A friend from home--a former Harnas volunteer--asked me to update her on Atheno, the 3-year-old cheetah whose purr and even temperament are legendary. He's wonderful--magnificent, actually. Strong, healthy, big, and seemingly happy. I walk out to visit him daily, sit under a tree with him, and press my head to his chest and feel his purr in my head.
Yesterday I was visiting him, taking a few photos, and loving on him. When I got up to go, I walked to the fence to open it and leave, but before I could unlatch it, he came behind me, jumped up, and wrapped his 170 pounds around me, giving me a little play-bite on my shoulder on the way back to the ground. He wasn't trying to hurt me--he could have done that easily--and he didn't break my skin either with his claws or teeth. It was as if he was just saying, "Thanks for coming. Love ya!"
We got a lot of rain yesterday morning in a few short hours--more than 3 cm. Everyone is rejoicing. Now things will be green for Christmas and the waterholes will be filled for the animals. Rain is such a gift here.
Not all the animals were joyful, though. Poor little Tyson just sat out in the rain and shivered. I sat in the rain with him for quite a while, comforting him and trying to convince him to go in his little house. Finally he did. Then I went home and changed into dry clothes and went back with a towel. He let me dry him off some with just a minimum of hissing. We've made real progress in the last 5 days. I know it's going to be so hard to leave this little guy in a couple of weeks. Maybe I can fit him in my suitcase. I wonder how my dog Milo would like a cheetah brother.
We lost a vervet monkey yesterday--Izzy Pooh. He hadn't been feeling well and then the rain came and he got wetter and wetter and colder and colder. Marieta brought him into her office with hot water bottles and blankets, but he slowly passed away. The volunteers who worked with him were, of course, devastated and crying. It's so easy to fall in love with these animals. But with over 400 animals here, and with the short lifespan of most animals, death is a very present experience at Harnas, and the animal cemetery is always visible from the lapa. But at least these animals have gotten a second chance at Harnas to live out what's left of their lives. Every day they're here is a bonus for them.