I am thoroughly ensconced in my desk within the gift shop of the Great Cats World Park, surrounded by paperwork. Outside, the sound of lions roaring and tigers barking floats through the light fog settling into the Oregon countryside. Though I know these sounds sent shivers of primal fear up the spines of distant ancestors, I personally find it peaceful.
This park, these animals, and the people who care for them, are a great joy to see. These cats are happy. Blissful in their generous enclosures, thrilled when they are encouraged with food rewards to engage in their natural behaviors. Their sultry eyes follow you wherever you walk in the park. They are used to people, but they are not pets. I am aware these furry little serial killers would have me for breakfast without feeling a moment of sadness at my passing. Still, they are cute.
Walking through the low valley between my temporary abode and the park I see raptors flying and plump guinea fowl strutting around seeking bugs. I see huge old trees covered in moss and green everywhere I look. Green, even in winter, seems to permeate everything here, as does the cold, damp, air. Walking through the park proper to the gift shop I am stalked by dozens of feline eyes as their owners crouch low in their comfortable dens. Each one merits a hello and responds with a nod, huff, or flick of a tail, excepting the jaguars of course, they are the velociraptors in this park. They stare expressionless at anyone who walks past, gorgeous and lush and absolutely lethal.
While my head keeps pounding mightily in the background, the calming backdrop of deep woods, dense fog, and wild fur has me feeling calm and relaxed. The addition of pampering from Traveler makes the park feel like home. Calm happy home. Yesterday I discovered that lionesses have the most alluring eyelashes. They have thick, rich, dark-black lashes that elongate as they cross from the nose to the outside of the face, creating a look Liz Taylor would kill for. They are mesmerizing. Dandelion, the wee lioness whose lashes I was studying so closely, was previously a denizen of a petting operation, and therefore kept trying to tell me to reach into her enclosure to stroke her soft well-loved stuffed animal pelt. I know better and she was disappointed in my refusal. However, she was pleased to have me sit and coo at her for a while while she blinked those limpid eyes at me. Banshee and Beowulf, the babies I got to help feed last time, are now too large to be handled by a novice like myself. They do huff at me as I pass their enclosure and show off their new found leaping, bounding, and wrestling talents for me. It is gratifying to see them so fluffy, happy, and entertained.
I love this place. I wish the people who naysay it would come and see it for themselves. I have never been anywhere that treated their animals so well and catered so carefully to them.