Wednesday, October 3, 2012

An Education in Human Behavior!

A Special Cat Story Told by Janis Danner, In-Sync Exotics Volunteer 

Since the resident cats at In-Sync Exotics depend on their human caregivers to meet their needs, it's important that we establish a bond of mutual trust and respect. Our cat companion team builds this bond by sitting outside their enclosures and talking with the cats. The cats are the primary focus. No work, training, medical procedures, etc are allowed during companion sessions. Physical contact is not permitted. The directions are to sit with your cat for as long and as often as you wish when you have sapre time, tring to spend a minimum of 15 minutes once a week. It is a time for everyone to relax and become acquainted with each other. The cats get attention from a special human in a completely non-threatening and consistent way. Each cat and each companion has their own personality, so as more and more time is spent just simply being together, this bond can grow and mature. Every cat at In-Sync has at least one human companion, and sometimes more than one depending on the number of volunteers that join the program. 

As far back as I can remember, I have had a fascination with lions. When I started my volunteer training at In-Sync, Debbie asked me which ones were my favorite, and I answered “Lions. Can’t tell you all the reasons exactly why, but it’s the lions.”

After volunteering for about six months, I applied to join the cat companion program. To my great surprise back in December, I was assigned to Jynxie and Sabu! I don’t know how Vicky knew to pair me up with some lions, but I was absolutely thrilled to start spending time with two of InSync’s superstars. Both of these older lions have lived their lives around humans, so I naively thought this would be easy and we would all become fast friends from the start. I had worked cleaning in their enclosures a few times before joining the program, so I knew a little about each of them and was looking forward to this new relationship.
My first official cat companion visit took place on a cold, cold day. Neither of them were the least bit interested in me. Sabu was out in the middle of the playground, sitting in the sun, and ignored me. Jynxie was all cozied up in her warm straw filled den, took one look, and closed her eyes again. I thought to myself, “Well that went real well!” Guess I must be another one of the many folk they see. I was disappointed, but determined to do my best.
For the next couple of months, I repeat, months, I spent at least 15 minutes one day a week, standing or sitting beside them, talking to them, playing them music, and even doing a little bit of singing. (No wonder they ignored me.) Mostly it was more of the same. Sabu might act a bit interested as long as he already was near the fence and didn’t have to get up to come over. Jynxie would open her eyes, look, roll over in her cozy warm den, and act her aloof self. I do realize this is not a huge amount of time to get to know a new friend. If these were new human friends, we would be sitting in a café exchanging stories and laughs, or maybe going out taking a long walk in the park. Getting to know a lion was turning out to be a lot more difficult, standing alone in the cold, talking to the back of a cat! Mostly I watched and looked a lot. I could count the whiskers on Jynxie’s cute sleeping face. I watched her breathe and listened to her snoring! I sat quietly most of the time, and watched them. Once in a while I would be treated to their singing, and I tried very hard to pay attention to each of their vocalizations. Hopefully someday I will be able to tell them apart just by their singing!
One day about three months later, it all changed. I started my normal visit, walking over to Jynxie’s fence, slapping my thighs over and over and making cooing noises like I’ve seen other folk do. I was acting my normal fool self. But this time she looked me in the eye. And held my gaze. She did not just turn over, shut her eyes, and ignore me! Jynxie got out of her den, and wonder of wonders came over to the fence, proceeding to rub and greet me like only lions can do.  What a special day when she took it up a notch. It was a new beginning. Whatever that gorgeous cat was thinking before this didn’t matter. I was now part of Jynxie’s consciousness. She knew me, accepted my presence, and allowed me into her life.
I can still see it all so clearly in my mind: the look on her face that I interpreted as she was happy to see me. Some barriers came down, and since then we have been fast friends. Every week I tell her my secrets and she tells me hers. I listen, and look, and she does the same. There is that special something that happens when I get close to her enclosure and call out “Jynxie!” and she turns to see me. There is no explaining the depth to her being. Jynxie, the lioness that has been used for the profit of humans and moved around from one place to another. Jynxie, the lioness that has seen separation and loss of her lion companions. Jynxie, who has had cubs taken from her. Jynxie who now lives with love and without fear at In-Sync. That Jynxie now will usually pay attention when I am nearby. We are comfortable with each other, like old friends. A couple more months of weekly visits went by and I took a vacation and did not visit for a few weeks. My first day back Jynxie came right over to the fence and acted like she had missed me!   I will never know what a lion to lion connection is like, but with Jynxie’s help, I do know what a human to lion connection feels like. And it’s like looking into the soul of the universe.
My other special cat friend Sabu, the lion who will not give up, holds court and does not allow me to enter into his world in the same way that Jynxie does. He turns his nose up at my singing, but has the class not to run away! He is fabulously playful and spirited, and listens to all my stories. Sometimes he will treat me to his antics doing “yoga stretching” and playing with his special red ball.  As our relationship evolves and continues to deepen I am honored to be one of his adoring subjects! I am sure that with consistency, our bond will strengthen and our communication will be even more enriching. Every week I look forward to that private one on one time with those two lions. I cannot say enough good things about the rewards of participating in this program. It is good for the cats to be comfortable around humans, and it has certainly been good for me to get to know two very different cats.

Sabu is king of his realm, and Jynxie is that special cat who has opened her cat being to me. I feel privileged to be learning more and more about lions through her acceptance of me into her life. She truly is one of the world’s treasures! 

In-Sync Exotics Motto:
“If you talk to the animals they will talk with you
and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them
you will not know them, and what you do not know
you will fear. What one fears one destroys.”
- Chief Dan George

Sabu Sings To His Cat Companion, Janis!
They Are So Popular!
Jynxie and Sabu have another big fan who likes to spend time with them and our grand dame of the cougars, Mercedes. Julie Vria, our intern, tries to spend as much time as possible with our three cats during her off hours.. 
Julie likes to sing to the cats and she has selected songs that hold a special meaning to her. (This is super cute!) 
Sabu- She sings a song by Jimmy Hendrix called One Rainy Wish. She was cleaning his cage one day, and started to sing this song. He promptly fell asleep, and it looked like he was chasing something in his dream. Her nickname for Sabu is Jelly Roll. 
Jynxie- Three Little Birds by Bob Marely. (She didn't really give me a reason for this, other than cats like birds.) Her nickname for Jynxie is Jynx-a-roo.
Mercedes- Mercedes Binz by Janis Joplin. She thinks Mercedes likes this song because it says her name a lot, and she is a diva! Her nickname for her is Floppy Paw. (Her paws do look too big for her body!)
While Julie prefers to sing to the cats, other like to read novels to their charges or even play the guitar!
One thing you can say about the cat companion program—our cats receive a well-rounded education in human behavior!

Sabu is Awake and Ready for the Fall Photo Shoot!

Now that the weather is starting to get a bit coolers, you can expect our cats to be, dare we say, "friskier"?  You do not want to miss out on an opportunity to capture our big cats in action this fall, as we are holding our Fall Big Cat Photo Shoot scheduled for Saturday, Oct 13th from 7:30am-11:30am! 
In-Sync Exotics is excited to offer professional and amateur photographers the opportunity to photograph our exotics wild animals in a natural and semi-natural background. Capture those special moments as our wild ones splash in their pools, play with their toys on the playground, or just coming up to greet you, up close and personal! We cater to small groups with only 15 reservations available for the spring, summer, and fall photo shoots; however, we must have at least 10 people scheduled in order for the private photography session to take place.   

What to expect during your photography shoot   

All participants will receive an orientation prior to breaking out into small groups with two volunteer animal caretakers per group. Our goal is to allow you to photograph our animals without the double barrier hindering your view. If you have professional photo equipment you can focus past single cage wire if the cat is far enough from the side of the enclosure. If you are using amateur photo equipment, you may have single cage wire in some of your photographs. Our animals always come first—we do not force our animals to perform, but allow them to act naturally in their own environment. If one of our cats is not in the mood to be photographed (for instance hiding in her den), then the small group will have to move on to the next animal. Some of our smaller cats can be rather shy and elusive, so we cannot guarantee you will get a great shot of all our wild ones, but we will give it our best effort to quietly encourage our shy ones to come out and greet you!  

This event is by appointment only. Please email Lynne (click HERE for email address) for info on availability, waiting list, payment options and details about the shoot. The cost for the private photo shoot tour is $100 per photographer. Prices and terms subject to change without notice. You do not want to miss this opportunity to take some fabulous photos of our animals! With the weather a little cooler in the mornings, we feel confident that you will walk away with some of the most amazing pictures of our animals waking up and playing! So sign up today and we’ll see you on October 13, 2012! To view or print our flier for this event, please click HERE! 

We hope you enjoyed today's blog posting!  Be sure to check back tomorrow for more fun and informative information about the animals (and humans) of In-Sync Exotics!  Don't forget to let us know your reaction to this posting by clicking on one of the reaction buttons below--and share this blog posting with others please ~ Thank you!

No comments:

Post a Comment