Not something I'd like to see staring at me - especially in that pose...
I worked at a Marine & wild animal park for 3 years. Although my actually job description was skier/ stunt boat driver in the park's ski show, one of my duties was to drive a handler w/ a 640 pound siberian named Simba thought the canals of the Park in a 14 ft. boat, for the park visitors to see at a safe distance.
Simba was well feed before they'd show up on the dock each morning, and usually lethargic which suited me just fine. The rest of the employees would part like the red sea for them. The seriously heavy link chain around his chain w/ the 6'4', 250 pound handler holding the other end wasn't fooling anyone. We all knew, if Simba for whatever reason decided, a mid day snack or maybe as a new chew toy to break the boredom of his day, our number was up.
He wan't a pretty boy slacker. He was a working Tiger. After his morning boat ride, he preformed in 3 shows on the weekdays. 5 shows on the weekends. Between my shows, many times I'd go catch one of his. From a crouch, 12 ft before landing or a 5 foot ****** & grab was nothing for him.
Other than our work schedules, we did have one other thing in common. We both loved the water. His handler told me Simba paced the cage door every morning waiting for his escort to the the dock. As soon as he could see the water you could actually see him become relaxed.
So into the boat, the three of us would take our places. Myself at the wheel. Handler next to me. Simba taking up the entire deck & off we went. Are soon as we where underway, Simba would shut out the rest of the world. He would stare into the water over the front of the boat as we slowly idled through the canals. Usually slapping at the ripples coming off the boat. Sometimes just starring at his own reflection. Kids would yell & wave from the bridges as we passed under. Simba remained oblivious. almost like a trace between him & the water.
It soon became obvious to me that these morning excursions were in fact therapeutic for this great animal. After many of these rides shared together, one day hander said, "He knows you now. Go ahead & pet him!"
Here's you chance to do something very few people get to do, I thought to myself. I walked to Simba & he raised his huge head & looked me straight in the eye. Simba's eye's dilated widely. It was like look at train tunnels. Time seemed to stop & now I was completely oblivious to my surroundings. I had become somewhat used to his great size over time, ******* his tail in the boat, swatting back & forth as he played with the water. When it did connect, as best I can describe it, like love taps by someone w/ a pool que.
It was very different now, as we starring into each others eyes. Before this, I was never the center of his attention. I can't speak for Simba, but my mind racing like a bat out of hell. Simba. You are one big son of a bitch! Yea we've been hanging together for a while, but I've seen you in action during your shows. I for the first time realized my forearm would scarcely pass as a decent tooth pick for him. One other thing I remember during this, neither Simba or myself blinked. It ended with me looking away, then Simba once again resting his head on his front legs. I thanked the handler for the opportunity, but declined.
Never saw Simba again. Blew out my knee during the last ski show that weekend. Moved back home for the operation & rehab, then went onto other things. Came away w/ a lot of good memories though. Simba was definitely one of them.
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