Monday, July 30, 2012

Farewell Sweet Okemo

And God asked Okemo’s spirit
Are you ready to come home?
Oh, yes, quite so, replied his precious soul
But, as a tiger, you must know
I am most able to decide when I must go.

Are you coming then? asked God.
Soon, replied our whiskered angel
But I must come slowly
Since my human caretakers are very troubled
For you see, they need me, quite certainly they do.

But don't they understand? asked God
That you'll never leave them?
That your souls are intertwined. For all eternity?
That nothing is created or destroyed?
For your spirits are forever and forever more.

Eventually they will understand,
Replied our handsome Okemo
For I will whisper into their hearts
That I am always with them
For I’m just a breath away from forever and forever more…

Our beloved Okemo crossed the Rainbow Bridge on the evening of Friday, July 27, 2012.  The most difficult decision we had to make was to decide when it was time to release Okemo from his failing body.  Our vet, board of directors, staff, those close to him were all consulted, but ultimately, we relied upon Okemo to tell us when he was ready to go.  As hard as it was to accept, Okemo told us last week that it was time.   He stopped eating, refused to get up, or talk to us.  He appeared tired and ready to go "home."

For our new blog followers, allow us to introduce you to Okemo. 

We first met Okemo when we went to the Wild Animal Orphanage to see what kind of help we could offer them.  At that time, Okemo was living in a large enclosure, all by himself, away from other animals. He looked so lonely, watching us with so much hope in his big beautiful eyes.   When we went up to say “hello” to him, Okemo immediately started chuffing up a storm, rubbing his body up against the enclosure walls.  He was very friendly and so happy to see "people" that it broke our hearts to leave him behind that day.  On our way back to Wylie, Texas, Justin was intent that we return for our Okemo, laying out the case to our board of directors the necessity of accepting this precious tiger.

On August 14, 2011, we were thrilled to bring home our 18-year old tiger, ready to lavish him with lots of TLC.  We noticed Okemo was a little on the thin side and very skittish of the other big cats.  It took a long time for Okemo to get used to having other cats around him, but it didn’t take long before Okemo was chuffing at our staff and volunteers.  He was such a love-bug -- we adored him!

Okemo with his pizza box on August 16, 2011
Our Facebook page

Ricki Hart He is quite the gentlemanly flirt!! After about 12 hours to settle in, he started chuffing like crazy! Comes right up to the fence to say "HI" and starts chuffing and rubbing the fence. We love him!!!
August 24, 2011

Jenny Cauthen Yager Ricki he was is a chuffing machine when I was cleaning his cage last weekend! He was very vocal, making cute little noises.
August 24, 2011 at 9:47am 

Our long time blog readers may recall Okemo used to be a little intimidated with his next door neighbors when he lived in Chuffing Park.  So, on November 27, 2011, Okemo moved from Chuffing Park to Aladdin's Castle.  Jasmine, his new neighbor, took to our boy right away, but Okemo often played it cool with our girl.  To read more about their introduction and to watch a video of Okemo moving into his new home, click HERE.

We first learned that Okemo was very sick about six months ago. In mid-February, Vicky noticed he had a swollen jaw on the right side of his face.  Our vet came out the next day to take a look at Okemo and decided it would be best to sedate him so a closer exam could be made while he was under.  So on February 23, 2012, Okemo was sedated and our vet examined his swollen jaw.  
Our vet cleaned and shaved Okemo’s jaw so he could see the swollen sac found on the right side of his chin.  Since the sac was filled with fluid, our vet lanced the sac allowing the accumulated blood, pus, and bone shavings to drain from his wound. Once the wound stopped draining, our vet thoroughly cleaned the area and took x-rays of Okemo’s jaw. We also drew blood from Okemo and both his blood and culture samples were sent off to be tested for any abnormalities.  When the tests came back, we were devastated by the resulting news—Okemo was diagnosed as having squamous cell carcinoma that spread to his lower jaw bone.  We also learned that Okemo was very sick at the time we brought him home to In-Sync Exotics, but his symptoms did not show up until early this year.  Eventually, the cancer ate away at his lower jaw bone until there simply wasn’t very much bone left.

With the passing of Okemo, Jasmine is now alone again.  First she lost her brother and cage mate, Raja, on October 23, 2011 and now she has lost her buddy, Okemo.  

Okemo was cremated on Saturday with many of his loved ones in attendance of his memorial ceremony.  Even though Okemo was with us for just shy of his twelfth month, we will never forget our handsome tiger...

We hope you enjoy our video of Okemo's "many faces."  We will never forget his wonderful facial expressions--not ever...



  1. Thank you, Justin, for making your case, which allowed Okemo to come "home" to In-Sync! I loved watching the video of his move to Jasmine's neighborhood and seeing how happy that made him (and her).

    I first became aware of In-Sync right about the time Okemo arrived, so via your website, blog and FB, I followed his move and then, sadly, his diagnosis. On my first visit last December, Okemo was one of the tigers I most looked forward to meeting.....and he didn't disappoint......what a sweet boy!

    Although I have been volunteering only a short time now, early on, it was so apparent Okemo was just....special. There are no other words for him but SWEET and SPECIAL. We were all so blessed to have had the privilege of knowing this incredible boy.....I know I will miss him dearly.

  2. I am so grateful I got to meet Okemo. I shot video of him and Vicky on Mother's Day this year and it was very moving to watch the two of them together.

    I am so very sorry I did not get back to see him before he crossed the bridge. One of the bad things about living so far away I guess. He was a big sweetheart and will be missed very much.

  3. I am so glad that my sister found In-Sync. She is now a voluteer there so we try to come see all these beautiful animals as often as possible. We were fortunate enough to meet Okemo a few months ago. We are deeply saddened over his loss and the loss of others since our last visit. This is a wonderful place with wonderful people. These beautiful animals are so blessed to be with you all. I look forward to our next visit.