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