Star came to Carolina Tiger Rescue in January of 2012 from the Collins Zoo in Mississippi. The Collins Zoo was a roadside zoo that was closed down due to the neglect of the animals and the risk that the animals posed to the public. Carolina Tiger Rescue rescued Star along with two black leopards, Smokey and Shadow. Star had the typical cougar personality in that she would do whatever she pleases. At times, she would come up and visit a tour, but the majority of the time she would hide in the back of her enclosure. She was always aware of her surroundings and had been known to sneak up and stalk unsuspecting guests without being noticed.
January, 4, 2023
This is a hard one. I am always honored to write the story of one of our animals’ lives. This is part of our final goodbye and I know that the loss of an animal hits us all in our own distinct ways. But it is particularly true when we lose an animal who we all have known for so very long. Just before the end of the year, the animal care staff had a hard decision to make for Star Cougar. For the past few years, we have all watched Star have more difficulty getting around. Accommodations were made with more platforms and adding medications to keep her more comfortable. But even with all that, there came a time that we decided her quality of life had declined to a point that we had to let her go.
When we left for Mississippi to go rescue Star and two leopards, we had no idea what we were bringing back to the sanctuary. To say that rescue was intense would be an understatement. We arrived that morning with other facilities coming for other animals. We were escorted onto the property with more than 40 local and state police. The owners watched us from their front porch. But Star just kind of watched all the activity with a look that said, “What’s all the excitement about?” We thankfully got Star and friends loaded up and moved into the sanctuary. Little did we know that Star would turn out to be such a force of nature.
For anyone who had been at Carolina Tiger when Star was in her prime, they would certainly remember the amazing sounds that would ring through the sanctuary when Star was in heat. It would be impossible to talk over her when trying to give a tour. She could be heard throughout the sanctuary but was completely ignored by her cougar neighbors. I don’t know how, but her long-time neighbor, Nakobi, seemed blissfully unconcerned by the racket coming from next door. In her old age that became less of an issue and though she slowed down, she never lost her personality. Star always enjoyed coming up to say hello and take a treat… unless she had found her way into her tree house that was warm and full of straw. Then she may not come down, much to the annoyance of the keepers. But not to worry, the keepers found ways to get meds to Star, even when she was less than cooperative.
Star’s center stage in the sanctuary made her a well-known member of the family, but her personality truly made her stand out. I have to be honest – I always have a soft spot in my heart for cougars, and Star certainly found her way in. There is something about their nature that makes them feel so very “cat” to me. Star certainly personified what it meant to be a cat. While she wasn’t always accommodating, she would spend her time with those she felt earned it. Her presence will be missed in the sanctuary. While she was certainly quieter as the years passed, she never lost her spark.
Star passed away surrounded by people who loved and cared for her. We leaned on each other as we grieved and said goodbye. Sometimes it may seem like making a decision to euthanize an animal must be the hardest thing we do, but for me, I honestly feel it is most kind and caring act we get to do for our animals. We get to end pain and suffering. While the decision itself is incredibly difficult to make, I find peace knowing that we have all worked so hard to give them a peaceful life. I’m honored when we can also give them a peaceful death.
I know that many of you knew Star. She had been with us for so many years. I know that every death is difficult and breaks our hearts just a bit more. I am only comforted in knowing that my grief is shared with so many amazing people. My grief will be lessened by the many memories I have of Star, both from her rescue and then from her life with us. Thank you for being a part of Star’s life and the Carolina Tiger Rescue Family.