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Cuddling cubs highlight of night

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When wife Dawn and I were raising a son, there were days when he and his little friends seemed like wild animals at our home.

All the while, Dawn, a longtime animal lover whom I first saw in a photo holding an oversized turtle, would periodically wish for a real wild beast in our home.

Like a monkey. Or a margay, a sleek, spotted cat that looks as if it could shred me to string cheese with one paw swipe.

The other day, her animalistic dream came true — for about an hour, anyway.

It started simply.

We spent part of a recent evening cuddling two baby tiger cubs at Greensburg’s nonprofit Stapp’s Circle S Ranch. Jasmine, then a 6-week-old Siberian tiger, and Rocky, a 5-week-old Indochinese tiger, playfully wrestled, lightly chomped watchbands and pants legs, and generally acted like the babies they are.

Lost and found

After Dawn got home that night, she realized she had left her bank debit card at the ranch that prizes itself on close interaction with everything from baby bears to baby buffalo.

She grew worried. She lives in the house with me, who sadly has shared too many media accounts of people’s checking accounts being drained by people seeing others’ debit cards as a ticket to spending sprees.

She worried not about ranch staff or volunteers, but the general public. However, Scot Halberstadt, Stapp’s director of operations and one of the tigers’ handlers, soon let her know her card had been found.

He also took the liberty of saying he would be on Interstate 65 and he could bring it the next day to the Taylorsville office of Hope Veterinary Clinic that fronts our subdivision.

But, as luck would have it the following day, Halberstadt was driving from near Indianapolis with the cats in tow. When he phoned our house to say he was nearby, Dawn could hardly hear him for the tigers yowling in the background.

They either wanted out of their cat carrier. Or they wanted to drive.

A place to stretch

But Halberstadt said they needed to get out and move before he proceeded to Greensburg and home. Would Dawn mind if he brought them to our porch for some unwinding?

Her face lit up.

He might as well have asked her if she would accept a winning lottery ticket.

She rounded up the neighbors and their friends. She wanted to phone others, but the hour was late.

Jasmine and Rocky arrived minutes later, as we spread towels on our porch for people to sit or lay, the better for the baby tigers to paw and lick at ears, noses, necks, you name it.

Their arrival was marked with high-pitched cries that turned a silent night into an evening in the makeshift jungle.

Soon enough, Dawn reached down and kissed each 25-pound tiger on the mouth as if it were her own. Just like the day before in Greensburg, Rocky eventually curled up next to her and dropped into dreamland, making funny squeaking sounds.

Jasmine playfully grabbed mouthfuls of hair, tried to climb me, tackled Rocky and promptly fell asleep after 20 minutes of silliness. The Martins, our neighbors, watched with amusement and fed the pair their baby bottles of special formula.

The future is big

It seemed strange that these toy-like creatures would one day soon would be able to make toys of us, weighing between 400 and 600 pounds.

Get a look at their magnified paws, and you have some idea of the size and strength to come. The pair will be available for interaction with the public for the next five weeks, before guidelines require they be placed in a secure pen or cage instead of an on-site apartment where they now live.

We’ll visit them again soon. But for us, those coming weeks will pass too quickly.

Because we can’t help but think these two little ones will grow up much too quickly.

Brian Blair is a Republic reporter. He can be reached at 379-5672.

Stapp’s Circle S Ranch, open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 7 p.m. Sundays and weekdays by appointment, can be reached at (877) 474-2327 or


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