Date of Birth: 1997-2001
In early July of 2007, I was fortunate enough to spend a week in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. This trip was more than just a much needed vacation, it also enabled me to fulfill a commitment made six years ago. This commitment was a promise made to a cougar named Fleetwood, a cougar who was born in a cage, lived his entire life in a cage, and died in a cage.
Fleetwood was born in 1997 at Big Cat Rescue, then known as WildLife On Easy Street. His birth was not intentional, but back in the pre-Big Cat Rescue days, there were far more cats than enclosures and unplanned babies did happen. Fleetwood and his sister Enya were adorable as are all cougar cubs and as all cougar cubs do, they quickly grew out of the cute and cuddly stage and into the role of the largest feline hunter in North America.
Fleetwood and Enya were favorites at the sanctuary of both volunteers and guests. Fleetwood had a tendency to eat every weird thing he could find and not once but two times had to have surgery to remove such objects. Despite his eating habits, Flreetwood grew up to be a robust, healthy cougar of over 150 lbs.
He had a curious characteristic as well, his head was always cocked to one side as if he was pondering what to do next. Tragically in June of 2001, Fleetwood died unexpectedly due to a severe drug reaction after a routine medical procedure to remove sutures. Everyone who knew Fleetwood was devastated and after searching the cage a few times, his puzzled sister Enya seemed to know he wasn’t coming back.
Fleetwood was cremated and a pact was made, since he was never free in life, Fleetwood would rest eternally in the wild where he truly belonged. As the years passed and efforts to place Fleetwood’s ashes in the Everglades proved unfeasible, I never forgot the promise made so long ago. When I had the chance to go camping and hiking in the Rocky Mountains, I knew this was prime cougar habitat and my one chance for Fleetwood.
On my second day in Colorado, I hiked through the mountains to a remote Alpine lake. Along the way on the craggy rocky slopes, I could imagine Fleetwood stalking the many elk and mule deer that walked that very trail. Near the top stood a lone tree on a rocky outcrop and I knew I had found the perfect spot. Against a brilliant blue sky in the chilly morning air, I released Fleetwood’s ashes to the wind. As they drifted away, I could see Fleetwood leaping over the rocks and bounding into the forest below. With tears in my eyes and my mission accomplished, I knew I could enjoy the rest of my trip.
When I returned to the sanctuary the next week and approached Enya’s enclosure. She ran over to greet me as usual, but her voice sounded a little different. Her “chirps” were faster and higher pitched. I think she knew…Fleetwood was finally free.
More Memorials at http://bigcatrescue.org/category/memorials/