Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!


If you know much about me at all by now, you know that I am a member of EFA/Artists Helping Animals. And you know that I passionately love animals. Several of the members of EFA are preparing for a treasury by Vicki Diane called Artist Up Front. We have each prepared a photo of ourselves with one of our beloved animal friends and a piece of our art. I'm not really fond of putting my face out there but I'll do just about anything to help raise money that will help the animals. The picture I have chosen is unusual enough that I thought it might bear some explanation. So here is Daniel's story.

A few years back I was working at an animal park that rescued exotic animals. Most of the animals we had were previously purchased as pets by someone else. Quickly people discover that a lion or a tiger is not just a really big house cat and that they can not be trained like a dog. And even others discover that the baby alligator is not like some cute desert lizard. And unlike the mammal cats, the reptile alligator won't ever even decide it likes you. Zoos will not take these animals usually bred for profit. So, what to do? That is where we came in. We took those animals and tried to provide them with a safe and caring environment.

Daniel was brought to us at 2 1/2 months old after he had received a horrible head injury leaving him semi comatose. I spent 12 hour days with him the first week with him draped across my chest so he could hear my heartbeat. Not only did he eventually wake up and begin to fight to live, but also he and I had developed a very strong bond.

I wanted to name Daniel some really cool African name, since that was all of Africa he would ever know. But I was outvoted and he became Daniel. His injury at the back of his head left him with optic nerve damage and coordination and balance problems. He saw many doctors of various kinds. Much of it helped. But the veterinary acupuncture made the most difference.

Daniel was very affectionate and if I got about 6 inches from his face, I could ask him for a kiss and he would reach over and rub the side of his face on each side of my face. And he loved to rock. We had a special rocking chair that we would rock in when his head hurt. It comforted him. And later, well he just loved to rock for the fun of it.

At thirteen months of age Daniel started to have grand mal seizures as a result of his injury. Eventually one particularly bad seizure was so severe he was not able to escape it and he died in my arms.

Daniel was so precious to me. He brought healing to the little girl's heart inside of me in many ways. And I will always treasure those memories. But the truth is Daniel should never have existed. He was the result of breeding on a farm in the US that makes money by breeding and selling exotic animals - a place where he was abused. These animals should not be here. They should not be in cages. They should be in the wild in Africa (or other places for some animals) where they belong.



15 comments:

Annette F. Tait said...

Such a moving, sad but inspiring story Elizabeth! I have tears in my eyes and I am so thankful that you were there for Daniel and that Shambala are working so hard to change the laws.
I'm really so touched after reading this.

Carol said...

Beautiful told, but sad story, Elizabeth, I agree with you and am thankful for this organization and the fact that it is helping to work on some of the issues.I'm glad Daniel had you as his surrogate mother for his brief time on earth.

Sheila said...

That story really tugs at my hearts strings. It was wonderful that you were able to be with him to comfort him. I am glad to hear about the organization to help these poor critters. They belong free to live as they were meant not as man wants.

Lola Lynn said...

I am moved to tears. What a sad story but beautifully told. God bless you for all that you did for Daniel and continue do for the organizations you support.

Alisa Nordholt-Dean said...

What a beautiful and heart-wrenching story. Daniel was so very lucky to have you in his short life.

TreasuresFromHawaii said...

Aloha and God bless Elizabeth! Your story is so similar to mine I'll share the Reader's Digest version here with you...
I, too, worked with a wildlife sanctuary in South Florida who rescued exotics - I hand-fed tigers, black leopard, held a millipede(they need luv too...grin), and struggled in awe at the strength of a 3 1/2 foot alligator as I carried him into a new aquarium home...I had a coatimundi "squeak" every time he heard my voice and was lucky enough to take home "Bob", my prairie dog companion of three years, who could not be released into his wild, natural prairie home as he was born in captivity and his human "parents" got tired of him...
My heart goes out to you Elizabeth~I share your grief in the death of your beloved Daniel...The cat who healed the "little girl heart" in me also died in my arms and I wouldn't have had it any other way...
Hugs and warm wishes for all our furry companions and I applaud you...Dava

WindandHoney said...

Dava, It sounds like we've had many similar experiences. Thanks for writing.

pey said...

One animal at a time !
At least Daniel and you had each other and heartbreaking as it was, that he died in your arms rather than alone !
Glad you are on the team !!

Karen Daley said...

How sad I am that Daniel was unnecessarily injured, but how glad I am that he had you to be his mom, nurse and best friend! Thank you for sharing his story and for all that you do to help animals >)

UberArt and Emerson Bindery said...

What a powerful story. Daniel was so blessed to have such a loving caretaker as you. I know you brightened his short life and brought much comfort to him.

CJD said...

Just read this story and I have to say that I am so glad you could be there for Daniel. I am sorry for what he went thru but so glad that he had such a loving experience in the end. What a wonderful thing to get to rock an beautiful animal like that. I agree though that is not the right thing for this type of animal and applaud the efforts to stop this from happening again.

Ann said...

That is such a moving story! What a caring and wonderful person you are!

My Vegan World said...

So sad, but I'm glad you were there for Daniel, much love to you and him, and all the other poor captive bred wild animals.

Victoria Webb said...

Very moving story, Elizabeth. I have never approved of zoos and haven't been to one in over 30 years. I hope that Shambala succeeds in its efforts. Thanks for the heartfelt story.

Brenda Lynn said...

All I can muster right now is: Kindred Spirits.

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