Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lions Tigers and Bears...Oh My!!!

This is going to be a very very long post.

First of all, you should click on these pictures individually to make them bigger. You can see the beauty of the animals!

On Saturday, June 14 Chris surprised me with the first of our adventures on our first wedding anniversary weekend. We drove way out to Devore, California to a ranch where exotic animals are kept that appear in movies. Because these animals appear in movies they are "trained" but of course it never left mind mind that these animals do have a wild instinct no matter what. I had first heard about this on Daily Candy last year and forwarded the email to Chris telling him that if we got to go "I'd be talking about it for years to come". He kept it in the back of his mind and decided that our anniversary would be a great time to do it. The fee you pay ensures you two hours by yourself (with trainers of course) with the animals. These animals are all "affection trained" (which is actually how Riley was trained) -- no treats and no beating down on them if they do bad! Everything they do is for praise. All of these animals are "zoo rejects". They were all born in captivity so they would not survive in the wild. They quit taking these animals from the wild many many years ago. And please, before anyone thinks this is cruel to animals, please know that I am a massive animal lover and wouldn't even go horseback riding because I was "afraid it would hurt the horses" for years until I finally came to terms with it a few days after this animal encounter. For the record, we went horseback riding and I didn't really enjoy myself so much because we were going uphill and it was hot and when I asked the leader "if this is hard for the horses" and he said "well, (pause) its kind of like you walking up this hill with a backpack". I knew I didn't want to be walking up that hill in the heat with a backpack, so I felt so bad for the horse. So I don't have a problem if any of you want to go ride horses but I just had this immense guilt. And I have weird guilt about a lot of random things like that so you probably won't change my mind even if you speak to me rationally:)

I was surprisingly nervous around some of the animals. I have wanted so badly to hug a tiger for so long (I know, go ahead and laugh) but when given the chance I almost chickened out. I surprised myself and Chris at how nervous I was!

Ok back to animals. After we were picked up at in town we drove down a dirt road for a long time and suddenly saw this. I saw two huge felines getting out of the van and started to freak out. Felines, specifically tigers, are what I wanted to see most and they don't guarantee that a certain animal will be there on the day of your visit in case they're off at a shoot. So as I'm freaking out the guy hands me the waiver to sign. I can tell you that I didn't read a word of it because I couldn't take my eyes off the lion and the tiger! Let's just say I'm glad that I wasn't eaten by Romeo the Lion...

Chris walking Romeo the Lion. Romeo is only 1/3 the size he will be when he's full grown! He is a male and is starting to grow his mane. I can't remember exactly how old he is but I think it was just under 1 year old!

This is Shere Khan, a tiger. He is about the same age as Romeo. He went straight into the water. Romeo was much more hesitant to get in the water as lions do not have much water in their natural habitat.

Look at Romeo's perfect nose and beautiful teeth!

Yes my foot is in Romeo's mouth. No, he did not bite down. His trainer gave him a one word command and he let it go!

I have a thing for paws. I think I asked Chris to take pictures of almost every animal's paws!

This is when Romeo decided he wanted to play with me. I was terrified. He didn't do any harm, but he was so big!

Beautiful Romeo. This is one of my favorite pictures of any animal ever. He is stunning in this picture! Looks like he's listening to me tell him a story.

Shere Khan never took his eyes off Romeo. He wanted to play the entire time. Lions are much more people friendly than tigers, in part because they run in prides and tigers are much less social. The trainer told us if we had a lion and a tiger in our living room, the lion would always be in your lap and the tiger would always be sitting by the front door. I'd love to have a tiger and lion in my living room (Riley wouldn't like it though)!


Chris walking Shere Khan

Shere Khan's mouth was around Chris's leg but did not bite. It's his way of playing!

This is me feeding a marshmallow to a European Grizzly--sorry I don't remember his name.

This is beautiful Sundar. He is a full grown tiger and he is just stunning. Look at his eyes!

Next is Rowdy, a Capuchin Monkey. You might recognize him from Night at the Museum. He was all over Chris and I, jumping back and forth. He knew no barriers. He tried to unbutton Chris's shirt. He was very intrigued by our camera. I really thought he was going to start taking pictures--he was that smart. He was so human-like and I can see how people love monkeys so much because he was like a little baby at times. Very affectionate.

Look at how human-like his hands are

This was a crazy but entertaining monkey who kept trying to steal Chris's hat

Look at his smile!

I thought it was odd that he had such fangs for only eating berries

This is Nova and Sierra, a male and female adult grey wolf. They were amazing. We went on a nature hike with them. I wasn't that nervous with them because I just kept telling myself that it was somewhat like walking the largest dog I've ever seen. Wolves are actually some of the most dangerous animals we encountered on this day, because they are so intelligent.

Also, notice the smudge in the middle of these pictures. It's from when Rowdy the monkey was playing with our camera and he got marshmallow on the lens. Unfortunately we didn't notice until a bit later.

This is Timber, a 3 month old grey wolf. Still marshmallow smudge on the picture.

Tanner, a red fox. This is one of my favorite pictures of the day. Tanner has shed half of his coat for the summer and he is TINY. He's precious. For some reason he reminds me of my neighbor's dog, Oscar.

Another paw picture. This one is from a black leopard. At first glance this cat had black fur. When you got up close you could actually see the brown "leopard" spots contrasting with the black. It was beautiful. The black leopard had the softest fur of any of the felines we pet. I was surprised at how coarse most of their fur was. However, the black leopard was shiny and soft.

Look at this lion's tongue! Talk about rough.

This is the tiger that was confiscated from Mike Tyson a few years ago. It was HUGE. And very vocal. The trainer said he's moody. This cat is here as a sanctuary animal. It doesn't do well with humans unfortunately and there really weren't many places for this cat to go.

I love alligators and crocodiles. I actually think they're very cute. I think it looks like they're always smiling. I was admiring this one at close glance when it started HISSING LIKE A SNAKE. Snakes are one thing I don't like. I had no idea alligators hissed like snakes.

This is Karen the Puma, or Mountain Lion. I actually don't know what her name is (could be a he, actually) but I call her Karen because she looks exactly like the "Cougar" from Talladega Nights, and thats what Ricky Bobby named his "Cougar"

This is White Fang! Ok, it's White Fang 2, but I was still excited. I love that movie so much. White Fang was beautiful and very big and VERY lovable.

Finally, a leopard. It was the most breathtaking animal I'd ever seen. It was very vocal as well which made it very cool too. I never got a great picture because I didn't get too close, but look at that tail!

As we were leaving the ranch I saw a Blue Tick Coonhound in a yard and I threw a fit. The trainer that was driving us back to our car was completely astonished that 1) I knew what the dog was and 2) that I had just touched all these exotic animals and I was throwing a bigger fit over the Blue Tick than any of the other animals. What can I say, I'm a Vol fan first!

If you'd like to see all the pictures from our animal adventure, go here.


emily said...

Wow! Further proof that Chris is the perfect man for you. I mean, who else would think of taking you here???? The pics are amazing.

LeeAnn said...

Sooo cool! I don´t know- I don´t think I could have actually put my foot in his mouth though. How exciting!!!

Jenny said...

Wow that is so, so cool!!! I, too, LOVE big paws and especially love Lions!! I've always wanted to snuggle with one. I really enjoyed your pictures and now I want to go there!

Jill said...

Seriously, all I can say is WOW! What an amazing day and you got some great pictures!!!! Wow!