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Awareness Activity: Big Cat Sanctuary

Credit for this idea goes totally to my mom.  She set up a date to visit an organization that is a shelter for exotic animals like tigers  (  In preparation for today, last week, we started with learning how to be good stewards for our planet by learning about how our backyard could become a wildlife habitat.  And, because I am teacher-nerdy, I’ve got more animal oriented service ideas planned for the rest of the week.

Today, we learned about what happens when people treat animals poorly.  The cats that the boys saw were mostly in good health (thanks to the efforts of the sanctuary).  The guide told us the stories of the cats, what the sanctuary does to help the cats heal, and how the organization then provides for them a safe and loved place to be for the rest of their lives.

Most of the animals there were rescued from situations people where thought it would be cool to have a lion as a pet or the animals were rescued from traveling shows that use exotic animals for entertainment.  Most of these animals suffered from physical and emotional trauma.

While there, we saw the love that the staff has for the animals is incredible.  The care that they showed for them, the trouble that they go through to clean each enclosure everyday, and the thoughtfulness of the playgrounds for each type of cat was impressive.  The stories that the guide shared showed that these animals weren’t just moving animatronic dolls.  These animals are creatures that feel and create bonds with other cats and their caretakers.

When we asked what we, as a mom and two kids, can do, the guide said,”Never go to shows that use exotic animals for entertainment.  Working farms are good.  But, places like animal circuses most likely mistreat the animals.”  I haven’t been to a circus in like 25+ years, but I had never thought about that.  I don’t have any facts about what she said, but her comment was important for me to be more thoughtful around entertainment like that.

At the end of the tour, I talked with my boys about what we can do to help.  (This part can be the tough one.  An easy answer can be “give them money” . . . but the three of us are trying to find solutions that go beyond just a financial donation.)  The three us of sat in the car in silence.  Then the three year quietly old piped up from the back of the car,”We need to pray for those lions.”

I will always remember feeling touched in that moment by my little boy.  These adventures are making an impression on him.  I’ve never heard him make a suggestion like that before, and I am glad he is learning to look outward and to help others.

This was a “Penny of Time” Adventure that didn’t result in an immediate “service act” on our part, but we learned about compassion for animals from what we saw there.  We saw what was an idea from one woman turn into a whole organization that serves mistreated and abandoned animals.  65 animals.  And the experience will help us further understand what stewardship means in caring for our environment.

I saw that my experience here was completely different since we went in with an eye to find ways to help.  It was educational.  It was interesting.  But, going in with an eye to help resulted in the experience being meaningful.