When Nature Calls

Wildlife Waystation is a wonderful organization in the hills north of Los Angeles. They rescue, rehabilitate, release or care for wild animals in need. I sponsor a jaguar named Dustin and my friend Bonnie sponsors a lion named Duchess, so we went up one day to take a tour and visit “our” animals. The Waystation threw a lovely party for the sponsors, with snacks, and demonstrations by some of the tamer animals. Then we went off on the tour.

It’s quite an experience. You’re just a few feet away from some magnificent wild animals. Remember the dozens of lions and tigers that were discovered in a ramshackle camp in Idaho? They’re here. The two orphaned grizzly cubs from Montana? Here. The former circus bear who likes to have a radio outside her pen so she can break into the occasional dance? Yup. Wolves, reptiles, llamas, emus, down to the baby raccoons.

Sherkhan is a 900-lb. Siberian tiger. Magnificent. Whenever any of the big cats see a child or someone injured, they instinctively pace back and forth, staring intensely. This can be a little scary if you’re the one with the sprained ankle. Sherkhan has another trick, though. As we stood by his pen, suddenly he turned his back, his tail went straight up. Everyone to the right and left of me fled (even though you’re not supposed to run around the animals), and, yes, the tiger peed directly on me.

They tell you that tiger pee smells like buttered popcorn. I’m here to tell you it smells like tiger pee. Fortunately, I was forewarned and wore old clothes. And, sadly, it’s such a common occurrence that nobody at the Waystation is surprised if you come back, uh, aromatic.

This is not the worst thing that can happen to you there, though. I once went on a private tour of the chimp compound. The chimps are mostly retired research animals. They are not included on the tours because they are very sensitive to facial expressions. For example, they view a smile as a sign of aggression. And they react strongly, using any weapons at hand. So just when you’re grinning and saying, “Awww, how cute,” they’re gearing up to fling their feces at you. Trust me, a little tiger pee is nothing compared to some nice fresh chimp poop. Chimps, as is happens, are very accurate throwers.

Please support Wildlife Waystation and visit when you get a chance. I’m going to do some laundry. And ponder why Mother Nature seems a little pissed off with me lately.

Copyright 1999 by Janine Smith. Not to be reproduced or distributed without permission