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Column: Terrific tiger tales

Published: Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 9:41 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017 10:11 a.m. CST

I have always been more of a cat person. Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs too. My family had the best dog in the world when I was growing up. Lucky lived to be 15, and I wish there was a way to play with him again. My fiancé, Tim, and I have two small dogs now, and it’s hard not to love how excited they get when they see you. I have to pick them up and cuddle them immediately.

However, there is a part of me that will always prefer cats. Perhaps it has something to do with my favorite animal, the tiger. Ever since I saw “Aladdin” as a 5 year old, tigers have been the most beautiful and majestic animal in the world, in my humble opinion. I wanted a pet tiger just like Jasmine, so my parents bought me a stuffed animal version of her tiger, Raja. He went everywhere with me as a kid. That stuffed tiger was nestled in my arms every night, or else I couldn’t sleep. He went on family vacations, to my college dorm room and is in my apartment here in Newton. I don’t sleep with him anymore. I mean I am 30 and no longer need him to scare away the monsters in the closet, but he’s perched next to my bedside, just in case.

In my adulthood, I realized not only would it be impossible but also incredibly selfish of me to attempt to cage an animal of that nature. Tigers are wild and are never meant to be domesticated. I get my tiger fix from my family’s annual trip to the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha where I unintentionally became attached to one of their Amur Tigers (also known as Siberian Tigers). Her name is Isabella. Bella was born June 22, 2010, at the zoo to parents Titski and Yorgi.

I got to see her during the fall of her first year. It was a delight to watch Bella play with her mom when she was a cub. She must have been working on her pouncing that day because she found endless ways to sneak up on her mother. I could have spent the whole day in front of their enclosure.

The next year, Bella and Titski were in the outdoor enclosure together. While she was more than a year old and nearly the same size as her mother, she still played with the youthful exuberance only a cub can. In one of her quieter moments, I snapped a picture of mother and daughter laying next to one another. The sunlight was perfect, and it’s one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken. It’s the lock screen on my iPhone, so I get to see it every day.

The years to follow found Bella outside by herself. I would call her name, and she would look up at me and pose for pictures. She would use every inch of her space to run around and play. Bella was just as beautiful and majestic as any young tiger should be.

Last year, things changed for Bella — she became a mother. She had three cubs, Finn, Titan and Aurora. I got to see her cubs play with her as she had played with her own mother. Again, I could have stood there the entire day and never got tired of seeing what these three exuberant, young cubs could come up with next.

This year, I got to see mother and grown cubs still play together once more. One of the boys, Titan, just lounged around while Finn and Aurora played together and with their mom. I know next year they will be old enough that they will have to be separated, but I was so glad to get to see the family together one more time.

When I got home and watched our 3-month-old kitten, Marie, play with her mom, Dora, I can see the similarities between Bella and her cubs. Perhaps I do have a pet tiger after all.

Contact Pam Rodgers at prodgers@newtondailynews.com

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