Final Report on Teisha Tiger
My hands were shaking, all the way up my arms and vibrating my torso. It was the emotional tension of what was going to happen next and the physical tension of holding the Y pole in such a way to ensure that the vet wouldn’t take a bite to her face and making sure that the touch against Teisha’s neck was only feather light. She had been sedated twenty minutes earlier and appeared to be completely unconscious but you just never know when a big cat will wake with no warning or if some muscle spasm might cause them to chomp at the air. Usually this was Jamie’s roll, but she was inbound on a flight from St. Kitts, where she and Dr. Justin Boorstein, her husband and our other volunteer vet, had been lecturing to the 200 vet students there. Gale is much more experienced as a vet tech, and was assisting by holding off a vein to cause it to bulge enough so that Dr. Wynn could inject the pink liquid that would ease Teisha to whatever comes next.
The needle was thin, so I could see Dr. Wynn successfully struggling against the thick fluid. She was trying desperately to make this last moment that Teisha had on this planet one that was filled with peace and a feeling of being surrounded by souls who loved her. As usual, when cats are sedated, I was breathing in rhythm with her and watching every heart beat, in its tiniest movement of her thick fur and whiskers. If you have ever had to euthanize a beloved pet, or sat by the bedside of a loved one who was dying, you know that mere seconds feel like an eternity. A wash of memories flooded over me.
Years ago when Ohio finally outlawed the private possession of lions, tigers and other big cats, in the wake of the Zanesville massacre, there were a couple of loud mouths who vowed they would never comply with the law. The reasons they gave, in the ensuing legal battles, was that there was no where for their cats to go. I always assume these big cat breeders and exploiters are lying, but give them the benefit of the doubt and contact them to let them know that there are accredited sanctuaries who will make sure the cats will find permanent homes. I contacted Stapleton but he didn’t return my emails or posts to his social pages.
When the Ohio Department of Agriculture enforced the law in 2015 I let them know that we and other sanctuaries, who are accredited by the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, were standing by and willing to help. Having dealt with us before, ODA knew that we were the best equipped to deal with the health issues they were seeing in one of Stapleton’s five tigers. At the time of confiscation they noticed that she did not stand, even when darted. When they asked if she was suffering some sort of disability, it’s reported that her owner casually said that she couldn’t walk because her cage mates beat her up all the time.
Once back at the state holding facility they treated her for deep punctures to her neck and back that appeared to have been from the other tigers biting her. They noticed that she couldn’t walk and would lay in her own waste. Because their temporary enclosures were cement floored, ODA asked if we would take her. They knew that we have soft earthen floors, an amazing vet team, an abundance of professional animal care givers and the funding provided by our donors that would give Teisha every chance at recovery. On October 21, 2015 our rescue team set out on the 15 hour drive to bring Teisha Tiger to Florida.
It’s been seven months, but it feels like it was yesterday that our team rolled Teisha out of the transport trailer and up to the side of the area that would be her new home. It took Teisha 3 hours to stand up and make it down the ramp we built from her rolling cage, which was only about 20 inches off the ground, to the deep soft sand of her 1200 square foot home. She was exhausted from the ride and 60 pounds overweight, from getting a lousy diet and no exercise, for who knows how long. Our first goal was to bring her weight down and see if that would enable her to walk.
As the pounds came off Teisha was able to go from dragging her back legs to actually standing on them and taking a few steps. As she got stronger she was able to pull herself into and out of her pool and delighted everyone with her antics. She would hold her breath and try to catch the little fish and would blow bubbles out her nose. I remember Teisha getting her first Halloween pumpkin. I loved seeing her enjoy a life, free from the abuse that had surely been inflicted on her by people and cage mates in that tiny, barren cage she lived in her 13 years prior. All was seeming to progress well, albeit slowly for her, but then she began to relapse. She walked less and less and by the end of April had begun to drag her back legs.
We had done X-rays that showed a narrowing of the spine, but couldn’t find a veterinarian who could do such delicate work without the benefit of an MRI. On May 2, 2016 we found a vet who said she could do the surgery, and wanted the MRI to be done at her local facility in Gainesville. We had reached the end of our ability to help Teisha. As much as we hated the idea of loading her up for the 2.5 hour trip to the University of Florida’s Large Animal Hospital, we knew it was her only chance. I never expected her to return from that trip as the stress of the MRI and surgery, either one, could be the end of her.
What the MRI showed was that there were 15 places along her back that had bulging discs and defects pinching her spinal cord. The vet said they were so bad and had been going on for so long that there was nothing she could do surgically. We thought that would be the end of it, but she encouraged us by suggesting that treating her with steroids could reduce the inflammation enough to give her relief and make it possible for her to walk again.
Teisha seemed game to try so we gave it our best. She was a champ; always taking her meds (no easy feat as cats are notoriously hard to pill) and eating well. Her keepers tried to use feeding time as physical therapy time to get her on her feet and maybe take a step or two so that her muscles wouldn’t atrophy. Like before, she had a modest gain, but then relapsed again. On May 24, 2016 she nearly choked to death because she couldn’t keep herself upright while eating. Once she fell on her side, she could barely breathe well enough to cough the little square of meat back up. We had to cut her food into tiny, tiny pieces to keep that from happening again.
On Friday she made her last tumbling, dragging walk from the side of her enclosure where she and the cat next door would chat, to the pool area lakeside. Teisha laid there in the misting breeze of her fan, and looked out over the lake. She continued to eat and took her meds but her body was failing and she could no longer walk. When we saw that she was unable to get our of her own waste, we called the vet to come assess her condition. Dr. Wynn was torn between knowing that euthanasia was the humane thing to do and the concern that Dr. Boorstein, who had been tending to Teisha during most of this, might feel that he should be here; but he was on a plane somewhere east of Cuba. Teisha couldn’t bathe herself and flies were gathering. I didn’t want even one more fly to land on this precious tiger. I told her Dr. Justin would be fine with our decision to end the suffering.
So here we were. It’s one of those awful decisions that has to be made because an animal just can’t go another hour or another day, but it fell on Memorial Day. Like Simba Tiger, all those years ago on Thanksgiving, a holiday just makes the situation worse because you are sure to re live it every year on that day. As hard as it was for everyone involved here, we all loved Teisha too much to make her wait.
Her breathing stopped, and I found myself holding my breath, until I realized that it was her last. Dr. Wynn checked her heart with the stethoscope, but I could see there was no more gentle thumping beneath the fur. Teisha was gone and the only thing that kept me from breaking down and sobbing over her lifeless body was the anger I felt at a society that allowed her abuse. Teisha’s passing furthers my resolve to end the private possession of big cats. No tiger should ever be bred to be used as an ego prop and then relegated to a nasty backyard cage to be denied everything that makes tigers the regal, untouchable creatures they were designed to be.
Tributes to Teisha Tiger
Regina Turgeon Jun 4, 2016
Although I didn’t know you long Teisha, I will miss you too. :’-( It was always hard to watch you walk to know that people let this happen to you, but now you will be pain free. Go and be with the BCR family that will welcome you with open paws.
Unknown Jun 2, 2016
From Clemson T4T (Abby Aldred):
“Beautiful, sweet, strong, innocent and persistent Teisha Tiger…I loved you from the first photo I saw of you, I burned to help you after learning the extent of your abuse, and I dreamed of your survival and livelihood to come at your new and glorious home at Big Cat Rescue. It kills me knowing that your health was on the rise and that you, again, had to suffer when you were finally given a chance to live in peace. I am so, so sad finding out that Teisha Tiger, our T4T sponsored baby (even if she was not a baby), was euthanized two days ago due to pain and further medical needs that would do more harm than good. I know I am not the only one grieving, but knowing that we were able to contribute even the slightest amount for her to have a happier and better life helps me know all of our hard work and dedication was worthwhile.
I cry knowing Teish is swimming pain-free and blowing bubbles in the pools of tiger heaven, but she is not the only tiger to be abused and face deadly circumstances like this…situations like this happen EVERY DAY because of selfish humans wanting something they shouldn’t have. The Big Cat Public Safety Act will aid in putting an end to tiger abuse in America. Become educated on the BCPSA and what you can do to help at bigcatact.com.”
Unknown May 31, 2016
I know your pain has stopped Teisha my friend. our hurting begins, you will be forever missed…..
Unknown May 31, 2016
Beautiful, sweet, and gentle Teisha…you stole my heart with your lovely and peaceful nature. I am so glad you spent your last months among people who loved you so very much and tried their very best to help you transition from the pain you could not avoid to the freedom of The Rainbow Bridge.
Vianey Nieves-Diaz May 31, 2016
I remember the first time you went into your pool and the joy it brought to everyone to watch you.
Rest easy sweet girl.
Susan Bass May 31, 2016
For the last week I’ve been bracing myself for what I might see when I opened up the Important Updates. I was there the day you arrived last October; you were so quiet. No roaring. No drama. You seemed to know you were home and we were all going to do everything in our power to give you a happy, healthy, peaceful life. The FOX 13 film crew was here all morning doing live shots of you. We were so happy that you were here and would finally get the medical attention you so desperately needed. It never occurred to me that your condition might be so bad that not even our wonderful vets could fix you. Other than Kimba tiger, who was here for just weeks, you’re the first tiger to pass that I was here for the arrival of. Just 7 months with us. So beautiful, and those eyes that touched everyone who looked into them. I cried so much yesterday my husband asked me if I was getting sick. I will miss you but I know you’re in a better place. Run free like you were meant to do here on earth. I’ll fight on to keep future tigers from going thru what you did.
Brittany Mira May 31, 2016
Teisha I am so glad I got to see you on your last day, looking happy as always laying next to your pool with a lake view. You were such a sweetie and I enjoyed every talk we had at Saturday morning breakfasts. I now imagine you running and playing and swimming and know you are in a better place. You left a lasting impression and you will never be forgotten.
Regina Rinaldi May 31, 2016
You had the spirit of a warrior. No matter what the humans did to you before you came here, you trusted us completely . You were a joy to be around with that sweet face of tours. Everyday I saw you struggle and I would always say, slow and steady wins the race. How you struggled just to come over and chuffs at me, as if she had to personally deliver that chuff. I believe it was important to her. To let us know she was in pain, but happy, that she felt the outpouring of love that was piled on her. She knew it. She felt it. She was a love. No more pain baby girl. Run girl, run.
Bridget Sardone May 31, 2016
I just saw her a week ago. She looked me right in the eye, giving me that slow blink that cats do to let you know they are comfortable with you. I gave it back to her, several times over. I didn’t know her long, but I loved her. My heart breaks for this beautiful girl. Poor Teisha, you were so happy with us. I wish you had come sooner and stayed longer so as to avoid the hell you lived in for so long. I will miss you and it will be hard to walk past your bubble on Sunday and not get emotional. I’m glad you got to spend the last months of your life with us, knowing love and feeling it from all of us who cared for you. Find the others who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, they will show you the way, and may those of us you have left behind find some comfort in our hearts. The pain will be raw and fresh for now, but in the end I hope to find closure and peace.
Marie Schoubert May 31, 2016
I close my eyes and I see you Teisha! You will always be in my heart beautiful girl! I will always love you!
Alyssa Weber May 31, 2016
You may have been crippled by injuries, but only your body was cracked. Your ‘fractures’ did not extend deep enough to break your spirit. Its safe to say you stole the hearts of everyone who ever saw you. Your story, not just pulled.. but yanked violently, at the heart strings of those of us that knew it. In spite of your past, you still remained strong, hopeful, and forgiving.
Your eyes baby girl.. Those eyes were magic. Any bad day or mood that i was going through.. whenever i saw the gleam in your eyes, i knew i had nothing to be upset about. You inspired us all to prevail through difficult times because on the other side.. there is paradise for those who are strong enough to fight for it.
Your fighting, inspirational spirit will never ever be forgotten mama.
I will miss you dearly.
Rest in peace. xx
Sharon Henry May 30, 2016
Even tho you were only with us a mere seven months, you quickly became our little darling. You were such a sweet and gentle soul and we all loved you very much. You will forever be in our hearts sweet Teisha. Run free sweet girl, for now you truly can. ♡♡♡♡♡♡♡
Devin Saari May 30, 2016
Teisha you were the best cat I have ever met and I am glad that I had as much time as I did to get to know you. Forever in my memories, rest in peace T, and I’ll see you on the flip side.
Below was the rescue story and updates on Teisha
Big Cat Rescuers Have Rescued a 13-Year-Old Tiger Named Teisha from Ohio…
On Monday, October 5, 2015, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office took possession of 5 tigers from Mike Stapleton, owner of Paws & Claws Animal Sanctuary near Columbus.
Stapleton has been battling state officials to keep his tigers ever since Ohio legislators enacted an exotic animal law that went into effect almost two years ago. Authorities arrived prepared to seize Stapleton’s cats after he had vowed to never give up his cats, but in the end Stapleton peacefully surrendered his cats. All 5 cats will be placed in approved sanctuaries outside of Ohio.
When we learned that Teisha – a 13-year-old tiger, in such bad shape that she was unable to walk, and didn’t move even during the chaos and darting when authorities took possession of her two weeks ago – we immediately offered to bring Teisha to Big Cat Rescue where we can provide her with the best possible medical and dental care and nutrition.
It is our understanding that Stapleton told people on the scene Teisha had been injured by the other tigers in the cage, who constantly picked on her. It’s doubtful that a vet ever examined Teisha before ODA rescued her. The ODA vets treated her for deep puncture wounds, and heavy parasite loads upon arrival.
Four Big Cat Rescuers left Tampa on Wednesday, October 21, for the 15-hour drive up to Ohio with our transport carrier. They drove straight through and met with Ohio authorities this morning and took possession of Teisha. They are now en route back to Tampa with their precious cargo.
Until we get Teisha to Big Cat Rescue on Friday, and our vets can examine her at our Windsong Memorial Hospital, we are not sure what her exact condition is and how serious her injuries are.
We do know that for the first week after she was rescued by ODA, she did not stand and just peed and defecated while laying down. The ODA vets put her on pain medication and she has begun getting up and walking a little bit. It’s heartbreaking to speculate how long Teisha has been in pain but not receiving any medication while owned by Stapleton.
ODA also told us Teisha may have some bad teeth, which is sadly very common for cats who are pulled from their mothers at birth to be used as photo props and fed an improper diet. When big cats lack calcium, they pull it from their bones before pulling it from their own teeth. This is nature’s way as tigers would not be able to survive if they can’t chew. So that means tigers like Teisha who have bad teeth also suffer from very fragile bones. This may be why she can’t walk.
We will post updates about Teisha and her prognosis as we can. It is only because of our amazing donors like YOU that Big Cat Rescue can save these cats! THANK YOU for your continuing support of our work and our sanctuary!
See all of the photos of Teisha the tiger as we get them here:
#bigcatrescue @bigcatrescue #truth
Even with the steroid therapy, recommended after seeing the results of her MRI, Teisha Tiger continued to worsen. On May 24 she nearly choked to death because she wasn’t mobile enough to cough up small chunk of meat. We began cutting her food into even smaller pieces, and feeding her on a stick to make it easier on her, but on Friday, the 27th she took her last walk. She walked out to her pool, where she could lay in the misting breeze of her fan, and look out over the lake. She continued to eat and took her meds but her body was failing and she could no longer walk. When we saw that she was unable to get our of her own waste, we called the vet to come ease her to the other side. Her transition was peaceful and her suffering has ended, but we will miss her gentle spirit.
Don’t let Teisha’s suffering be in vain. You should know that whenever someone poses with a cub for a photo, or pays to see cubs on display, that they have contributed to this sort of suffering that goes on behind closed gates all around the world.
This video clip is 3 days after Teisha’s MRI.
Tiesha Tiger has had mobility issues since she was rescued from Ohio in October of 2015. These could have been caused from inbreeding, poor nutrition due to being pulled from her mother to be a plaything, injuries from being passed around, and from being beaten up by her cage mates when she was no longer a cute cub. When she first arrived she was too heavy and unhealthy to sedate, so we put her on a diet to get her a little bit leaner so we could sedate her.
The x-rays showed she had arthritis all along her spine. She was put on medication to help with inflammation and pain. Still, her condition worsened, so we decided to take her to the University of Florida for a full exam.
There she had an MRI which showed she had several bulging discs putting pressure all along her spine especially in her neck. The specialist said that surgery was not an option because of the number of areas that would have to be repaired, however they did think that steroids would help her greatly. The vet said that Teisha has been in this condition for many years.
Since her return those who have seen her may have noticed that she is a lot worse than when she left. She can barely move her back legs and she cannot stand up and walk on her own. This can be a result of being sedated and manipulated for the exam and MRI.
If you think about if any of you have had a hurt back in the past know that if you move a certain way it will hurt so you either brace yourself or move a different way. Being sedated Tiesha may have been moved in ways that put pressure on her spine increasing Inflammation or worst-case furthering the damage to her spinal cord. It could take several days for the inflammation to go down and for her to go back to normal for her. In the meantime we have her on the new medication which can take up to two weeks to show their full effects.
Our vets will be watching her closely over the next few days and observing her quality-of-life. We may be trying K-laser therapy as well. If it seems that she is not going to improve we will have to make the decision to let her go.
There’s just something about Teisha. I fell in love with her at first glance and she’s had a similar effect on just about everyone she has met. You see in her such a playful peaceful spirit, despite having been treated so badly by humans and her own kind. Cats hate diets as much as people do; maybe more, because eating is the highlight in their day. It’s been especially hard to restrict her food, and bring her down to a weight that her pinched spine can support, because she looks at you with those enormous golden eyes, that plead, “Just one more, please?”
Most places feed fat scraps to their cats because they can get it for free, but the result is cats that are morbidly obese, like Teisha and her cage mates all were. Even without the spinal injuries, it would have been very hard for her bones and back to carry so much weight, so she had to lose some weight. From Oct till April she’s gone from looking like a beached whale (361 lbs) to looking like a fit tiger (326 lbs), but her ability to get around has only improved slightly. Even with those improvements she has bad days where all she can do is drag her back end. Since her arrival our vets have been in consultation with specialists from all over trying to find someone who could do the delicate spinal surgery if an MRI shows that could improve her condition.
Thanks to wonderful donors we were able to do the X-rays on site, in our own Windsong Memorial Hospital, and we see a narrowing of the spine that could be the culprit. It’s just impossible to tell if that would be operable without an MRI, so this morning, after weeks of arrangements were finalized, Teisha Tiger is on her way to the University of Florida’s state of the art, large animal veterinary hospital. Because the MRI takes so long, and keeping a big cat sedated is such a dangerous proposition for the cat, they will probably do the MRI today and then, if they think she is operable, will do the operation tomorrow. Our President, Jamie Veronica, and her husband and vet, Dr. Justin Boorstein will stay with her in Gainesville.
Teisha’s prognosis is not good. I tearfully said “goodbye” to her as we shut the trailer doors, because I don’t expect to see her again. Everything about this is hard for her. The trip is long and miserable, even though she has A/C, C02 monitors and CCTV. Sedation is extremely dangerous in big cats and that alone can kill them. Our vets know what they are doing, but UF probably will insist that only their vets be in charge, and they probably don’t treat as many tigers as our vets do. Spinal surgery, if that is the option they choose, has all of its own risks, that are further complicated by the sedation for such a long, tedious process. Then there is that long ride home, after just having had surgery. It’s all a rotten hand that Teisha has been dealt, but if we can give her a good quality of life in the end, it will be worth it. And it will be worth the $6,000 that UF said it might cost us.
Donating to our general food fund helps us cover the daily costs of caring for so many big cats so that we can afford to give Teisha the medical care that could save her life.
Video Update on Teisha 10 25 15
WHY Change Name from Keisha to Teisha?
We always try to keep a cat’s name, but at Big Cat Rescue we have protocols that demand every Keeper post observations to a database that shares the info with the CEO, President, Ops Mgr, maintenance crew and the Vets if it is a medical related post. Each cat has to have a unique name in the database.
We have had cats with the same name before, like Cleo Cougar, Cleo Serval and Cleo Bobcat, but we already had a Keisha Tiger. Calling the new cat Teisha Tiger makes sure that her observations records are unique to her and sounds similar enough to her that we hope she will just pass it off as a regional accent.
Cats are masters at hiding symptoms when they are ill. Daily observations are crucially important to managing health. That observations database is vital part of the daily care so a unique name is a must.
Teisha is an Arabic name that means Alive and Well, which is our goal for her.
October 25, 2015 Teisha got her first perfume tube and she certainly enjoyed sinking her claws and teeth into it.
UPDATE: When we first saw how crippled she was, we thought we would have to sedate her, yet again, to do Xrays and maybe an MRI, but on the same pain management drugs that our other arthritic cats are on, she’s doing great, so we will just watch her closely and see how she does as she loses all of that excess weight.
VIDEO – Join the crew on the road trip to pick up Teisha and see how she is doing now. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VPhX5t18zSQ
Early November 2015 – Teisha’s 1st Pumpkin at Big Cat Rescue.
November 8, 2015 – Teisha Tiger is settling in nicely. She is beginning to look forward to her enrichment goodies and is learning which keepers clean and which keepers bring treats and what time breakfast is etc.
November 12th, 2015 – Teisha mastered getting in and out of her pool yesterday. Today, she has been in and out a few times. HAPPY TIGER
Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmaVJ-qdawk
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