Anyone who cares even the slightest about animals or has ever been wowed by the “lion tamer” (yes, I must put it quotes) at a circus thinks I must have a greatest job in the world.
A phone rep at tiger-direct.com who was confirming my billing address thought my life was the best. I was sitting in 80+ degree weather because I get no cell reception at my desk, desperately trying to be heard over the sound of male peacocks (that everyone thinks is a cat calling out), in order for a piece of equipment to be sent that I wasn’t even sure we needed or if I was indeed authorized to purchase.
Without the backyard and the peacock, it probably sounds like your job.
The truth is, we (the volunteers) spend hours and hours a week, sometimes more than we spend at our real jobs, carrying for wild animals that can never be wild. We decide when they eat, where their den is, how large their enclosure is, what toys they get, when their poop is removed. And then they die. It’s like a punchline but there is no joke.
Last week, we saw our Chance.
Florida has two native cats – cougars (or florida panthers) and bobcats. We have received several bobcats, mostly kittens, and most with too much human contact to do anything but build another enclosure.
But last week, we said goodbye in a different way to a different sort of bobcat.
With only one eye, but fully recovered from surgery to place his stomach back inside where stomachs belong, he bounded into the forest. He was our second true rehab and release.
Some volunteers worry about him. Some wonder if he will hunt successfully. Will he survive the year? Will he survive the month? The day?
I don’t worry or question. I saw him have that one good run. A run into the wild that all the cats we returned to at the sanctuary can never have.
The next day, we had to let another cat go. This time, in the manner that we are accustomed to. A black leopard, cursed to cry his whole life due to facial damage from being beaten to perform. He was old, and arthritis had crippled him. Some volunteers feel sad and angry that he had to leave. He was the reason many fell in love with the sanctuary.
For me, I’m just sad and angry that he ever had to be here in the first place. That he couldn’t get his one good run.