I would like to take a moment to step away from my normal blathering about myself and my writing and talk about a serious subject.
As I'm sure most people in America have heard (I'm not sure if the news has spread across the pond) there was a large number of exotic animals--including lions, tigers, bears and other beasts--released from a private animal preserve in Zanesville, OH. The last report I heard is that the owner opened the enclosures before taking his own life. I'm not going to speculate as to why or how this man died, or even how the enclosures were opened. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and the people of Zanesville who have had to brave this nightmare. It is a miracle that there was no loss of human life other than the owner's. And for that I am thankful.
In an effort to maintain safety many of the animals were unfortunately put down. This is extremely sad to me. I understand why and I'm not questioning the actions of the Zanesville authorities. What I do question is this country's lax laws on owning and breeding exotic animals. But that is for another time.
Not far from where I live, in the town of Center Point, IN, is a wonderful place called the Exotic Feline Rescue Center. EFRC is a non-for-profit organization that is dedicated to taking in and housing exotic cats that have been mistreated and abused.
I have had the pleasure of visiting EFRC twice in the past few months and I am in love with this place. The people there are kind and compassionate, working long hours for little to no pay, all for the purpose of giving these majestic cats back their dignity and giving them a place to live out their days. Many of the cats' stories are heartbreaking, and it is a testament both to the cruelty of some and the unconditional love of others.
Michael Koryta is a wonderful writer making a great name for himself. He and I are from the same town, and though we have never spoken, we actually have a close link (his sister and my wife are good friends from high school, and she was a bridesmaid in our wedding). I have been following his career with great interest, and someday I'll work up the courage to give him a call and pick his brain. But again, that is for later. (See how easily I get distracted.) I mention Michael Koryta because he is also a big, BIG supporter of EFRC. I understand that his novel The Ridge was inspired by EFRC.
So, what does all of this have in common?
The last that I have heard, the EFRC is attempting to take some of the exotic cats from Zanesville that have survived. Their nobility, it seems, knows no bounds. But remember, they are non-for-profit. They rely solely on the income they receive by giving tours and donations from other kind-hearted people. If you are passing through Indiana, I encourage you to visit EFRC. It is worthwhile and they can use the help. If you are interested in donating, I'm sure they would appreciate anything you had to give.
Michael Koryta has made his book The Ridge available for sale in the EFRC gift shop with all the proceeds going to help the center. I'm not sure if the proceeds still go to the EFRC if you buy the book from Amazon, but hey, you should be supporting a great author like him anyway.
If you have ever stood close to a majestic beast like Raja (above picture taken with my cell phone) then you'll understand the need to help. I hope you will.