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Save That Tiger!
The Day I Met Larry
With a tremendous regard for animal rights, conservation of species, and in particular, the efforts made to prevent the extinction of tigers, I write this humorous story partly to entertain but, mostly, in the hopes that many people will consider seriously what part they may play in these critical issues.
In 1969 I worked with a national television network in their broadcast studios in the west. The studios were very large and open, and were occupied by many very talented people. One of the aims of the network was to produce valuable story content, that was true, perhaps controversial, at least heart-rending, and of course, timely.
Television News Story with a Live Tiger
My co-workers and I were told by management that a special event would be happening that afternoon around 5:00 o’clock. A well-known animal conservation organization was recording a news story in our studios that would include a live tiger named Larry. The response to this information was surprise and enthusiasm. A number of staff members decided to stay a little late that Friday afternoon to watch the taping. We were also told that the tiger was safe (although not caged) and in the hands of two professional, and strong, animal handlers who had been with the tiger for many years. But, we were told, we must not rush the animal, make sudden moves, or scream loudly. If we decided to stay we were to conduct ourselves with appropriate decorum. (Who really knew what ‘appropriate decorum’ was in the presence of a live tiger!)
Hoping to Catch Sight of Larry
Before this news, I had decided to stay late to finish some copy I was writing for our children’s’ show next week. The copy had to go for ‘voice over’ tomorrow (Saturday) to be recorded and ready for Monday.
When Larry had not arrived by 5:30 many of the employees left for the weekend. There remained, of course, two producers who would be directing and producing this story.
I worked in a large office that I shared with another writer (not in today), that was slightly around a corner from the production area of the studios. So I thought, “This should be great. If I move slightly in my chair I can see what goes on when the tiger arrives.” Then I thought no more about it as I returned to my task.
I was focusing intently on writing something interesting and catchy about how great Cocoa Pops were for Charlie’s Clown Club kids. So, although I caught the fact that Larry and his team were coming in to the production area, and felt a rise in excitement, I was still concentrating on my work, eager to finish it and join the fun.
And, there was Larry
With hands literally poised over the keyboard of my typewriter, I sensed more than heard a very quiet ‘pad, pad, pad’. I heard the plant on my desk move slightly, I think, and felt annoyed at the interruption to my deep concentration. I turned my head slightly to see what was going on and what the odd odor was, and did a classic double-take. There was Larry, paw on my desk beside my (now moved) plant, dribbling into my pencil cup!
In absolute surprise (not terror) I started to rise, but couldn’t. I started to scream, but couldn’t. Looking into my eyes were the most loving eyes I could imagine. Larry showed no concern or intent to hurt me, he seemed slightly interested, that was all. He blinked his eyes, snuffled slightly while removing his paw from my desk, turned, and strolled out of my office back to his handlers.
Oh, he was still on his chains and tied to his handlers. In fact, when he had been in my office his chains were taut and at the limit of their length. Larry could not have moved closer to me if he had tried. Of course I didn’t know that at the time.
I did not realize I had been holding my breath and was now sputtering, “J…J…J..”, trying to call Jeff, one of the producers, to come and help me. He and David, the other producer were laughing and crying at the scene of Larry and me. But both came to my rescue. I shook, and cried, and laughed at the prank they had arranged with Larry’s handlers. And, as I peeked out of my office, there was Larry, calming sitting at the feet of his two handlers.
Eventually, I closed up my office and went home for the day. After all, what more could I do. I had just met Larry.
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