate Tinkerbell, Jake miraculously lived. Jake was unanimously chosen to represent CARE. His tireless determination to overcome his earlier nightmare is incomparable. For 15 years Jake struggled with pain in his feet, due to the crippling declawing. Finally Jake’s pain is over. Jake passed to a better place, without pain.Read more
September 11, 1990 – June 10, 2011
Loving Adoptive Parent: Marsha Little
CARE is greatly saddened by the loss of one of its brightest burning sparks, KC the tiger. For years KC was the oldest cat in the entire facility, but her spirit was always youthful, and she never let a little thing like advanced age slow her down. By all means, she was a TIGER. She was the definite article, the real deal. Now that is not to say that CARE’s other 35 tigers are not tigers to the core, because they are most definitely so, it’s just that KC was different. In her movements, in her actions, and in her eyes she was a true example of all the things which makes a tiger a tiger- she was fierce, proud, intuitive, instinctual, and beautiful. She was a straight shooter, and you could always expect KC to be KC. She walked her own walk, and she sang her own tune, and even when she passed the 20 year mark (VERY old for tigers) she still held herself so strong, as if there was a divine fire burning hot inside of her.
We love you KC, and we hope you’re running free and majestic wherever you are. We’ll miss you!Read more
September 1, 1991 – July 12, 2011
Loving Adoptive Parent: Marsha Little
Words do not seem adequate to paint a picture of Sprinkles, for she was a lion one needed to experience. She had such a presence. She had a painful beginning in her young life, which made it difficult for her to trust at times, but she overcame this and lived a long and peaceful life. Underneath her sometimes guarded exterior, she had a huge heart. She was beautiful, strong, independent, wild, intelligent, loving and faithful. Sprinkles was an old soul. Her eyes spoke volumes, and her spirit exuded kindness and love. One only had to look deeply into her eyes to feel her love. To her adoptive mother she was not only a friend, but a soul mate. She will be deeply missed. But, at last she can follow her heart’s desires – running freely over wild plains or basking under the glow of savanna sunsets.
Written by Sprinkles’ Beloved Mom MarshaRead more
April 1996 – August 24, 2011
Loving Adoptive Parent: Rose Redmond
Twelve years ago our organization lost its first tiger. I cried for hours that day. That night my then 2 year old daughter, Destiny, crawled into bed with me, put her arm around my neck and said, “Mommy why do you cry?”
I told her, “Gabby died. It makes me very sad because I will miss her”.
She looked at me with absolute sweet innocence in her beautiful eyes and asked the following question- “Mommy, when tigers die and go to heaven do they get white wings or stripedy ones?”
Those beautiful words have stayed close to my heart for the past 10 years, and every time we lose one of our beautiful babies, the words come back to help ease the pain of loss.
Yesterday afternoon CARE tragically lost one of its most beloved animals, Kira, to rapid kidney failure. Kira was one of the most beautiful creatures I had ever experienced. She was the largest female tiger I had ever seen, and yet for all her size and imposing figure, she was as gentle as a kitten. She loved to hold hands/paws, and she would lie on top of her house and press her feet up against the fence so you could touch them. She was unquestionably the least aggressive tiger at CARE, and the personal favorite of too many people to count. She had a wonderfully unique way about her, and if you ever met her in person you would understand what I mean. She had eyes which could pierce your heart, and she was always good for a ‘hello’. She truly had an overwhelming presence built of love, peace, and affection.
During the last days of her life, she was surrounded with the love of those in her human family. We kept near-constant 24-hour vigilance; quietly monitoring her condition, keeping her comfortable, and soothing her with a soft-spoken word or a gentle scratch behind the ears. Although she was 15 years old (Grandma-age for a tiger) her sudden decline and death came as a tremendous shock. She was always so hearty and healthy. Throughout her life she had never been sick or showed signs of aging. She looked just as she did when she was 2 years old- beautiful and strong. I guess we should all be so lucky to age as gracefully as she did (which was seemingly nonexistent).
Kira’s adoptive mom wrote to me, “A great heart is silent. The earth is a poorer place”, and I couldn’t have said it better. I feel everyone who knew Kira was better for it. She was a bright light at CARE. Her spirit will continue to live through those who were blessed by her presence. For those of you who have eyes filled with tears and a heart heavy with loss, just remember… there is now a tiger in heaven with perfect “stripedy” wings.Read more
August 2, 1992 – August 28, 2011
Loving Adoptive Parents: Patrick and Whitney Swinford
It has been very hard to find the words and I get a bit emotional when I search my memory for how Tinkerbell touched my life. So I guess I will start at the beginning.
Tinkerbell came into my life when she was just 9 days old. She was tiny, weighing about 3 pounds. She was a brighter orange with darker black stripes than most. Her fur was soft and long and her eyes were just starting to open up seeing the world for the very first time. The tip of her little pink, wet tongue hung out of her mouth and you could hold her with one hand. She stole my heart away with her first snotty snuffle from her little pink nose.
For those who don’t know, tigers make this great sound we at CARE call a ‘snuffle’. In the zoo world they call it a ‘chuff’. The sound is much like a “v” and an “f” sound at the same time. If you can make the two sounds together then shake your voice as you do it, that’s what a snuffle sounds like. This is their way of saying “hello”, “what’s up?”, and many other things which we will get into in a little bit. The snuffle of a tiger is somewhat like the purr of a domestic cat. It’s a tiger’s way of communicating, and they do it from the day they are born. Their mother licks them and snuffles and the baby will snuffle right back. When I met Tinkerbell for the first time I was in awe of how many snuffles could come out of a teeny 3 pound baby in just a few seconds. Tink had an overactive snuffler. We must have snuffled back and forth for several minutes before she fell fast asleep in my hands. What a wonderful first meeting.
As I said before, snuffles can mean a wide variety of things, and Tinkerbell used her snuffles to fit many different occasions. It didn’t take Tink long to perfect the art of the “I love you” snuffle, the “I am sorry I made a mess, Mommy!” snuffle, and of course the “let’s go for a ride!” snuffle. Within weeks of her arrival, she was up and terrorizing the dogs and getting into all kinds of trouble. One time I came home to find her locked in the bathroom with the shower and window curtain torn down and shredded, there was soap and shampoo spread all over the bathroom, and one stinky load of poop right in the center of it all. This is where she got the nickname “Stinky Tinky”. Every time I left the house I would come home to a mess and Tinkerbell was right in the middle of it. So I found an answer. Tinkerbell had to go wherever I went to assure she would not destroy my home or hurt herself.
On our trips into town she would play all kinds of cute games like, “Was that what I thought it was…CRASH game”, “How many holes can I put in this seat” and finally the “How long could I chew on the steering wheel before we have to turn?” game. She became quite accustomed to riding in the car. We would often have to drive to some ranch across the county to pick up dinner (a recently dead cow) and Tink would spring into action. I would take her leash off and she would pounce onto the already dead cow to make sure was more deader-er before we loaded it. At this time she was still the size of a medium dog.
By the time she was 6 months old it was time to let her go… well sort of. She moved to the back porch with Jake the tiger, CARE’s mascot. No more hugs and leashes, and kisses would have to be given through a sturdy fence. Tinkerbell was a year younger than Jake but sure would give him a run for his money. She was a bouncy crazy kitty. For a little while after, and if I had the time, I would sneak her in the back door for some love, but that didn’t last long. Tink grew up and became a tiger. It is hard to watch them grow up, but you have to know when to let them go and to stop before their abilities become too much to handle. Knowing these things is critical in our world. Holding on too long could end tragically.
Jake and Tinkerbell spent many years together. They loved each other as much as two tigers could. They slept together, ate together, and were much like a couple who had spent a lifetime together- and yes, they grew old together. Sadly, Jake died years before Tinkerbell. She was devastated. She had lost all that she had known for the previous 15 years. I became worried about Tinkerbell’s health. She had always been husky, and now was very thin. She stayed in her house, rarely coming out to say hi. My heart wretched watching my “Stinky Tinky” slowly die of heart break. There was nothing I could do to help her.
We then moved her to the vet center to spend her last days. She would be surrounded by the love of interns, volunteers, and me. I didn’t think she would make it very long, and I prepared myself for the worst. It was just a matter of time. The time ended up being 5 years! Tinkerbell spent most of these years in the comfortable vet center. She loved her mattress and pillows and blankets and toys. Most of all she loved the love she received in the vet center. Someone was with her on and off all day. This gave her strength of spirit. It was what she needed to be happy again. It was almost as if Tinkerbell had come home.
I was now watching an adult Tinkerbell regress back to her little baby self. She would lie infantile on her bed with her arms wrapped around her “babies” (stuffed animals) just as I had held her that first day. She would snuffle and whine for attention when anyone walked in the room, and yes, she still had her “overactive snuffler”. Life had made a full circle. It was as though my little “Stinky Tinky” was just 9 days old all over again.
Tinkerbell made it all the way to 20 years, which is amazing for a tiger. She was a beautiful old girl who had seen many things, and snuffled many times. During the two weeks leading up to her passing, she started to get very tired and weak, and her snuffles started to become fewer and further in between. She was getting ready for bed, and it was okay. It was her time. She was ready, and I was ready. She wasn’t showing any signs of pain or discomfort, so I gave her the initial option to pass away on her own, but I wasn’t going to let her linger. I prayed that my little baby would just go to sleep and not wake up. It would be for the best.
One day, her snuffler stopped working, and I immediately knew that she needed help, so I made the hard call; the call I’ve made many times in the past, and the call I’ll almost certainly have to make in the future- the call to put her down. By the time Dr. Jeff Williams came out (Dr. Bill was on vacation), Tinkerbell couldn’t even lift her head, and she had used the very last bit of her strength to move her body to the exact middle of her enclosure. This is an animal’s way of saying goodbye- they try to get as far away as possible, and then they lie down and wait to die. We didn’t want her waiting any longer, we had already said our goodbyes, and we were all ready. Dr. Jeff worked quickly and efficiently, and Tinkerbell softly drifted away. Her body would snuffle no more.
It is always so very difficult to say good bye to a CARE friend, and in the case one of my dearest children. They walk on this earth such a short period of time yet touch our hearts in ways they have never been touched before. I wish for you all to remember the joy we all found in the life of Tinkerbell. She was a light that will forever shine bright at CARE.
Written by Heidi Krahn, Executive DirectorRead more
March 24, 1992 – March 15, 2012
Loving Adoptive Parents: Little Lotus Hearts
Roscoe spent his young life as a truck driver’s pet. He was fed store bought milk and dry cat food. Without nutrients necessary for normal development, Roscoe would have surely died. He spent many years fighting for his life. A miracle occurred when Roscoe was neutered. Many of his digestive and urinary issues he struggled with for years disappeared. The only lasting effect of his earlier neglect deafness. Roscoe was always happy to give anyone a loving purr when visiting CARE. His deafness has never affected his unique giving attitude despite his earlier neglect. He died peacefully of old age just days before his 20th birthday. He was one of the most beloved animals that ever resided at CARE. To say he will be missed is an understatement.Read more
May 30, 1998 – April 24, 2012
Chika was one of the more solitary Big Cats at CARE but she happily shared her space with one of our largest males, Chompers, for many years. She was always willing to come to the fence for love from humans. CARE was incredibly shocked and saddened when Chika passed away. She will be missed by all that knew her.
April 21, 1994 – November 9, 2012
Loving Adoptive Parents: Kara and Steve Van Duzee
Written by Heidi Krahn, Executive Director
***** I have kept this story to myself for many years. When people hear the story, many of them will surely say, “She is insane” or “Who would ever put an innocent life in such jeopardy?”. I am well aware of these perceptions, and I too would be thinking and saying the same things if I was to hear this tale, which borders on the unbelievable. I wrote much of this story over 15 years ago, CARE did not exist as it does today, and for those past 15 years I was reluctant to share it with people. I feared that others would be inspired to somehow attempt to share with a tiger the same relationship that I am going to tell you about. Beautiful as this story may be, I never wanted to let it overshadow the reality that big cats are tremendously dangerous and are not meant to be pets. I have spent a lifetime trying to keep big cats from suffering in the hands of those who are ignorant, exploitative, or abusive, and as such, I felt as if the potentially dangerous perception of this story outweighed the beauty I had wished to share.
My dearest tiger, Calamity, and I took our final journey together today, November 9, 2012. Calamity and I have shared so much in these past 19 years- good and bad. She has been my companion and my savior. In writing her memorial I knew I could not compose it properly without including the greatest story in my 23 year odyssey with the magnificent big cats. I simply have to tell the story which made Calamity a supremely beautiful and special being.
Taking place only a handful of times within an era, the stars will align perfectly to make for the most unusual and rare occurrences in the world of friendships. A precious relationship is made from a union of the most unlikely creatures, where the ties of shared motherhood prevail over all the institutions of logic and nature. The following is an unbelievable and incredible series of events that created a lifelong bond.
I was 7 months pregnant with my first long-awaited child, Destiny, and I was also deeply depressed. I thought this little life growing inside of me was the answer to all of my prayers. Someone to love with all the love I had to give. Someone to fix my life that was, at the time, absolutely falling apart. During those days which should have been joyous, I was tormented by an abusive, unfaithful, and often absent husband who seemed to make it his duty to drain me of all the happiness I felt in life. Without going deep into specifics, I can only ask that you, the reader, please believe and understand that my pain was very real. I had been, over the course of numerous years, systematically stripped of my humanity, and due to my crippling anguish, the pregnancy had not gone so well. I often teetered with the reality that I would lose my beautiful child, which only served to make matters infinitely worse. I was a lost and confused soul. The depression was overwhelming.
Now about Calamity… Calamity is a tiger. From the time she took her first steps, she was trouble. She earned her name honestly. She was the one who spilled her bottle, she was the one who ate her toys, she was the one who ate the furniture, and she was the one who grew up to be the tiger you definitely never wanted to turn your back on. She was a wild and energetic tiger and, like me, she was also pregnant for the first time. Calamity was very young- merely two years old; a cub herself.
Recovering from a complication, I had just been released from the hospital. My pregnancy was fragile, and my Destiny weak, hanging on to life by a thread when Calamity gave birth. As with most first time tiger mothers, Calamity had no idea what to do with these strange, moving creatures which had just come out of her and caused her an incredible amount of pain. There were four beautiful white tiger babies born from an orange mother on that cold, rainy day. This was quite the miracle in and of itself.
I had been around many tigers giving birth in the past. Through the years I had become quite a good tiger mid-wife. I thought I was prepared for anything, even the possibility of being bitten or killed. When I arrived, her four babies were already cleaned and hungry. Past cleaning them, Calamity wanted nothing to do with the screaming monsters. She lay outside the house where the babies squirmed. She looked at me as if to say, “Come and fix these horrible noisy toys. They are awful!” and we all know what Calamity does to her toys. I also knew if I did not get her to nurse them with her valuable colostrum (first milk), they would most likely die. At the time, me entering an enclosure to help big cat mothers give birth was common, but this was different. I had my own child to consider. I stood alone, watching her as the cold rain began tapping me on my tear stained cheeks. I had to make a decision soon. I was risking both my baby’s and the four tiger babies’ lives in the cold wind. I slowly opened the large metal gate and entered the den with Calamity.
I shut my eyes tight with a final prayer of wisdom. I opened the gate and walked slowly towards the mother and her babies. The 400 pound Calamity immediately ran to the house where the two pound babies cried and she stepped around them lightly, keeping an eye on me the whole time. I was relieved she did not show me her 3 inch long and razor sharp teeth. I knew she was terrified. Did she want my help or did she want me to leave her and the babies alone? I walked closer and snuffled (a tiger purr) to her as I had done many times before. I waited for her reply. The silence seemed to last for hours before she snuffled back. Endorphins rushed through my cold, shaking body. I passed Calamity’s first test.
I moved very slowly and deliberately, and in the following hours I was able to get Calamity to calmly lie down in her house and nurse all of the beautifully striped babies. What a wonderful triumph! I sat outside her house, a relieved yet very exhausted pregnant woman. I had to rest. As I left the enclosure, Calamity ran to the gate with me. Startled, I slipped out of the gate quickly. I knew all of the babies had eaten. They would be okay for another several hours. Hopefully she would go back in and feed them soon.
Many hours passed. Calamity did nothing but whine for me to return and help her with her children. The babies cried out for their mother’s life-giving milk. I finally made the cautious re-entry into her enclosure. Calamity immediately went back to the house where the babies had been alone since I had been with her last. Calamity lay down, and I gently reached in and lined the babies up and held them until they had a tight hold on a nipple. The babies began to eat again and Calamity was happy until, of course, I left her den. The entire feeding process took about one hour and the cubs needed to eat every 2 hours. This process went on 6 times a day for the next two cold and rainy days. At the end of the second day, as the evening feeding came, I was not feeling well. It was raining and I was cold. I tried to take shelter from the wind as I crouched outside of Calamity’s house. I began to shiver and cry. I was worried about all five of the babies. Calamity’s four and my Destiny. Calamity had become dependent on our relationship. Without my intervention, her babies wouldn’t have a chance, but my health was failing in the process.
What happened next was unimaginable. Nothing could have prepared me for the following events. As I shivered and cried, Calamity looked at me with concern. At that moment, the barrier that separated tiger and woman turned into a simple and powerful bond of motherhood. Calamity reached out with her long teeth and wrapped them around my right forearm. She gently pulled me into her house with her and the four cubs. I have to admit I was terrified, but my exhaustion, freezing body, and depression were greater than the fear. Calamity stood taller than me as I sat on the opposite side of the babies in her 8X4 wooden house. I didn’t know what was going to happen next. Then she reached over with her massive mouth and began licking the rain from my arms, hair, and face. I was finally warm and safe from the weather. I stroked her sleek fur and snuffled to her with gratitude. I laid my head on hers in disbelief that this insane scenario was occurring.
The following two weeks were filled with increased trust and continued miracles. We laid together with the babies between us and slept for hours. My pregnancy went smoothly from then on. Calamity wrapped her giant paws around me as we slept together six times a day and sometimes the feedings would run together with me too sleepy to leave between feedings. It is difficult to explain the oneness and security that overwhelmed me. I felt no fear. We became two mothers trying to survive our fears through the comfort of one another.
I honestly believe Calamity felt the same oneness as I did. She often gently laid her giant paw on my round belly, waiting for Destiny to kick. When she felt the kick, she would shake her paw and look curiously at it, then lay it once again on my belly, waiting for another kick from Destiny. In time, she would lay her paw on my belly and Destiny would immediately kick as if she new Calamity was there waiting. Looking back now I can’t tell you how or why all of it happened, but what I can tell you for sure is that Calamity gave me the strength to see the beauty in life even in its darkest of hours. I owe her not only my life, but the life of my Destiny, and in the following years, my boys Dakota and Dustin- we are now a complete family with my amazing husband Derek.
Calamity never learned to take care of those babies on her own. She needed me to help her until I finally took them away and bottle fed them at the appropriate time in baby tiger development. She was more than ready to let go of the babies, but neither of us was ready to give up the bond that was forged between the two of us. In the following years, over the course of our lives together, I would often find the two of us sitting on opposite sides of the fence staring into each others’ eyes, wishing we could go back in time and experience the miracle one more time. I never did re-enter her enclosure. It was a once in a lifetime experience, culminating from an incredible series of events- events that will never align in my lifetime again.
Today I re-entered Calamity’s enclosure for the last time…simply to kiss her motionless body good-bye and to thank her for the 19 years we shared…in particular two unbelievable weeks that changed my life. What an unforgettable journey we have had.Read more
April 1, 1994 – November 14, 2012
Loving Adoptive Parents: Connie, Steve, and Greg Lowery
Despite her name, Beast was nothing more than a kind and gentle soul. It did not take long for her to stand out amongst her three mountain lion companions and for the two of us to form an incredible bond.
As the weeks passed during my internship, I found myself spending most, if not all, of my scarce free time opposite the fence of Beast who would rest her head against the chain link, purring as I talked to her. The more time I spent with her, the more time she seemed to want to spend with me. When visiting cats in enclosures near hers, I would spot her waiting right up against the fence trying to lure me into spending those moments with her.
Though she had been declawed and the aching of her paws was unmistakable, little stopped her when she was on a mission to receive a bit of love from a CAREtaker. For this reason, when she began to slow down and seclude herself from me, I knew something was wrong. Beast was living with cancer, and though she put up an immensely brave fight, it was starting to get the best of her. She deteriorated quickly, and the decision was made to end her suffering. Losing her meant losing a piece of my heart, but knowing she would finally be free of the pain she endured helped us all to rest a little easier. I may have only known her for a short time, but the moments I spent with her are memories I will cherish for years to come, and she will always have a place in my heart and in the hearts of those who loved her.
-Written by Intern graduate, Krista Cope
July 6, 1994 – December 19, 2012
Loving Adoptive Parent: Gary Valdata
Today I got word that a friend died. At my age I’m pretty sure I’ll hear such things with more frequency but I doubt the words will get easier to hear despite the knowledge.
The Sunday before last I saw her for the last time. She’d lost a dramatic amount of weight. Gone was her majesty, her power, but her beauty remained even in her thin and frail form. She was still awe inspiring to behold.
She heard my voice. I was filled with a quiet sense of joy as she appeared from the shadows to see if it was me that she heard greeting her neighbor. That she cared enough in her weakened state to come see me was something beyond touching.
The first time I met her we took a walk and chatted for quite some time. She groaned and chuffed and spoke her mind as she was known to do. Three times we walked the expanse of her home’s fences, which kept us separated for mine … no … her safety and she spoke to me and I to her.
I was talking to a tiger!
Lyddia was an unexpected love of mine. We’d barely met earlier this year. I’d not even set out to meet her or my other two great lives in Bridgeport. It wasn’t MY dream. I was merely a tag-along on my wife Jill’s path toward fulfilling her own longtime dream of being around these great creatures. That didn’t shield my heart from what I would feel in Acari, Donya or Lyddia’s presence.
We learned early that tigers choose you. They like you or don’t for reasons that are their own but any deeper connection is up to them. I would like to believe she chose me that day. That our talk, which she initiated and maintained through twelve turns was her way of saying, “I’m choosing you.”
Our bond did not supersede that which she had with her caretakers or her adopted father, Gary. It was not as familiar or invested as those bonds but that made it no less important to me. I felt special in her presence and she held my eyes in hers.
Three weeks ago I asked Jill if she would take me to CARE again. I guess deep down inside I knew something was up. I knew I might not get another chance to see Lyddia again and I needed to.
She did sit with me and talk with me two weeks ago. Lyddia lacked the strength to walk any distance but she tried her best to walk at least some so that we might relive our first moments together … and she spoke in her low grumbles and moans. Like some four-legged and stripped lady Chewbacca she shared the some final thoughts with me. I only wish I knew what she was saying.
Today I learned of her passing. I read the words and I found myself weeping … over a tiger … over a friend.
Then it stopped and I felt a sense of warm gratitude wash over me. That I met her at all was a wonder to me. What twists and turns in life had brought me to that point where we would meet at all?
Yeah, I’ll miss her deeply. Knowing I will never have another opportunity to be in her company leaves me saddened. That I knew her at all, though … that is my honor.
To my friend I say farewell.
“Tiger, tiger, burning bright…”
Written by Alex Hamby (husband of Lyddia’s Sponsor Parent Jill Hamby)Read more
October 23, 1999 - September 10, 2013
Loving Adoptive Parents: Brian and Carol Harney (In memory of James Renton)
Tazz had quite a journey before CARE became his final home. He was rescued from an unfit owner by a children’s zoo in Iowa, and then made his way to Texas when the zoo closed due to hard economic times.
Easily the biggest cougar you might ever see, Tazz weighed in at about 230 pounds – 20 to 100 pounds larger than the average male! But his size wasn’t fooling anyone. He was well known for his less-than-manly “chirp” and gentle, affectionate disposition.
Having been declawed at a young age, you could see the pain Tazz endured whenever he walked, and as he aged, his pain became worse. He was moved to the vet center where we could better care for him and shower him with love (and chicken treats). Even in his final days, Tazz did not withhold an ounce of love from his CAREtakers. Though it caused him pain, he would still get up to receive and reciprocate all the affection and chirps offered to him.
There is something indescribable about the deep understanding of an animal that has been rescued from an unfortunate life. Despite his origins, huge size, and strength, in Tazz could only be found infinite forgiveness, love, and appreciation. I feel so incredibly blessed to have had the relationship with him that I did, and to have been able to witness what a goofball he could be! I will forever cherish my memories of his sweet baby squeaks and loud purrs. Tazz was very well-loved, and will be very well-missed.
Written by Jade Kaylor (Intern Graduate and Volunteer)
May, 21 2001 - December 21, 2013
Loving Adoptive Parent: Scott Fairley
We can't express how much sadness we feel writing this post. We lost another beautiful spirit yesterday when Majanna passed away. We were not expecting to lose her so soon, but a rare tragedy took her from us. A chicken bone splintered and cut through her intestinal wall causing a massive infection. She was happy and frisky one day and within a few days was gone. The blood tests that we did when she first fell ill showed nothing. Even if they had, and we had known what was wrong, there may have been nothing we could have done.
While not unheard of, something like this is very uncommon. These cats are designed to digest small bones like this, chickens and other birds are part of their natural diet.
Last night she was buried right next to her sweet Tazz so they could be together always. Another great loss for CARE, we will miss her immensely.
April 1, 1994 - March 15, 2014
Loving Adoptive Parent: Daniel Byrum – Crowley, TX
We say another farewell to one of our big cats here at CARE. We chose to end the suffering of 19 year old Beauty. As many know, Beauty suffered from the crippling effects of a declaw operation performed many years before she called CARE home. Several months ago we moved her from a large habitat to the vet center to make her more comfortable. Although it was difficult for her to move around, she still would play and loved visitors. But, like with all of our aging cats, time is never on our side. Two weeks ago she stopped eating regularly and refused to take her meds. She was letting us know it was time. Only 3 weeks away from her 20th birthday, we knew we couldn't hold on to her any longer. Beauty was the last in a group of 4 mountain lions (including her sweet sister Beast, gentle-giant Tazz, and playful and pretty Majanna) that CARE took in 6 years ago from a closing zoo in Iowa. We are so glad that they all spent their final years at CARE, and hope that we gave them the best lives possible while they were with us. Beauty will now join her companions in our fondest memories.
7.14.1996 - 2.15.2014
Loving Adoptive Parents: The Arnold Family
Memorial Lifetime Guardianship in honor of Sione Maealiuaki, loving father of Claude Maealiuaki – Keller, TX
From the start of Spotty's life he fought difficult obstacles. When he was born he was barely alive and the size of my palm. But he received so much love in the next couple of months and he was always in someone's hands. In return he became a very different leopard from the others. Unlike most leopards, who usually form a bond with very few people, he learned to love all. Each of his spots were filled with love for his CAREtakers. As he grew older, his hips and back started hurting him. He went from rushing to the fence for love and his "Spotty Salads" (just grass that we gave to him to nibble on), to limping to the fence.
When I was little I felt that we had a bond from the start. He wasn't much older than I was either, only by a month. So I grew up with him and as we both grew older I noticed the difficulty for him to come say hello. Even when I couldn't visit my mom for awhile, a still felt our bond. Whenever I returned to see my old friend I was very shocked because his limp was worse and I knew I wouldn't have much time left with him. So every morning and every afternoon I would visit him, and our bond grew even stronger.
As he helped me overcome my obstacle all I could do was be there for his. My obstacle was when I broke my leg my senior year in high school playing football. I was really good and on my way to college ball then my whole world turned upside down. Once I was a couple of weeks out of surgery I came to see my best friend. As I limped to his cage, he limped to me and I knew he was there for me, letting me know I would be back to normal in no time. This was a very emotional time in my life and I needed all the support I could get, and he was one of the main reasons why I overcome this difficult obstacle. I watched him make the best out of everyday he could.
It was very hard, but I just tried to make him happy so he could try and forget his bad hips and back. Then I got a call from my mom one morning and my world turned upside down again. As I rushed over to CARE I just prayed that he wouldn't be in any more pain. When I arrived I saw him and just tried to hold back the tears. He was so scared he was growling, so I called to him as a leopard would to its cubs to comfort him and he finally realized it was me and relaxed. I stood by his side for hours just watching as people came in to say their last goodbyes. When no one was around I would just cry and cry. When he noticed I was upset he tried to pick up his head with all his strength just to try and tell me it was okay. In his final moments I realized how strong our bond was because I could go talk to him and he would comfort me as I gave him love. He was a true best friend and he will be forever missed.
-Written by Darrion Riggs
August 17, 2001 - April 19, 2014
Loving Adoptive Parent: Lisa Kittredge – Addison, TX
We have another sad announcement. Yesterday, April 9th, we lost the uniquely handsome black leopard, Eerie. Many of our supporters know of Eerie's lifelong battle with a variety of health problems including spinal curvature and neurological issues. The closest thing, in human terms, to what Eerie suffered from is Marfan Syndrome.
Eerie was not supposed to ever see his 5th birthday. He had to prove everyone wrong and make it almost until his 13th!
Lately he was looking a little worse for wear, and yesterday took a dramatic turn for the worst. We don't know exactly what the problem was, but it was surely a complication of his condition. It could have been his heart, it could have been kidney or liver failure due to the lifelong use of steroids to give him good quality of life. Whatever it was, we had brought him back from the edge before, but there was no recovery in store for him this time. We made the decision to help him along his way, and he went very quickly.
We knew that Eerie was a miracle, and that each day he had was a day he would not have gotten almost anywhere else. He was such a special cat to so many people, just for being "different". He was extremely affectionate with his female CAREtakers, giving love and kisses freely, although he was never much for male companionship. He will certainly be missed, but we at CARE celebrate his extraordinary life instead of mourning it.
July 26, 2000 - June 12, 2015
Loving Adoptive Parent: Rachel Banks of Paradise, TX
Loving Sponsors: Michael and Rena Blain – Alpharetta, GA
These posts are never easy to write. We hate bearing bad news. With a heavy heart, we had to put Sampson to sleep. If you know anything about Sam’s story, you will know that when he first came to CARE at just a few months old, he was extremely ill. He was diagnosed with a Vitamin A deficiency, which is a growing concern in lions, and many times kills cubs before they reach a year old. Sam got the care he needed, and not only made it to his first birthday, but would have been celebrating his 15th next month! Despite the damage that the deficiency did to Sam, we were able to keep him happy and healthy for a very long time. Sure, he had a wobbly walk due to his past illness, but for many years that was his only issue. Lately, he had been struggling. In the past few days, neurological issues worsened and he started having seizures. Executive Director, Heidi, did not want to see him suffer any more and made the difficult decision we have made before and will certainly make again.. While we are horribly sad to see him go, he was the king of CARE, we know that it was the best thing for him and are just so thankful that he found a home here. We love you Sam!
November 15, 2001 – January 13, 2015
Loving Adoptive Parents: Team Minnie Pearl
Loving Sponsor – Dawn Shestko
Lifetime Guardian: Marc Sparks
Levi was an unforgettable force at CARE for over 13 years. He was most known for his intense stare (his pupils never completely dilated) and his general dislike of men (due to an accidental scare by a male volunteer that Levi never forgave). Levi was always in good health, but as he got a little older, he ended up breaking one of his canines, which is not completely uncommon in aging big cats. Usually, that is not an issue unless the break is causing discomfort. When Levi started to lose weight, we assumed it was the tooth. We ended up extracting the tooth, believing that would fix the issue. Ever since Levi’s initial issues began, we have tried everything we could think of to make him better, and we had so many reasons to believe he would make a full recovery. After the extraction, when he still wasn’t eating, we treated an infection in the extraction site. He still continued to have difficulty eating, so he was examined, treated with antibiotics, all with little effect. We started to wonder is something more was going on. X-rays were performed and there were no signs of anything in his mouth that would be causing him to continue to have problems. We tried so hard, and desperately hoped for an improvement. Despite what we did, he continued to deteriorate and quickly. We made the decision to let him go. It was a painful decision, it always is, but it was the right one for him. It is hard to explain how difficult it is to watch an animal that has been healthy, powerful, and majestic his entire life slowly weaken and fade before their time and not have the ability to make it better.
Of course, it was crucial that we perform a thorough necropsy. What we found was quite different than anything we expected.
Preliminary pathology reports from Dr. Barbara Lewis from TVMDL have suggested that Levi suffered from Chagas disease. This disease is parasitic and is transmitted by an insect called a “kissing bug”. These bugs are prolific in Latin America, where 7 – 10 million people currently have Chagas. While rampant in Latin American countries, the “kissing bug” has just started moving into the United States. A lot is known about the disease in humans, but other than knowing that many animals can be infected, research is still being done on its prevention and treatment. Levi’s neurological symptoms, difficulty eating and swallowing, and the condition of his heart during the necropsy all support this probable diagnosis.
Volunteers Rich and Denice Hazlewood, from Bugs n’ Ashes pest control, have been aggressively treating the facility to prevent the parasite spreading. We also now have identified this parasite and can test for it and hopefully treat it if another animal becomes ill.
It is an undeniable that there will never be another tiger quite like Levi. He had an incredible presence here that is now a hole. Whether you were mesmerized by his beauty, or wary of his intimidating stare, you knew he was special. He often was misunderstood and judged too quickly. He could be incredibly calm, gentle, and affectionate (typically only women got to see this side of him). He was very loved, always respected, and we feel his loss every moment.
July 16, 2001 - April 25, 2016
Loving Adoptive Parents: Matthew Larsen - Egg Harbor, WI and Kate & David Heim - Roanoke, TX
Loving Sponsors: Rob and Gretchen Koehling - Desoto, TX
With great sadness, we said goodbye to Kate yesterday, April 25th, 2016.
What first seemed to be an abscess under her chin that appeared overnight a few weeks ago, and then was assumed to be a snake bite, turned out to be a secondary infection in connection to very aggressive cancer.
Kate had been unresponsive to the meds were had been giving her, and even Dr. Bill coming and sedating her to treat the wound made no difference. Kate has not been getting better and after she had retreated to her shelter to be as far away from everyone as possible, we finally sedated her yesterday to take a closer look. We found a large tumor on her neck and the evidence of malignant melanoma. The decision was made to euthanize her to end her suffering – she was eating with difficulty and was clearly not going to recover. During her post-mortem exam, we found her lungs ravaged with cancer. While she was not showing signs of any respiratory distress before, it would not have been long until it would have been impossible for her to breathe.
This is a very sad time for us, especially since we have lost so many cats to cancer – melanoma specifically. It has certainly caused us to raise many questions about why. As we have looked back over our losses in previous years, it has become clear that the cats that have been diagnosed with melanomas have all been related in some way. Our research partner, Dr. Brian Davis from the NIH, has been interested in this commonality and obvious genetic connection and that is why every time we experience a loss like that we send him valuable genetic information to continue his research on cancer.
The cats here are interesting to study in relation to why melanoma occurs and why it is more prevalent in certain bloodlines. Unlike with humans, there are so few factors that may be contributing to cancer – just their diet (which is always meat), their water source, their stable and relatively unpolluted environment, the sun and of course, their DNA. They don’t use cellphones, they don’t eat produce treated with insecticides, they don’t drink alcohol or smoke, etc. It is so important that we work to unlock the secrets of cancer – not just for them but for everyone who has been affected by it. Loss is painful, and Kate will be missed and will always be loved, but she will follow others that will have their passing hopefully play a part in discovering ways to beat a vicious and unfair disease. Cancer really does suck and we are tired of it taking away animals and people that we love.
From Derek Krahn, CARE Operations Director and Board Member
Why are the difficult ones the hardest to lose? Kate was feisty and spunky, no doubt about it. I've even heard people, in moments of tongue-in-cheek passion, refer to Kate as being a downright "wicked little girl". Whatever people thought of her, you couldn't deny that she was memorable. She had something about her- a restless, extra-wild quality that made her difficult to live with if you were a tiger but amazing to be around if you were a person.
She was no stranger to trouble and mischief, and she had a habit of regularly starting fights with her old enclosure mates, Donya and Savanna. I can't tell you how many times I had to break up scuffles that she started. I would often disapprovingly scold her for being a brat - something she seemed to take rather personally. She would lower her head when she was being given a stern talking to as if she knew she was being a bad girl, but that she also couldn't help herself. Such conflict!
Aside from being spritely and spirited, Kate was also very independent - fully capable of enjoying her time on her terms. Despite her independence, she always welcomed her people-visitors with warmth and affection, and she would look at her people-visitors in a peculiar, analytical, way. Oftentimes when she would look at you, it seemed as if she was bemused and thinking to herself, "What are you all about? What's your story?" as she just sort of soaked your various elements in.
She could be so silly and so in the moment. She would get into these playful moods where she just wanted to snuffle and roll in the sunny grass forever. I would often watch her being beautiful in those moments, but then again, it was difficult for her *not* to be beautiful. In my humble opinion, she was by far one of the most physically beautiful cats in the compound. Yes, I know, all the cats are beautiful, that's true, but you know what I mean. She was gorgeous, but in a subtle way. She was the embodiment of a windswept ember- crackling, and burning, and dancing in the air.
She also had some of the BEST food anticipation faces. Expressed SO much excitement when the tractor came around! Eyes and mouth as wide open as they could go, absolutely adorable!
If she loved you, she loved you. It was a simple transaction. It wasn't conditional, and it wasn't complicated. She was so full of life, and I'm not just talking about her energy level, but how she chose to take it all in. It was so beautiful to be around her, to see her, to learn from her. I miss her.
She lived well past her wild life expectancy, and I take comfort in the fact that we gave her the best possible life full of love and safety, but I can't help but think that she was still gone too soon. She was nearing her 15th birthday, a ripe, respectable age just shy of being considered full-blown elderly for a tiger, she was a small girl, and she was in fantastic shape. I took it for granted that we had at least three or four more years to enjoy her whimsical wildness and her sky-meat faces, so when her health declined so rapidly, it was like getting kicked in the chest - brutal and unexpected. Cancer took her when she should have had more gas in her tank. I know it was foolish of me to make assurances in my head regarding a cats' longevity, but I was convinced her spark would make it to 20. I was convinced she would become a happy, hobbly, snuffly little old lady with scruffy cheeks and lights still in her eyes, but that wasn't to be.
This loss will haunt many of us for years to come. A dancing, burning, beautiful ember disappearing into the night's sky.
December 10, 1997 - December 5, 2014
Loving Adoptive Parents: Doris, Melinda, and Kerry Nelson – Azle, TX
Weeks after her sister Elley passed away, we lost Jezzabell. We always worry when one sibling passes, especially when the cats are older and have never been away from each other. Despite this concern and Jezzabell being just days away from turning 17 (years older than the normal lifespan of a tiger in the wild, she looked fantastic! We have both underestimated and overestimated our cats before and in this case, quite suddenly, Jezz's healthy declined very quickly.
The necropsy that we performed revealed a massive tumor in Jezzebell's uterus. Based on the size of the tumor, it is remarkable how healthy she seemed up until her final hours and how long she lived. Once again we are reminded of the strength and power of these animals.
December 10, 1997 - November 6, 2014
Loving Adoptive Parent: Harold A. Frey – Paradise, TX
Elley and her sister, Jezzabell, were nearly identical and have been together their entire lives living with a male white tiger called Zeus. Elley passed away a month before her 17th birthday from natural causes.
Elley loved to play with the water hose. It would make her day when she was given a cool shower in the evening after a hot day. She would roll around on the grass and open her mouth for you to pour water into it.
One of the highlights of CARE’s feeding times was Elley doing what we called the “hoppy dance”. She, with the grace and strength of a ballerina, would hop on her hind legs across the enclosure in anticipation of being fed. The more you would clap your hand and say "hoppy…hoppy…hoppy" the more she would dance. It was amazing to watch her. We will miss her, but we know she had a wonderful life with her long-time companions Zeus and Jezzabell.
April 9, 2001 - March 16, 2015
Loving Adoptive Parents: Christopher, Kathleen and Donovan Ray of Dallas, TX
It’s so hard to find the perfect words that will accurately describe the relationships we have with the cats. It’s even harder when they’re gone, and you want to make sure everyone who reads those words will understand what a magnificent, beautiful, unique creature that cat was.
They are all so special, but what made Donya special was her relentlessly playful personality. Interacting with a tiger is one thing, but it’s even more thrilling to play hide and seek with one. What I will miss most about her is walking around the round pen and seeing her ears just above the grass, waiting for the perfect moment to jump up and surprise me. If I ever found myself in the wild, face to face with one of our tigers, it would be Donya that would terrify me the most. She was a pouncer who loved nothing more than to surprise the unexpecting passerby. By the time I would walk up to her, she’d chuff and chuff like she didn’t just make my heart skip a beat.
I always imagined her as a tomboy, more “one of the guys” than anything. As one of the “Piranhas” on the compound, Donya ate like the males, played like the males, and sometimes even looked like one of the males with her masculine figure and “battle scarred” right eye. Masculine as she was though, Donya definitely had a soft side she would show to the male CAREtakers whom she favored. She wasn’t really a fan of the female CAREtakers in the facility like most of the other cats tend to be, so it meant a lot to me when she would greet me happily and affectionately.
To know this gorgeous girl, see the spunk in her eyes, and feel her powerful presence until very recently made it a huge shock to know she was gone. I know that Donya became ill very quickly, and I imagine she was the firecracker she always had been until that moment. It breaks my heart to think I will never crouch low in the grass with her in a game of hide and seek, but I am forever grateful for the games we did get to play.
Written by volunteer Jade Kaylor