Sasha Was Gone and Wasnt Coming Back

Sasha Was Gone and Wasnt Coming Back


Sasha Was Gone and Wasn’t Coming Back


Sasha the lioness who would be 20 this year has long had a mass on her face, but it was small and innocuous.  Recently it had ruptured and there were reports that she wasn’t eating as well as expected so we decided to sedate her, remove the mass and check on an oral mass that had been seen back in 2008, when Sasha had been sedated to remove a collar that was embedded in her skin.  Sasha’s previous owner had used her for photo ops and would stake her down tightly to the ground, with a short chain on either side of that collar so that she could not stand up or bite her tormentors.  


I had a bad feeling about this.  Jamie did too, but for different reasons.  Lions are just plain scary.  Everyone was worried that her mate, Joseph, would just go nuts and hurt himself or trash the separating doors, if he saw us anywhere near Sasha.  We gave him 5 connected cages to explore and mark, a turkey, a whole chicken and a bucket of treats.  Much to our surprise, that managed to keep him fully engaged throughout the next few hours.

Jamie and Dr. Boorstein easily sedated Sasha and then Jamie went in to be sure Sasha was asleep before the vet team came inside the cage.


Yep.  She’s asleep.

Lioness-Sasha_6048 Jamie Veronica

Dr. Liz Wynn leaped into action as soon as Jamie determined that Sasha was asleep.

Lioness-Sasha_6060 Dr Liz Wynn

Dr. Justin Boorstein set up the anesthesia machine, under the watchful eye of Arthur and Andre Tigers.

Lioness-Sasha_6056 Dr Justin Boorstein

Chris Poole helped Jamie and the vets carry Sasha the lioness up onto her platform for the procedure.


Gale Ingham held the Y pole over Sasha so that if she awakened suddenly, she wouldn’t bite the vets.


Dr. Wynn shaved the area around the mass next to Sasha’s eye.


We marveled at her big fluffy paws.  Sasha had been declawed and defanged by her former owner.


Chris took her temperature and Sasha was connected to a blood pressure monitor as well.


We wondered if this odd little tail of hers was due to inbreeding or some trauma she experienced before her rescue.


Dr. Wynn did the mass removal while Jamie held the anesthesia mask on Sasha and Dr. Boorstein monitored her vitals.


The gas mask was something Jamie made out of a bucket because a dog mask was just too small.


Sasha seemed to be only lightly sedated, but at her advanced age we were being extra careful.  She fluctuated a bit on the monitors, but that was because she was holding her breath.  A lot of cats just scare us half to death because they hold their breath for so long when sedated, but her heartbeat was strong.


Anyone who didn’t know us would think from all the smiles and joking that we aren’t being serious, but it is just how we deal with such extreme stress.


The scar line on her paw indicates that her declaw job was probably botched and required multiple procedures and re wrappings before it finally healed.


Warning:  Graphic Images Below

Once the mass was removed from her face, Dr. Wynn turned her attention to Sasha’s tongue.  The mass she had seen inside the jowl back in 2008 was now gone, but there was a nasty laceration on her tongue.


At first we thought is was from her mangled, defanged tooth alignment, that she might be cutting her own tongue, but there was a big hard lump in the lion’s tongue.


Dr. Wynn decided to pull out the lump with the scalpel & tweezers and send it out for testing.


At Sasha’s age we probably would never take a chance of sedating her again, so we felt like anything we could do now to help her out later was going to be worth it.


After cutting out the hard little tumor, Dr. Wynn quickly began stitching up the tongue.


We were concerned that she would wake up any minute.  Jamie and Dr. Boorstein where bracing her mouth open so that she wouldn’t clamp down on Dr. Wynn if she did wake suddenly.  We only had a few minutes to go and didn’t want to add any more drugs to her system.


Jamie said, “She’s holding her breath.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen her breathe.”  Dr. Boorstein and Marie began giving her a vigorous chest rubbing.  Dr. Wynn was done and we were going to reverse her, gather our stuff and run out of the cage…and then that bad feeling I had turned to peace.

I was leaning over her, in the cat hat because I was freezing in the 50 degree weather.  I saw a tiny trickle of blood run from the sutured tongue onto the wooden platform.I felt a soft, yet powerful essence blow through me.  I could feel Sasha’s spirit hovering over all of us as she rose through us and over the cage.  She was free and she wasn’t coming back.


What was strange was that she still apparently had a heart beat, and we carried her to the soft earth, by the side of her cage to let her wake up.  I was confused.  I could feel her outside of her body, but we were all treating her body as if it were waking up.  I scrambled with the volunteers to move all of the equipment out of the cage while Dr. Wynn, Dr. Boorstein and Jamie tended to Sasha.

I heard Dr. Boorstein call out for the Epinephrin.   I’m no vet, but that rang alarm bells in my head and woke me from the kind of dreamy stupor that was Sasha in us, over us and surrounding us.

Dr. Wynn gave two injections to restart the heart in between CPR given by Dr. Boorstein, but Sasha was gone and she wasn’t coming back.


That bad feeling that I said I had?

Leading up to the time that we were going to sedate her, I felt like I was going to have to make the awful decision to euthanize her because I felt certain that her cancer had spread and that it would be the humane thing to do.  What we had found didn’t look so bad, and her vitals had been so strong that her sudden death just left us all stunned.

I could sense Dr. Wynn replaying the entire situation over and over in her head trying to figure out where it all went wrong.  She leaned back against the fence and seemed to be at an utter loss.  Finally she said aloud, “I just don’t know what happened.”

I tried to reassure her by words I truly felt when I said, “I don’t either, but I do know that everything happens exactly as it is supposed to.”

We wrapped Sasha in a blanket and loaded her up onto the long-bed golf cart so we could do a necropsy in the Cat Hospital.  Within moments Jamie texted me that Sasha’s lungs were absolutely riddled with tumors.  While I hadn’t noted any trouble in Sasha’s breathing before today it was clear that if she had not died on her own this day, we would be back, a few weeks later to sedate her again, when she would begin to show signs of labored breathing.  She made her decision and saved us all the pain of watching her begin to suffer.

I spoke to Joseph.  He was laying quietly, looking in the direction in which she had left this existence.  He seemed to know.  He seemed sad, but seemed to know why she was gone.


Update 1/14/14 The masses in her lungs were a high grade (aggressive) adenocarcinoma. Bad cancer.  – Dr. Wynn

Today at Big Cat Rescue Dec 2 2013

Today at Big Cat Rescue Dec 2 2013

Lesser Cats Need More Room



Rabid Raccoon



When a raccoon began acting crazy and lunging at three cougars who were housed together, we feared that he was rabid.  We sedated him for Animal Control, but there was a bit of a surprise ending to this story.  Update:  Tests confirmed the raccoon was rabid.


After Darting We Needed to Use Up the C02


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Later that Night, Interns got to watch Morgan the domestic kitten getting spayed by Dr. Boorstein.


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#UNSelfie, #GivingTuesday, #BigCatRescue




Today at Big Cat Rescue Sept 24 2013

Today at Big Cat Rescue Sept 24 2013

Bobcat Rescue!

Caught in a fence and hanging from his back toe

this poor little bobcat must have thought he was doomed.

See the photos from the rescue today in our DropBox folder.


This morning a man who lives in the Enclave in Land O Lakes Florida got his morning cup of coffee and opened the blinds to his back yard to enjoy the natural view that he has since his cul-de-sac home backs up to a long corridor of power lines.  A four foot high fence, made of a material often referred to as hog fencing, was overgrown with vines, but despite that the homeowner could see there was a cat tangled in the fence and hanging from one rear paw.


He called Animal Control and they dispatched someone to the scene who told the man that it was a bobcat and that they are non-indigenous to Florida and thus the cat would have to be shot.  He was wrong.  This was clearly a Florida bobcat.  By this time the man’s parents had joined him on the scene and when they heard that this gorgeous animal was going to be killed they called Big Cat Rescue.


10:59 am I answered a call and a man, who was obviously distraught, began relaying the story above to me.  I asked to speak to the Animal Control officer and explained that we are licensed by the state of Florida precisely for emergencies like this and that if he could keep people away from the bobcat we were on our way.


The Animal Control officer had approached the ensnared bobcat with a catch pole, but said the cat thrashed viciously at him so we knew we would have to sedate the bobcat in order to disentangle him.  I called Jamie Veronica and she immediately recruited her husband, Dr. Justin Boorstein to go with me to the rescue site.  They had planned on taking a much needed day off after spending their weekend rescuing Reise the cougar.  I called Chris Poole to video tape it and we were off.


It rained all the way there, but as soon as we pulled up the clouds parted and we hauled all of our gear to the rear yard and evaluated the situation.  I tried to keep the neighbors back and quiet, which was hard because everyone wants to get their photos and chatter endlessly about something so exciting right in their back yard.


Dr Justin Boorstein was able to get within about 8 feet of the bobcat without the cat going into a rage, and used the blow pipe to sedate him, but 15 minutes later, the bobcat was still struggling to stay awake.  So, Dr Justin gave him a second, lighter dose and we waiting another 15 minutes, but the cat was valiantly holding his head up and keeping an eye on our every move.  He was tangled so badly in the fence that we felt he needed to be completely asleep because:

1.  If we cut the fence off his foot and he escaped he could run out in traffic and we wouldn’t know if his leg were broken or dislocated.

2.  If we tried to untangle him we were going to be focused on not doing any more damage while he would be focused on killing us.

3.  This was likely to be a painful process and we didn’t want him to suffer.


As much as it scared us to do it, we deciding to hand inject a third and final dose to try and get him to sleep.  This appeared to work and his cute little tail, which had been held in the traditional C curve of an alert bobcat, finally went limp and he shut his eyes.  Jamie sneaked up to see if he was fully asleep and thought he was so we rushed into action.


Then he lifted his head again and warned us off.  We couldn’t risk any more drugs and he was sedated enough that despite growling and keeping his eyes focused on us, he wasn’t thrashing.  The Animal Control Officer tried to get the snare pole around his neck and chest to lift him over the fence, but the cat was not letting the loop pass his front legs and we didn’t want to choke him.


Jamie cut the fence from around the paw, but the toe was so badly twisted in it, that we couldn’t free him, so we figured the small piece of fence would just have to come with us to surgery.  They let the net down over the fence to pick the cat up, but it was obvious that he was going to go all spread eagle all over the mouth of the net and not let us lift him.


I climbed the fence, landed in some briars, and then grabbed him by the scruff of the neck to keep him from turning and biting me.  We got the bobcat mostly in the net, but that foot with fence wire was catching on everything even though Jamie had cut it as close as she dare.  With one hand on his scruff I guided the back feet into the net and they lifted him over and put the net up to the squeeze cage.


Once in the squeeze cage, the door was to be dropped, but that tangled mess on his back foot was all caught in the net.  It took a few minutes and the bobcat was surprisingly patient as Jamie freed his foot and Justin shut the door.  We had done a map check while waiting for him to go to sleep and it was the same time and distance to take him to Dr. Wynn’s clinic or Dr. Justin’s clinic, so we took him to the latter, since we were already tying up one vet all day.


Once there Dr. Justin Boorstein was able to untwist the fence and free the toe.  The X-rays showed that one of his middle toes was broken but despite three vets looking at the X-rays they couldn’t find any other breaks or dislocations.  We were all astounded since the cat had been hanging that way for hours, in the rain and had done a fair amount of twisting and turning to try and free himself.


After a battery of blood tests, which required shaving his fur in some cases, because he was as stubborn about yielding any blood as he was in going to sleep, his sedation drugs were reversed and he woke up very quickly… and mad.  We drove him to the West Boensch Cat Hospital where Gale and crew had a nice fluffy straw bed ready for him.


3:56 PM  He is in the Cat Hospital at Big Cat Rescue and should have a very quick recovery time and then will be released.


Bobcat Rescued From Fence


You can watch his progress in the Cat Hospital as well here:


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