Sheera is one of our most reclusive southern bobcats. Her cat-a-tat is located far from the main tour path to allow her the privacy she prefers. She is best seen at feeding time, but then only from a distance, since she will wait until her food has been put in her feeding area and the coast seems clear before creeping out of the shrubbery to dine. Even with the more timid cats, a senior volunteer is assigned to work with them through our Operant Conditioning program. As Sheera has become more and more trusting of her assigned volunteer, she does actually come out now to receive her clicker treats. It takes a lot of time and patience to work with cats such as Sheera, but the rewards are so much greater as she progresses. Sheera passed away from kidney failure.
TRIBUTES FOR SHEERA
I would walk towards her lock-out and call her – “Sheera, Sheera – Bo Beera, where’s my mean bobby cat, where’s my girl?” If you listened quietly, you could hear the soft rustling of brush as she slowly emerged. She would lock her eyes on mine and never, ever lose her stare. Sometimes, no, actually all the time, I would find this glaring stare quite frightening. Gently, I’d say, “you’re okay little girl, you’re okay.”
I was given Sheera, the bobcat, as my Operant Training cat. I asked myself “what in the world did I do to deserve the meanest bobcat at the Sanctuary; how come I didn’t get one of those cute, purring, rubs against the cage, cats? Why Sheera? Why me?” She wasn’t the most popular cat around. Staying to herself in her little forest and coming out only at feeding. And, if you stood far enough away, she would show herself. Jen convinced me that Sheera needed a volunteer to be consistent in working with her. Yay! That would be me! Weeks would go by. Click, treat- but no Sheera. Suddenly, one day – click, she slowly came to the side of her cage – treat! Make no mistake, she was there, hissing, growling, staring, but she was there!
It took many months, but eventually Sheera would hear my voice – “Sheera, lock-out.” In she would come with her eyes locked on mine. Never leaving my eyes, she would growl softly and bare those teeth. She never allowed me to do operant conditioning with meat on a stick. I tried it once – only once. Sheera grabbed the stick and truly scared me. I had to hold that stick with all my strength so that she didn’t drag it into her enclosure. Okay, she won; no stick! I would sit on a tree stump about two feet from her lockout. I held the clicker in one hand and would toss the treat with the other. Finally, being so close to her, I realized how beautiful she was.
I worked with Sheera-Bo-Beera for over two years. I loved her. It’s amazing to me how you can love an animal that basically just tolerates you; how you can love an animal that growls, hisses and spits at you. At no time did I ever feel that, given the opportunity, Sheera would not shred me. She would. She was a wild cat in every sense. I will miss her strength, determination and strong will to be what Mother Nature intended her to be. We had a unique relationship. I loved her; she tolerated me and eventually trusted me.
Goodbye, my meany bob cat…….Barbara, Senior Volunteer Keeper
I have cleaned Sheera’s enclosure a hundred times and never saw her – even when I gave her enrichment. That lasted for 2 years, until I started to feed her. The first time she came out for a chicken neck, I was taken aback by how beautiful she was, then she hissed at me, and I realized how “bobcat” she really was. Now she has her own territory and can run free….finally. I will miss her……Regina, Senior Volunteer Keeper
I cleaned the serval section for 6 months before I was graced with the presence of Sheera. I had heard she was one of the most beautiful bobcats in the sanctuary but never actually saw her, despite the fact that I spoke to her shadowy silhouette softly and continuously as I skirted the perimeter of her enclosure. Finally, the last week of the year as I was finishing my section, I put aside my bucket and pole, planted myself in the grass next to Sheera’s cage and said quietly, “C’mon, Sheera, give me a great gift and let me see you.” I held my breath as she silently stepped out into the sun and sniffed in my direction… then hissed mightily at me! She sure knew how to make a first impression. After that, I saw her almost every time I went back to her cage. She never hissed at me again. The last time I saw her was right before she died. I was, of course, chatting about what a nice girl she was and how much we loved her. Sheera lay next to her lockout the whole time I was there cleaning it – pretty as a picture…….Barbara R., Volunteer Keeper
Sheera was one of those cats that few ever had the chance to see. She was one of our true “wild” ones – not a pet, not desiring human companionship – just wanting to be left alone, reclusive, shunning contact with most…….except Barbara, our Senior Volunteer Keeper assigned to do operant conditioning with her. With most of our cats, human interaction is a form of enrichment they look forward to. That’s why it is so easy for us to bond with the social ones. But, imagine falling in love with an animal that gave you nothing in return but a hiss, a snarl, or indifference? That’s exactly what happened between Barbara and Sheera. Months turned into years, Barbara devoting her time to this little bobcat until slowly Sheera trusted Barbara and responded to her click and treat. Sheera had progressed to the point that feeders weren’t shocked when they saw her peeking out from the safety of her wooded refuge and coming into her lockout at feeding time. That was monumental! It was a testament to the incredible amount of progress Barbara had made with her. She had won Sheera’s trust and we all benefited.
Naturally, with all the time they spent together, Barbara grew more and more attached to Sheera. She worried about her like any mother would of those she cares for. It was hard when Sheera began showing signs that soon she might be leaving us. All Barbara could do was come in every day and sit near her, talk to her, try to comfort her. That she did until the day Sheera died.
We say we’re volunteers, but we’re more than that to these animals at BCR. We love them with all our hearts and souls. That is why it is so hard to let them go….so very, very, hard…….Julie, Senior Volunteer Keeper
Ever elusive Miss Sheera, one of my personal favorites. Always hard to find but, when you did. you saw a beautiful wild bobcat. She always responded in some way, whether it was a growl or a hiss. You knew that she was there and answering you. I will miss our little chats while cleaning and feeding, she was always a bright spot in my day. Go in Peace Little Girl, we will miss you….Gale, Volunteer Keeper
My most memorable memory of Sheera was the first time she actually came out at feeding time for me. I was so used to having to walk around the habitat looking for her that I actually did a double take when she walked through the bushes and stood there looking at me. From that point forward, she was always there waiting for her food. Even the hissing and growling slowly tapered off but you always knew, she was her own cat…..Susan, Senior Volunteer Keeper
Sheera always maintained her wild spirit. Sheera was an example of no boundaries, no limitations and not giving up. Her determination and will power overcame any obstacle. She may have been a small bobcat, but her spirit refused to let anything get her down. Respect and dignity was given to Sheera as she chose how to complete her journey. We will miss the little cat who never forgot who she was……..Laura, Volunteer Keeper
Sheera’s secluded habitat seemed to suit her so well. When I was a new volunteer, it was evident that the sanctuary did, in fact, provide according to the residents’ preferences. Cleaning her enclosure, and catching a glimpse of her was a highlight of the Servals section for me. After hearing Dr. Wynn talk about her way of paying attention to those who others may pass by, I quietly cultivated this relationship with Sheera and over time she would sometimes come out to see me. Or, at the least, she would hold her ground and not flee when she was enjoying her sunny spot as I did my walk around. She was a beautiful cat to see, so wild, and so much a ghost of the forest. I will miss her, but I’m glad she is free……Beth, Volunteer Keeper
I can’t say I developed any relationship at all with this shy and secretive bobcat. It was actually always an adventure to see if I could spot her when I cleaned her enclosure. Every once in a while, I thought I got a glimpse of an ear or a paw. Finally, when I began feeding, I got to see her! She was beautiful, but very skittish, as I was a new feeder to her and she quickly dashed back into her woods. Still, it was an honor to care for such a wonderful little creature……Lisa, Former Volunteer Keeper
More Memorials at http://bigcatrescue.org/category/memorials/