I like the fall. It still reminds me (and always will) of the crisp early mornings 33 years ago when I would get up before the sun and my associate Mark Ferrari and I would take a teenage mountain lion named Sashi for her morning walks in the backside wilderness of Mount Diablo.
I was curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek (that’s in California for you out-of-staters) back in those days. I spent most of my time, 24/7 actually, running a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation program at the nonprofit museum. We took in injured and orphaned wildlife, did what needed to be done with them physically and mentally, and then returned as many as we could back to the wild where they belonged.
It was truly an invigorating time. The California Department of Fish and Game had provided us with an orphaned mountain lion cub from a California zoo. Our plan was to raise it and observe it in the field as it grew, to find out its needs, and then develop a training technique so humans could rehabilitate orphaned wild cougar cubs without imprinting them, if and when they were recovered by the department. We watched them climb trees (not instinctive, they had to learn how); get stung on the nose by bees, run away from snakes, and cover the remains of their uneaten prey with sticks and grass (instinctive!).
On a cold, dewy fall morning, the excited young 60-lb. cat dashed into the tall, wet weeds. She returned just as quickly, charging out from behind a tree to playfully take me down, flopping on top of my chest so I couldn’t get up as she tried to lick the beard off my face. Mark was taking pictures of my morning bath and laughing so hard he could hardly hold up the camera.
Sashi and I laid there together, my laughter mingling with her loud, rumbling purrs. The steam rose from the cat’s hot, wet body and made funny designs in the rays of the early morning sun.
Hello fall, I miss that cat.