Monday, February 8, 2010

Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Education Center

This is Sierra, a thirteen-year-old female Siberian tiger, and she's my sweetie. What an absolutely gorgeous animal!

Down in Louisburg, Kansas, you'll find the Cedar Cove Feline Conservatory and Education Center. Back in 2006, I was researching tigers for a novel I was writing and I discovered this place, only thirty minutes from my home, that had real tigers! I went down to visit. And I visited again. And again! Finally a wonderful woman named Shelly Tooley pointed at me and said, "Sign him up!" And thus began my three-year adventure helping take care of the cats and other animals at Cedar Cove. The park was found by Billy Pottorff, who first saw tigers for real while serving in Vietnam. Shelly helped him build the park, and for a long time they were the only two people who ran it, until B.J. Auch and Steve Klein became the first outsiders to volunteer there. Shelly passed away very unexpectedly in November of 2008, and we all miss her a lot.

I was active at the park for three years, doing hard work and bonding with the cats, including tigers, leopards, cougars, and bobcats. I stopped going out there regularly simply because I realized I needed to concentrate more on my writing, and I miss the park very much. But if you're in the area and have a chance to visit, don't miss it! There are also three wolves at the park, and soon they'll be making a big announcement about a new addition to the park (my Facebook friends already know what that it).

The park is entirely run by volunteers, and no one draws a salary from the place -- your entry donation goes straight to the care and upkeep of the cats and the park. The work can be unbelievably hard and risky -- imagine shoveling heavy snow while keeping one eye on a tiger that's just waiting for you to give him a chance at you! But there are many rewards, as any of the volunteers will tell you. It takes a certain kind of commitment, patience, perseverance, and love to do what these people do, and they are truly wonderful folks for all of the work and time they give to Cedar Cove.

My personal picture page is here, which has literally thousands of pictures of Cedar Cove's cats. Another one of our regular visitors has his own picture gallery here. Enjoy! And remember, it's Sierra's world -- we just feed her in it.


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