Tigers for Tomorrow in Attalla (not that I knew where THAT was) that rescued exotic animals, specializing in exotic cats. I knew right away that I HAD to take Fred to this place, and when I got home I looked up their web page and found that you can schedule tours of the place during the week, but they’re open to the public on Saturdays from 9 to 4. My intention was to keep secret from Fred where we were going, to ask him to just trust me, and tell him that it was something he’d absolutely love. When he got home, I told him I wanted to take him somewhere on Saturday, and he looked skeptically at me, but agreed that he’d go. Then he hassled me until I showed him the article. He was VERY excited at the idea. So Saturday came, and we left the house around 8. Google Maps had said that it was a trip that would take about two hours, but we made pretty good time and pulled into the parking lot at about 9:45. Since Fred had been mainlining coffee the entire way there, we stopped at the port-a-potty so each of us could pee, and while I was peeing, I could hear him talking to someone. When I walked out, his eyes were absolutely twirling with excitement and he was thisclose to hyperventilating. “She said that we could pay $200 and PLAY WITH ONE OF THE TIGER CUBS!” It’s very unusual for Tigers for Tomorrow to have tiger cubs on the premises. They’d recently done a rescue and ended up with four tiger cubs, who are currently about eight weeks old. On the drive to Tigers for Tomorrow, we’d both said that it was too bad we couldn’t actually touch a tiger, but we also both wanted to keep all our limbs intact and unmauled. We all but ran to the entrance tent, and Fred paid the $20 entrance fee ($10 for each of us), then said to the volunteers that he’d heard you could have an “encounter” with the tiger cubs. Not only did the $200 buy us an encounter with the cubs, it bought us an almost two-hour tour with a volunteer, who knew just about everything there was to know about all the animals. Wolves are one of the exotic animals they rescue. The guide told us that the male of this duo is extremely dominant and sometimes it sounds like he’s killing her, but he’s just asserting his dominance. “I’m not coming out, and YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!” An unfriendly black leopard. The guide told us that she has black skin, black fur, and black spots. Very cool. Tiger. The guide did her best to explain the difference between Bengal and Siberian tigers, but I’ll be damned if I could see any obvious difference. I had no idea, but tigers ADORE playing in water. When the guide went and got the hose, the tiger got extremely excited. Young tigers. I can’t remember how old they are – three months? Six? – but they were very playful and fun to watch. Coatimundi. They’re adorable and look like they need to be snuggled, but the guide told us that they will rip you UP with those claws. “Aww, c’mon. Don’tcha wanna snuggle?” Another wolf. As you can see, he was quite excited to see us. Cougar. There were a male and female cougar in the same cage. Tigers for Tomorrow is a non-breeding facility, so they usually neuter the males, since it’s a less invasive procedure than spaying a female would be. In this couple, the male is neutered and the female isn’t spayed, so she goes into heat, goes looking for some love, and the male is like “What? What do you want? Get me a beer and let me watch the game!” and she has a temper tantrum. Not catlike at all, huh? Mr. Lion didn’t feel like being sociable. This tiger – Blake – got himself a new pool. We were there when they let him back into his cage, and I think it took about six seconds for him to get into the water and just stay there. And then… time to play with the babies! I love the look on his little face. They’ve imprinted on the lady who runs Tigers for Tomorrow as their Mama, so they’d hear her voice and try to get her to come to them. “Where my Mama go?” “Mama!” I never knew this until today, but tigers have white spots on the backs of their ears, and they keep them all their lives. They’re used when they’re little so their mothers can identify them. Fred’s was more playful than mine. Mine just wanted his Mama to come back. “Mama, I killed Eeyore!” Poor dead Eeyore. She nuzzled my ear and licked my cheek. I thought I was going to die from the utter thrill. Check out those paws! On our way out of Tigers for Tomorrow, we stopped by the petting zoo. When these tortoises (turtles? I know not the difference.) saw us, they started moving in our direction. I said to Fred, “It’s a stampede!” and he said “Yeah, and it’s going to take five years for them to get to us. Run!” Does this face crack you up as much as it cracks me up? “Kiss me, darling.” That was, without a doubt, one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had in my LIFE. If you’re in Alabama and you want to love on some baby tigers, you’d better move fast. They’re only letting the cub encounters go on for a few more weeks, and then the cubs will be too big (and could maul you!) for contact with the public. I have to say that I was extremely impressed with Tigers for Tomorrow. The place did NOT smell zoo-y at all, and the guide explained to us that state guidelines say that they only have to clean out the enclosures once a week; but who wants to let a cat live in its own waste for a week? They clean out the enclosures every single day. The animals all looked very healthy and happy, and while of course in a perfect world they’d all get to roam free in the countries they were born in, that’s obviously not an option. They get the best care possible, and if you have any money to spare, I know they could always use a donation. If you want to see any of the above pictures in the full-size version, go to the Flickr set, click on the picture, and then click on the “all sizes” link at the top. Also, Fred put up his own entries about the experience, broken into two parts, because he likes to drag EVERYTHING out. That begins here.

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Previously 2005: No entry. 2004: No entry. 2003: How to kick a sock’s ass. If it had an ass. 2002: “What’s your name?” he asked. 2001: No entry. 2000: Leave it to me to have sex dreams about the gay guy, huh?]]>