So if someone said to me that I could take just ONE animal from Harnas home--which is a stupid idea because wild animals make bad pets. But just saying if I had a perfect habitat for it, and my dogs were okay with it, and it was legal and all. If I had to do it--put a gun to my head and make me choose--it would probably end up being Atheno.
This first picture is of him as a cub when we first fell in love in December 2011. He grew up into a magnificent male cheetah--big and powerful--but to me he is always the sweet cub he is in this picture. He lives out in an enclosure that's a good walk, and you have to really mean it to go there. So sometimes the volunteers don't visit him as much as he deserves. They're also a little intimidated by him. Did I mention he got BIG.
Today I had an especially wonderful day with him. I got to the enclosure, entered, and called for him to come. A few minutes later I saw his fabulous form making his way through the tall grass to me. We greeted each other and then I went over to the shady spot and sat down cross-legged. He came over and first put his head over my shoulder, as he usually does. I wrapped my arms around his back and we hugged for a few minutes. Then he stepped into the space created by my crossed legs and collapsed into my lap. His head rested on my leg. He purred and I rubbed his head, his cheeks, his back. And he purred like nobody's business for a long time.
Then he stopped. He had fallen asleep in my lap. This huge, powerful cheetah trusted me enough to fall asleep on me. I was afraid to move, to breathe, afraid he'd wake up and this magical moment would end. He slept for about ten minutes and then rolled off and over, showing me his white belly.
It was the best moment I've had since i got here at Harnas. And that's saying a lot. This is why I come.