It feels good to be blogging once again. I’ve been very excited to share this adventure with you. First off, I really didn’t have a tiger by the tail…but, at one point, we could have easily touched noses. Seriously!!
It all started at Christmas. We had finished opening up our gifts and as usual we like to save a “BIG” gift to open last. I had no idea just how big this was going to be. I opened up my package to find a Manila envelope. I felt around a little but for the life of me I had no idea what was inside.
I peeled open the flap and reached in. I pulled out something akin to a brochure of the Columbus Zoo. I thought ‘Oh my goodness! A membership to the zoo!’ Wrong.
I looked a little closer. My hands started to shake so bad. Tears filled my eyes and quickly spilled over.
“Is this what it says it is?” “Yep.”
I was in total disbelief.
See, everyone who knows me, knows that I am an animal lover. If you know me really well, then you know I especially love Big Cats. My favorite being the Siberian Tiger, also known as the Amur Tiger.
So, as my hands shook and just before my vision blurred from all the tears, I was able to realize I was being gifted a Private Tour and Tiger Training Session at the Columbus Zoo. Oh, and not just any tiger….you guessed it….an Amur Tiger! I really thought I would hyperventilate.
It would be February 7th before we would go. I counted down the minutes and every night I dreamt of tigers and what the day would hold for us. You couldn’t wipe the smile off my face.
Finally, it rolled around. I was so nervous I chose not to drive the 45 minutes it takes to get to the zoo. I love to drive but I was in no shape to be behind the wheel on this day. I had to get ready to train a tiger.
As we parked and made our way to the entrance gate, it was all I could do not to cry. This was a dream come true for me. A real ‘bucket list’ dream. Coming true with every step. We checked in and were escorted to the guest services area. Then our tour guide arrived.
He was super sweet. He drove us all through the North American exhibit and told us all about the wonderful conservation programs in which the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are involved. The list is amazing.
We received a little gift bag that was hand made from ladies in Sudan. The money they raise helps pay for education and food for a year.
She was a beauty.
Finally, after what felt like forever and not long enough we rolled over to the Zoo Keeper’s office. It was at the Tiger exhibit that we met the trainer and Zoo Keeper. There were four female tigers in the yard entertaining the bystanders.
We began chit chatting and they were telling me tons of facts about the Siberian Tiger. Most I knew…some I didn’t. After we stood by the glass for a while watching them we walked over to where another female tiger was housed by herself. She was the oldest. And she was beautiful.
They said she likes to stalk all the keepers as they come to feed her and do her daily training. She was so gorgeous and I stood about 5 feet from her. I wanted to reach out and touch her so bad… BUT, I resisted.
We stayed there a good 30 minutes and then went inside to see Foley! Foley is the only male and if I thought the females were huge, well…he put them to shame. He could easily stand 9ft on his back legs. He knew all his commands and I watched in awe as our trainer worked with him. My heart was pounding.
Smiling she looked at me said, “Are you ready for a treat?”
She motioned me closer to his cage. I was now inches from this gorgeous creature. This Tiger that I never thought I would be this close to. If I would have just leaned forward, we could have touched noses. No joke!!!
There I stood in the most surreal moment. I almost felt like I was outside myself. I wanted desperately to burn every detail into my brain. Much, much too soon we had to leave. But I have memories, feelings and pictures that will stay with me forever.
Thank you P. for giving me a dream come true.