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The following article about the work PrideRock does in caring for big cats, appeared in the Terrell Tribune in October of last year.

Taking pride

By Don Johnson

The Terrell area has been recognized as a good place to retire. For one couple that is new to the area, the benefits of their assisted living community include on-site medical care, plenty of free time, daily cleanup service, a climbing tree, and all of the raw chicken and beef that they can eat.

For the aging pair of cougars, Sasha and Giggles, the Pride Rock Wildlife Refuge has given them a chance to live out their years in a much better place than their previous arrangements.

"They are about 15 years old, and had been living in about a 10-foot by 10-foot size place for several years," said Pride Rock co-owner Gary Holliman. "I think they were used as breeders. We don't know whether it was a financial hardship or medical issue or what, but they needed a home and we can give them that."

The two cougars join another new member of the Pride Rock family, Elijah the six-month-old tiger cub, to bring the total big cat population up to 27, stretching the limits of Holliman's facility.

"We have one open space that we can use while we do maintenance in other enclosures or just for moving the cats around," Holliman said. "We are actually a smaller facility than many. Some in this region have 60 or more cats. There are a lot more big cats out there than most people know about."

As with many exotic pets, owning large cats often turns into much more of a commitment than owners are willing to carry out.

"Ideally, we wouldn't need to do this kind of thing, but this isn't an ideal world," Holliman said. "It isn't illegal to have them, but you better consider your finances, your health and your ability to keep up a big cat. They are magnificent animals, but they are not pets."

For Holliman and his wife Carol, giving large cats a peaceful place to live after sometimes difficult circumstances has become a joyful, if all-consuming, labor of love.

"You just have to appreciate what these animals are,"

Holliman said.

"Letting them be put to death ... to me that would be like asking someone to have their kids put down."

Sasha and Giggles have certainly found a better neighborhood, and Holliman said they are quickly adapting to life at Pride Rock.

"They say if you move a cougar 10 feet they won't eat for a week,"

he said.

"We moved them hundreds of miles but they are eating well and seem to be coming around for us."

For more information and ways to support the Pride Rock Wildlife Refuge, visit its website, www.priderock.org.

© 2011 Terrell Tribune. All rights reserved.