Sunday, February 14, 2010
Don't Try This At Home
A few mornings ago on my walk, I went to the cheetah enclosure with the five tame beauties--Nikita, Afram, and the rest. I found two volunteers there with Luiki, a large male. He was drooling incredibly and I asked them if they'd noticed anything. They said he seemed to have something in his mouth that he kept working around.
I waited a minute and he yawned. Sure enough, there was something grayish in the top of his mouth, stuck. It looked sort of like a slab of chewing gum.
I don't recommend doing this with your neighborhood cheetah, but I felt these cheetahs--four of them, at least--trusted me because I spent enough time petting, grooming, and discussing politics with them. (Besides, the volunteers were watching me and I had to look like I was an authority or something.) So I put my hand in Luiki's mouth and worked a space between the roof of his mouth and the "thing" and tried to pull it out. It wouldn't budge.
The space was still there, though, so I took a short, flat stick and opened his mouth again. It was amazing: he seemed to understand that I was trying to help him. He could have bit off my fingers or hand, but he just made a sort of "mrrroowww."
I put the stick in between the thing and the top of his mouth. I yanked. Nothing. I tried it again. Nothing. On the third time (we were both getting annoyed), it popped out.
It was a flat piece of bone that had apparently gotten stuck when he was eating. He worked his jaw around a little, swallowed, and started to purr. I put my arms around his head and thanked him for not killing me.
It felt like that fairy tale, you know? The one with the guy who pulls the thorn out of the lion's paw and then the lion doesn't eat him later in life? I figure I get a free pass if I'm in the bush and a cheetah decides I'm dinner.
It made me feel good. Let alone how it made Luiki feel!