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Popcorn Park Mourns Baron the Cougar


John Bergmann

We are sad to report that we had to put Baron, our cougar, to rest last Thursday night. He was almost 18 years old, and had been at Popcorn Park since the Spring of 2004.

I met Baron when he was just 12 weeks old at a small park when I accompanied our zoo vet, helping him vaccinate and do a health check on the young cougar cub. The park had some small mammals on view to the public, and they thought Baron would help increase attendance. They were right, and in no time, he was a big draw. He had such an outgoing personality even at that age that my son, then 7, the vet and I completely fell for him. It was hard to leave; we could have played with him all night.

Baron never really left my mind, and fortunately, never really my sight for long either, as I was able to see him at least once a year when we did work at the park, and sometimes more often. If Doc was unavailable, I would go down to check on a sick animal for him 2 or 3 times a week, and was then able to visit Baron. It wasn’t possible to leave without scratching him or giving him a good rub on his head.

In the spring of 2004, the city decided to close the park and find new homes for Baron and his cagemate, Sandy. Both cougars were now 15 and showing their age. There were no takers. Doc had taken care of the pair all their lives and was concerned they might be sold to a canned hunt, or euthanized when they still had good years left in them. So when he heard of their situation, he asked if we could take them – without a second’s hesitation we said yes.

Although Baron had developed some problems with his feet and lower legs, he still was in good shape for 15. I guess because I was a familiar face, Baron took to me right away, and no matter where he was, when he heard my or my son's voice he'd come running … well hobbling … for me to rub his head. Then he’d lie down so I could scratch his back. Every time I got up to leave, he'd purr just a little bit louder so I would stay a little bit longer. He always made it so hard to leave.

Baron lived with Sandy for 17 years but they never really got along; they just sort of tolerated each other, (just like some old married couples). But something told us they still needed each other. They stayed in the same enclosure at night, yet had separate dens to sleep in. Baron had slowed up a lot in the past 6 months, but even so, when he saw me he'd still get up, though now it was painfully slow, and walk over to where I was. He still wanted that pat on the head and some small talk.

Baron was remembered by many by his unique trait of sucking on his paw

He had been on some meds for pain but in the last month or so they weren’t having the same effect on him. We changed medications and he'd show some improvement, but it wouldn't last. We also had Carol, our Reiki specialist do some remote Reiki from outside his cage to help relieve his pain. But last week he got worse, and after a slight improvement (after we had him down and gave him fluids and steroids), he let me know it was time,

It's such a hard thing to decide, but when Baron let me come in his den, sit next to him and rub he's head, the look in his eyes told me he was ready to go. Baron was a good friend, and I am so grateful we had these last few years to share together.

8/4/2006

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