Wild Heart Ranch is located in Claremore, Oklahoma. We provide medical or infant support to any indigenous wild animal in need of assistance and release it into suitable wild habitat once care is completed.
Late night animal calls are rarely without drama, but a late night call for a mountain lion cub sent me into a frenzy of nervous preparation. A large dog crate was loaded into the back of the truck, catch net, welding gloves, goggles..I had no idea what I would need. I had driving directions and a rapid pulse and was on my way to Lord only knew. Whatever the situation was, I would figure it out, appearing the calm professional and save the day. Yeah, sure. Had a lost my frigging mind??
The directions were correct, but I was in disbelief. The house was small, dilapidated and there was no fencing to be seen. Law enforcement vehicles were everywhere. It was dark, nine something in the evening during the fall of 1998 I believe. My home was empty of the hoards of babies and I was only working on a few injured mammals on the enclosed porch. If I was to care for a cougar, this was probably as good a time as any. I had the time, but not the common sense to know that this was a really, really bad idea.
The cub was in a filthy dog carrier in a detached garage. She was terrified, flashlights and strangers surrounding her. Everyone was hesitant, awaiting my arrival. Again, this was my problem. Ready or not, I had to learn how to move this terrified mess of feline into my carrier and get her safely home. My bluff in place, especially to myself, I did just that, fluently utilizing the element of surprise to catch her off guard, and within minutes she was safely in my care and we were headed home, her owners left to deal with their newly acquired legal troubles.
Her name was Kiara. She was an illegally purchased baby cougar and had been brutally declawed. Not only had her claws been cut out with wire cutters and left to fester, but her baby canine teeth were tipped and had shattered far up into her jaw and abscessed. She was unable to eat, unable to walk and had been lying in urine, feces and uneaten raw chicken parts for some time. The smell of her was nearly unbearable. Once home the impact of this rescue sunk into me with excitement as well as total fear. I knew nothing about cougars, also called mountain lions, pumas or panthers depending on where they live in North America. Kiara was only three or four months old, but she was as large as a german shepherd dog. She was thin, nearly starved, her ribs clearly showing through her matted fur. My heart completely broke for her the moment I lay my hands on her tense body. Fully gloved, I eased her out of the crate and onto the floor of my rehab room for further examination.
Kiara held her ground and fought me every step of the way. I was not afraid of her; my pity far too strong. She tensed and growled, hissed and struck with her swollen paws. I drug her, literally kicking and screaming, into my arms. Though the smell was nearly overpowering, I wrapped her in a clean blanket and pulled her to me as I lay in the floor next to her, my arms protectively wrapped around her shivering body, allowing her to bite my gloves and protest my offer of comfort until exhaustion finally won her battle, and she relaxed and fell asleep.
I spent that first night, exactly that way; holding my frightened little girl through her fear, stroking and speaking gently to her. I refused to let her go until she calmed down, and once she did, I didn’t want to let her go. I was in complete awe and disbelief of what I had done. It was insane to even consider that anyone would drag a frightened and aggressive cougar from a cage, even a young one, and spend the first night cuddling it like a baby, but I had done exactly that and it had worked out perfectly.
That morning I met a completely different animal then the night before. Kiara’s trust in me had been established that very first night and for her, there was no ambivalence whatsoever. She knew she was safe with me. Her feet hurt her tremendously, but I would have to clean them and clear up the infection. I would take her to see Doctor Cash and get the appropriate antibiotics, but I wouldn’t push that this first day. Today was about calm and de-stressing the poor, neglected cat. I would spend the day changing my clothing multiple times to control the stench that instantly covered me when I held her, and in between, lay protectively with her, no more gloves needed. She had come with a cheap, nylon collar around her neck and I kept a leash secured there at all times and my hand through the loop. If I left her side, I put her back into her crate, trapping the leash handle in the door to easily secure it again on my wrist before letting her out again. I had a child and I had other animals and though I knew nothing of cougars, I knew enough not to be completely foolish. Keeping everyone out of harms way was first priority with any animal, always. Kiara had no interest in challenging me though. She wanting nothing outside of the protective crate, and other than allowing herself to enjoy the affectionate intervals with me, she was perfectly content to stay in the crate and would have, all day long, but I had other plans for Kiara. Much more fun things to do than hide.
Her obvious neglect of being kept too long in the crate at her former home caused many problems for Kiara. One was her acceptance of lying in her own waste and making no attempt to stay out of it or to eliminate anywhere else but in her crate and on herself. She had never had the opportunity to learn another method, and it took weeks for her to have a problem with her own habit. The only way I could battle this was to keep her clean and hope she would eventually develop a preference for it. The entire ordeal was extremely challenging, but I won the battle. Kiara finally became house broken and would hold herself until we went outside for a walk, which was often.
Kiara’s first visit to Doctor Cash’s office was quite the event. Clients were astounded at the large cub, hiding timidly in the safety of her crate. I could already walk her easily on her leash, her pained feet causing her to limp, but I opted to crate her to protect her from unwelcome curiosity today. It was a smart move and Kiara was a very good patient for Doctor Cash. We managed everything but a fecal sample and decided to wait for her to give us one rather than to subject her to the horrors of the fecal loop used to collect an unwilling sample. So far, she accepted everything needed to care for her, but we decided not to push her. During the wait for the ‘sample’ I made one grave underestimate of Kiara’s tolerance. I asked Doc if I could use her animal tub and give my stinking cougar a bath.
Kiara went into the back room amongst the barking dogs in the cages along the wall; no problem. She loaded into the tub a little hesitantly, but overall; no problem. I turned on the water which immediately began to spray from the hand held jet; BIG PROBLEM! When my cougar literally hit the ceiling, she left our fecal sample neatly behind in the bathtub. Scared the dookie out of her…again, literally.
That was my first and last attempt at bathing my cougar. I’ve always been a quick study. I would soon learn that a cat, any cat, including a cougar will eventually get themselves clean without the assistance of water. Kiara did as much and I was immensely grateful for it. Everything smelled better and I found that cougars really don’t have any natural scent whatsoever. I believe it is to prevent alerting prey of their presence in the wild, but it was nice to discover that the formerly unbearably scented cat living in my house had become undetectable by the average nose. What a relief!
I spoiled her. Oh yes, yes I did. She ate whatever she liked best, every day, any time she wanted it. Her favorite was raw chicken and I bought it by the truckload. When chicken quarters went on sale for pennies a pound I bought all I could fit in the freezer. Her paws healed, her broken teeth fell out and made way for her adult fangs. My beautiful kitty grew stronger and sweeter with each day and we continued to bond as she rarely left my side for a moment.
My daughter was in love with the overgrown house cat. After weeks of showing nothing but affection for my child, I allowed the two kids to romp and play in the house, closely supervised, Kiara’s leash dragging behind her in the event of the need for immediate control. Katie would hide at one end of the house and Kiara would stalk her. Today I shake my head with an ever familiar “what the hell was I thinking???” as I remember these days, but at the time, it seemed perfectly natural to witness my only child being stalked by a cougar in my house.
Kiara never hurt Katie. She would stalk and charge her, only to back off at the last moment and run away to hide herself. It was a bizarre game of ‘tag, you’re it’ that went on for hours. Katie was very athletic and would often jump up on the counters to get away from Kiara. I had to finally end their beloved game when Kiara learned to leap effortlessly behind her sibling and bat anything on the counters into the floor as any playful kitty would do. It was the end to matching dishes for me and I still have not recovered. Though I still allowed the ‘kids’ to play together, Kiara was now leashed to my arm at all times, her size and strength causing me to think again about playtime with Katie.
Kiara and I had developed a habit that was murder for me to finally break. She slept in bed with me at night. Her back to me, my thumb in her mouth, she refused to go to sleep otherwise. I had to swap thumbs from time to time as I was beginning to have prunes for digits, but this was our routine and both of us relished it.
It was only my husband at the time who did not care for our sleeping arrangements. Kiara did not care for him either. It was the beginning of the end of my marriage as support for my wildlife rescue waned as the man was booted from his very own bed by his new house mate. If he tried to sneak back into bed after Kiara had fallen asleep, she would wake up, wait for him to relax and then straighten her legs as hard as she could, causing him to fly out of the bed, often hitting the bedroom wall. He finally gave up and gave us our room, thus ending the battle. I couldn’t help myself. I loved Kiara and it was the first time in her life she felt safe. No one could sleep if we left her in her crate. The cougar cubs cry for “Mommy” became an all night song of panic. “Wa-Wao. Wa-wao? WA-WAO!! WA-WAO!!” and it did not cease until she was in my bed, my thumb in her mouth, and her soft purring body was at complete peace. As long as she was happy, I was content.
I rarely left Kiara alone anywhere, even taking her to work with me at Doctor Cash’s clinic. The cougar in the dog cage was a daily attraction for clients. Kiara and I also caused many near accidents as I walked her on a leash often during my shift for a bathroom break in view of the main highway. Even more interesting was when Kiara and I went for lunch, the cougar lose in my car with me. At the drive through window, she would stretch her head out of the car to investigate the food smells, often causing a complete upset of the restaurants lunch time routine. I honestly did not take her with me to draw attention. I took her because we were always together, and if she could not hear my instant response when she called me, “Wa-wao? Wa-wao?” in her sweet cougar voice, she would get agitated and no one could calm her but me. We had become inseparable. My efforts to tame her after her terrible ordeal had made her completely dependant on me for her own well being. I wasn’t thinking about how long I could keep it up. I was only thinking of the day at hand and how to get through it with a cougar clinging to my side, and keeping her calm and happy, ensuring her future with complete manageability. It worked beautifully for awhile, but as with all cherished moments in time, sooner or later, it had to come to an end.
Kiara’s former owners were determined to pay their fines, obtain permits, build a passable cage and get their cat back. They had not brutalized her. That crime was the breeder’s, but they had neglected her. They had paid $50 for the cub and had about that much invested in her care prior to their legal costs. The district attorney, who was in charge of the case, gave them their consequences and offered them their cat back once all penalties and conditions were met. It was a call I never expected to receive, knowing the financial state of the young couple, two toddlers at home, renting a house, no perimeter fencing. Everyone, even my game warden, agreed we would never hear from them again. But we did.
The fines were paid, the permits obtained and the cage was being constructed. I knew they were determined to take her back, and my days were filled with an inner struggle that I wasn’t sure how to deal with. I had to wean Kiara from my side. I began to leave her alone for hours at a time, locked safely in my bedroom, hoping she would accept it and calm down. A basketball sized hole in my mattress was the result. She needed a cage, and I had none strong enough or large enough to hold her. Since she was leaving soon, I couldn’t see building one worthy of her and I had decided she was the last cougar I would care for on my property. We made it through the entire process without incident, but only for the bond we had and the exceptional spirit of this particular cat. What I had done was dangerous and not just for me, but for my family and my other animals. The magnitude of the risks would hit me like a ton of bricks again and again over the years. Ignorance is bliss and I had no business managing a cougar in those early days, but somehow, I did.
We moved Kiara to Doctor Cash’s home where she had a cougar cage she had been given and used as a cage for whatever needed a cage, other than a cougar, up to this point in time. Kiara again had room to romp and play and I visited her daily to give her all the attention and affection that I could. She wasn’t as happy here and I could see it by the changes in her disposition and behavior toward me. She was becoming irritable and wanted out of the cage, though it was plenty spacious for her. She had grown accustomed to freedom, going places, doing things and meeting people daily and monotony was taking its toll on her. We took excellent care of her, but it wasn’t enough anymore and it was hard for me to witness day after day. Though I was mortified when the day came that her owners would reclaim her, I was ready to see her incarceration in my care come to an end. The only thing I hated more than her being locked in a cage, was her being locked in a cage ten miles away from her home. She was safe and well cared for, but she was miserable, and so was her mother.
They picked her up at the vet clinic. The woman’s happy, bubbly disposition and obvious ‘showing off’ of her beautifully healthy, perfectly leash-trained cougar to patients waiting in the clinic made me physically sick. Doc and I had given our kitty an emotional ‘goodbye’ and were left horribly depressed and frustrated. I went in and out of tears for days on end, an invitation to visit her anytime I wanted, a futile comfort for my broken heart. I knew who she was and I knew how she loved me. I had let her completely down and I had to live with it. I was furious with a world that even allowed such a majestic animal to be kept as a pet and even more livid that she was going back to a home who had neglected her while she was an adorable, manageable cub. I was horrified to think of her living conditions once she was grown and powerful and I was afraid my Kiara would become aggressive. If that happened, she would be killed for sure. My last words to the woman were eye to eye and from the bottom of my heart, “If you ever cannot care for her, call me first.”
I visited her one time and one time only. The cage was too small, the old splintery doghouse too rigid, the floor too filthy, the weeds too overgrown, the flies thick, the cougar feces even thicker. My beautiful cat had grown, there was no denying she was being fed, but her care lacked my attention to detail and overall cleanliness, though she appeared healthy and more than happy to see me. Kiara’s greeting was overpowering. “Wa-wao! Wa-Wao! WA-WAO!!!” She was drooling buckets and her purr was audible for fifty yards. She rubbed and rubbed and rubbed the cage wall with her head and neck, loving her long lost mommy through the unyielding steel. My hands were soaked with cat spit and I was in heaven. So was Kiara. We loved and visited, we scratched itchy places and we melded together through the cage walls. The time passed far too quickly and as I walked away from her, her cry shattered my heart to a million tiny pieces.
Kiara thought I had come to take her back home with me. Her pace became desperate in the cage and her ear piercing screams erupted frantically in her grown cougar voice. I drove away hysterical and met a deep depression afterward. A call by her owners a few days later asked me never to visit again. Kiara had stopped eating and they didn’t know what to do. She had been screaming for me constantly since my visit and was beyond consoling. There was no question. I had to let her go. No matter how strong my need to visit her, it paled in comparison to the confusion and pain it had caused my beloved cat. Somehow I would have to accept that Kiara would be a special friend I was forced to give up, never to lay eyes on again. I mourned her as if she had died, and dismissed all thoughts of possibility to ever see her again. It was best for both of us as I was helpless to change anything. I buried her in my heart and tried not to think of her, but once in awhile, during the night, I would shift positions in my bed, only to have a foot fall into a familiar hole in my mattress. Tears would flow and I would hug my pillow against my body and imagine her safe in my arms, my thumb in her mouth and once again, in my dreams, she was home.
The days of detachment became weeks, the weeks became months and soon her photographs adorned my walls without causing a fit of tears. I missed her. It was a pain in my chest that seemed ever present, but I pushed it away. It was one summer, about June that I was buried in babies and Kiara was no longer immediately present in my thoughts that I again was contacted to save her life. It was the woman who owned her. Kiara was no longer wanted and her husband was going to sell her to a canned hunt. If you have never heard the term, it is one that strikes immediate anger in the animal lover’s heart. A canned hunt is when a hand raised, typically hunted animal, sometimes deer, and sometimes big cats are released on private land and hunters pay a fee to have the opportunity to shoot and mount the trapped animal. This is where many unwanted pet cougars wind up.
Commonly bred in North America for exotic pets and the distasteful canned hunts, far from endangered or valuable monetarily, and not a preferred attraction in zoos because of their tendencies to be aggressive and athletic abilities which require cages instead of the preferred protective enclosure, the cougar is the most unappreciated big cat in our culture, though they should be one of our most sacred natural treasures. The plight of this animal is very close to my heart. A lone hunter, a reclusive resident around most of the continent, they keep to themselves and only cause problems when their territories are shrunk and the availability of natural prey is reduced, forcing them into areas where there presence is detected and often regarded with fear and violence. We have laid an irreversible trap for this majestic animal and like others who depend on the wilderness for survival; they will eventually be forever eradicated from nature. Only then will we stop taking the species for granted and attempt to reverse the damage as we have done with the bison, the wolf and much of the trees themselves. It is a vicious cycle and as always, reintroduced species now void of skills naturally acquired by generations of truly wild lineage and the best survival means, come with their own new set of challenges, far more problematic than had we conserved the species to begin with. But my problems with this one cat were only beginning, though I was elated to hear those words once again, “Can you please take Kiara?” Without thought or plan, “Give me a week and I will be on my way!”
The concrete was poured within five days. The cage erected in an afternoon. The slab left room for a gigantic expansion, some day when I could afford the material. It was over a thousand dollars for the ten by ten prefabricated cage, worthy of a cougar and the concrete it sat on. Every penny donated by my urgent request for help. People knew of Kiara’s story and when I alerted that she would come home, everyone pitched in. Even the concrete company gave me a major discount.
I embarked on the final trip to her home, her crate in my new Bronco SUV, perfect for transporting any animal in need. I took my pistol with me. It was a last moment decision. I had not seen Kiara in nearly a year and I had no idea what her disposition would be. If she escaped her crate and attacked me, I would not be able to open my truck to escape, risking her getting lose. I would have to kill her, and I would if need be. Though it may be hard to understand, without claws, allowing her to escape would be the worst kind of death for Kiara. She would starve in agony and I would rather end her life myself than allow her to suffer. After what I did for Boris, I had no doubt that I was capable, but would I have the guts if need be? I did not know for certain and luckily I never had to find out.
Upon arrival to the old, cruddy house, a severe thunderstorm was threatening to break. I had a crew of men follow me to dismember her cage after I got her loaded and left with her to go to Doctor Cash’s clinic where she would be spayed immediately. It was a lot for her to deal with, but my research had taught me that an unsprayed female cougar could become dangerous and I wanted to get this over with in one trip so I would hopefully never have to move her again.
Kiara didn’t like men. ANY men. She hated all of them and would attack if given the chance. With the brewing storm, she was already nervous and my crew made her frantic. Much to my dismay, even I was regarded as a stranger. Kiara had forgotten me completely. As much as it pained me, there was no time for heartache. The storm was threatening to burst as the sky was now black and lightning was cracking closer and more frequent with each minute.
Bolt cutters were incorporated to enter the cage. The cage key was said to have been lost for months, and the caged showed it. Her surroundings were filthy. She was back where she began. She was underweight, her ribs again apparent and I guessed she was most likely septic as her water bucket was filled to the brim with feces as Kiara tried to use water when she could to try to eliminate the odor and discourage the relentless flies.
The flies. Oh my the flies. I wont go into detail, but rotten meat, feces and thousands of flies had made a rotten cocktail of filth out of the dirt floor of the cage. I later found out that members of my crew had become violently sick during the excavation of the cage poles that were buried in the muck. It was more than disgusting and I hated the system that put my precious cat right back into this lifestyle and took her against her will and mine, from love and care and a forever home with me. She was now as much of a wild thing as she had ever been, and everyone looked at me to somehow get the hissing, growling mess into the carrier for transport. Once again; my problem.
“God, go with me now.” Was all I said and bailed into the cage, all alone, armed with a dog leash, dragging the crate, my pistol forgotten in my truck. They had at least upgraded her collar, but it was a ridiculous attempt at restraining a cougar and far too small on her. I had purchased a heavy duty dog harness as well as a reinforced collar and leash. I wasn’t sure what I would need, but I wasn’t taking any chances. I had a spare leash tied to my waist just in case. That was one of the smartest things I’d done so far, however, locking myself in a cage with a terrified, fully grown cougar didn’t help my case for intelligence. I was in and this was my only chance. There was no going back.
Somewhere inside myself I found courage I didn’t know I had. I grabbed her immediately by the collar and straddled her back, holding on for dear life. She tried to bite me several times, determined to escape, slapping at me with her strong paws. I hung on, not letting her get the best of me and somehow got the harness around her and snugged it up to fit her thin but sturdy frame. I clipped the leash in place on her back and let her go. She flew to the end of the leash and having lost all her training from her youth with me, she freaked. She felt caught and she fought violently. I attempted several times to get her cornered and force her into the crate. I failed miserably and only managed to terrify her of it even more. She was flipping out and the hour long struggle was exhausting for us both. The clouds had long begun their downpour and my crew had all loaded into the vehicles to wait out the rain, and Kiara’s family had long abandoned us for the dry house. I was alone in this, and the realization of the two of us, locked in this cage, suffering and struggling without ANY assistance from the people who PUT us here, infuriated me. I was livid. I was going to put an end to this and I was going to do it RIGHT NOW.
I pulled the spare leash from my waist and locked it to the handle of the leash strapped to the cougar that was flailing the walls of the cage, trying to escape me and the attacking crate. I took the end and fed it into the door of the dog crate and out one of the back air holes. I sat down in the running mud and filth as the rain fell in torrents around me and stood both feet onto the back of the dog crate. Like some insane tug of war playing woman gone mad, with all of my strength I pulled the slack out of the leash, dragging the screaming cougar toward the crate, and myself and the crate toward the screaming cougar. Her feet wrapped around the outside to prevent entrance, and with super human power I felt muscles I didn’t know I had tear in my back and arms as with one final heave on the leashes, the struggling animal disappeared, and I dove through the muck to secure the door.
I had her, and she was pissed. Without retrieving the family from the house for any goodbyes, we loaded the disgusting mess, (the woman, the cougar and the crate) and we were on our way. The violence in the crate was more than nerve wracking. I was scared. She was frantically trying to escape, and the zip-ties that were holding the crate together (I had lost the wing nuts and opted, like an idiot, for zip-ties) were stretching to capacity in my rear view mirror. I pulled over and loaded my pistol. It was a .38 revolver and I drove with it cocked and ready to fire the entire way to town, about twenty minutes away. It seemed like hours. The downpour didn’t help. I felt sorry for my crew of volunteers, but after what I had been through and what Kiara had suffered; I felt no guilt for anyone but her and I. If the world was fair, it would have been the district attorney who had to load the ferocious cat and the owners who were forced to take apart the filthy, maggot coated cage. I thought seriously about abandoning the cage, but Kiara needed it for the addition I would have built someday. It was part of the deal I made with her owners. They didn’t want to part with the cage as it was industrial quality and quite valuable, but I made them believe I would do it no other way. My bluff was excellent. They agreed to it. Little did they know I would have paid them any amount for her at any given time and abandoned the cage in a heartbeat if pressed. Taking their cage was the only satisfaction I got for the price Kiara had to pay once again and I was taking it for her.
Not nearly soon enough, I was at the clinic where Doc would be waiting for me. Now I had help. Women working with terrified animals daily who would be more than willing to put themselves in harms way to help me with Kiara. We unloaded her into a dog run where she made her annoyance fully known. Her spay would take place the next morning and I would be there to assist. Doc had already made calls to associates to get proper doses of anesthesia for Kiara and we were ready. It took the day and night to calm her down, and the very next day, we again sent her into a fit of terror as we pinned her behind the steel door to inject her with anesthesia.
Though Kiara only weighed eighty pounds now at a year and a half old, her dead weight seemed like a thousand. We carried the sleeping cat to the table and prepared her as if she were a rather large dog to be spayed. The surgery went perfectly and after a half a day of observation, it was time for me to again load her in her crate and get her home.
Had I been thinking about it and the hell I had gone through, we would have loaded her in the crate before she woke up. I was so intent on her safe recovery that it never occurred to me until she was up and it was time to go through the acrobatics once again. This time I knew how to get it done and I had back up if I had problems. I thread the leashes through the crate and this time, let her out of her cage where I drug her in again with all my might, and my back up secured the door. That was just too easy.
Kiara was not nearly as upset this trip on the road. She was growling and bashing in her crate, but it was not threatening to open. My pistol again loaded, was not cocked this time. I was excruciatingly saddened that she didn’t remember me, but I had built the cage just for this possibility. If she came home a forever hateful cougar, she would still get a lifetime of proper care. I promised myself and I promised Kiara. I would keep my promise.
The turn onto my home road off of the main highway was coming into view. A road I’d traveled a hundred times with this cat, only now she was unmanageable. We made the turn and the silence overcoming the crate was undeniable. Kiara was quiet and I could see through the side of the crate, she was intently looking out the window of the Bronco.
Then, like music to my ears came a soft cry. “Wa-wao..wa-wao?” It was clearly a question. I heard the meaning loud and clear. “Is that you mom?” I burst into tears. “Hello my precious darling! Kiara, you ready to go home?” She always knew the word home. It meant our shift was over at the vet clinic and it was time for a cherished car ride and then play time that ended in snuggling in bed with mom and a thumb to suck to sleep. “Wa! Wa-wao! Wa-wao!!” She was excited! My brilliant kitty had figured it out! She was finally going home and she was with her mother, at least the only mother she remembered who was associated with the place she felt the safest and the most loved and cared for. Home. She didn’t shut up the rest of the trip and never once fought the crate again.
When we removed the crate from the car and headed to the cage with it, I could see Kiara’s head bobbing, looking for entrance into the front door where she knew she belonged. “Never again my precious girl.” I told her. “You can’t live in the house. This cage will have to do for now. Mommy won’t be but a few feet away from now on.” And I haven’t been, not since.
Today, five years later, the monster addition to her original cage sits just feet away from my bedroom window. She was her typical, happy, contented self the day I released her into her cage and she has never had a bad day since. Visits with her are always a slobber fest, my hair redone for me with the comb of a cougar’s tongue, my hands eagerly taken into her gentle mouth and of course, we have thumb sucking moments still. Her greeting has never changed and she only makes the sound when she sees or hears me, and no one else. People are avoided unless I am present, though Katie is still regarded as her favorite playmate, even at sixteen, and the two of them still romp playfully about on occasion, their favorite game relived, the cage walls keeping my daughter safe from her now three hundred pound playmate.
Kiara is the first sight I see every morning as I peek through the blinds to make sure she is in her cage and doing fine. She waits for me in the rising sun, her eyes finding mine, often before I have located her, and in my head I hear the sound she is making that cannot pass through the window’s glass, the most wonderful greeting of every day, “Wa-Wao. Wa-Wao.” Yes, baby. Mommy is still right here.
Annette King, Animal Rescuer
Wild Heart Ranch Wildlife Rescue