Sunday, August 17, 2008

How To Wash A Tiger

Last week, Lacefreak Jane gave us an informative tutorial on washing Cormo fleece. This week, I follow her laundering lead by providing directions for washing tigers.

But before we get to this event, I shall recap our stay in Bangkok, because many of you wanted to know how I was faring. The short story is that I am doing fine, thanks to a battery of highly skilled medical professionals.

I pass quickly over the first week here, as I spent it in a (very nice) hospital room equipped with a brigade of nurses, minibar, plasma TV, and pull-out bed for Roy, all for the munificent cost of about $175 a day. The most exciting event of the week was the discovery that, when drugged into a pethidine stupor, I spoke perfectly fluent, idiomatic Japanese for about fifteen minutes. I have no recollection of doing this, but the doctors pulled Roy into the operating room to see if he could figure out what I was saying.

Unfortunately, Roy’s Japanese consists mostly of essential phrases such as “Please give me a beer,” so he wasn’t much help in that quarter. I suspect that I was probably saying something like “I am not a pincushion and if you do anything else to me with sharp objects, my friend Harry The Giant Spider will get truly annoyed and you will all be really sorry.”

I was finally sprung from hospital, whereupon we returned to the hotel and signed up for a tour of The Tiger Monastery—an amazing sanctuary for Really Big Striped Felines. The usual tour consists of a walk around the compound, followed by a distant viewing of tigers frolicking in a pool of water. However, somehow we were selected for an unusual hands-on tiger experience. The two of us must have looked so shell-shocked from the hospital stay that the tour guides figured the concept of tiger-washing would probably not faze us in the least.

The monastery is located in the north of Thailand—several hours by car. When we arrived, we had to sign a fair number of disclaimers, one of which was a release in case we were eaten during the tour. We were then led to a temple area where we suddenly found three-week old baby tigers in our laps. I am sorry, but there are simply no words to describe this experience. Instead, you will have to use your imagination from the pictures below.




After 45 incredible minutes tiger-cub handling, we were led over to a group of three-month old tigers, and we proceeded to walk our very own feline down to the swimming hole. Tigers of that age consist of 150 pounds of solid muscle. We started off on an equal footing...


...but in a few seconds, the tiger was actually walking me.


Between the two of us, though, we managed quite well.


When the group released the tigers into the water, the handlers instructed the ten of us to stand in a line on the shore. They then explained that should the tigers try to break through the line, we were to stand tall and steady as a tree, grab the tiger by the head and shoulders, and turn it around. This obscure factoid may come in handy for some of you one day.

The tigers certainly enjoyed their little dip.


Weirdly, the handlers all carried poles sporting Stop signs (in English). Who knew that tigers could read English?

At one point, a couple of the cats decided to charge the line. I did an Oscar-winning sapling imitation while Roy whipped the tiger around and pushed him back into the water. Roy still has both hands and I didn’t have a coronary.

The tigers walked us back to their enclosure, and at that point, we were given a lecture on How To Wash A Tiger.

Listen up, folks, because you never know when you might need this bit of information. Beginning at the tail, you hose down the animal with one hand while brushing dirt off the fur with the other hand. Clearly, it’s easier to wash Cormo fleece, mainly because it lacks teeth and claws. Also, it is difficult to spin tiger fur, especially if it’s still attached to the animal.


Here's a close-up of the tail-washing process.


Then proceed up the body and finish with a through face-washing.


We repeated the walking/swim experience with year-old tigers, which are rather larger than the three-month-old cats and have Really Big Teeth.

I indulged in a bit of meaningless conversation with our companion—you know—Nice Kitty! Great Teeth! Humans Taste Terrible!

And finally, we got to play with the cubs for a little while longer.


The experience was surreal and indescribable.

On the way back to Bangkok, we asked the driver to stop for lunch somewhere. As we sat there eating river prawns, we suddenly realized where we were. Folks of a certain age may recognize this tragic place. The photo below cannot convey the encompassing agony that surrounds this broken pile of wood.


We visited the tiny, poignant museum and read the terrible history of the River Kwai Bridge. Readers who want to learn the true story, which has little to do with the famous movie, can visit this web site.

Tomorrow we are off to Japan for a week to visit friends, have completely different Hello Kitty encounters, and do a little yarn crawling. This is supposed to be a knitting blog, after all!

56 comments:

LittleBerry said...

great post and lovely to see you up and about :o) gorgeous pictures of the kitties....

I look forward to the yarn crawl....

Leslie said...

Well, it's wonderful to hear from you and share the Great Tiger Adventure. That's a forever memory.

You certainly seem to be doing well and I look forward to hearing more about your adventures.

Have a great time while remembering to treat yourself well.

Dave said...

What an amazing experience. I think the look on your face in that last picture speaks for itself. (And you can just about hear the tiger purring all the way through the internet!)

It's wonderful to hear from you again!

Francesca said...

Wow, what a way to celebrate your release from hospital. The pictures and the story are wonderful and it's good to see you look so well.
Was that happiness by feline proximity or the lingering effects of powerful Thai drugs? ;)

fleegle said...

Dear Francesca--

No drug could possibly create the state of euphoria that results from holding a tiger cub :)

clarabelle said...

So glad to hear that your yucky surgery went OK (well, surgery's always yucky, isn't it). Your photos of the cats are fantastic - what an experience!

And as well, the River Kwai bridge photo tells another story. Humbling.

Hope you have a lovely 'rest of holiday' and that Harry isn't missing you too much.

Smitten Knitten said...

So glad to read you are out of hospital. What an incredible experience thank you for sharing it!

Laritza said...

Glad to see you up and going!
I have this image of Harry tiger-back-riding :D

Janice in GA said...

OMFG, you got to hold/play with a baby tiger??? That is one of the coolest things I ever heard of. And the other tiger adventures? Amazing.

Continued healing and excellent experiences like that to you, for a long time yet to come!

errs said...

So glad that you're out of the hospital and doing well. The tigers are amazing. How incredibly lucky you are. (Who knew a 3 month old tiger weighs as much as a mastiff.)

Miss T said...

Beautiful photos. Glad you're doing well, and...a minibar in your hospital room? Clearly, US hospitals are behind the times!

Kitty Kitty said...

I am so thankful to hear that you are out of the hospital and on your way to recovery

I can not believe you got to play with tigers. What a year... first camels and now the cutest kitties. What a really amazing experience. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.

heidi said...

what an incredible experience! And what an excellent way to start getting back to recovery;)

I'm really glad you wrote about on your blog!

yarnlot said...

What an extraordinary way to compensate for a hospital stay.

It was Victor Hugo who wrote that "God has made the cat to give man the pleasure of caressing the tiger”... but you were so lucky to do it for real!

MeowGirl said...

so glad to see you well enough to happily walk, herd, and wash tigers. looks like an amazing outing.

KnitYoga said...

You don't do things by halves, do you! :-) I'm glad to see you had such an amazing and incredible experience following your hospital ordeal and I'm really looking forward to hearing all about your yarn crawl.

loribird said...

What a wonderous and fantastic experience! Glad to see you up and in shape to wrastle with tigers ;)

~laurie said...

I once held a baby tiger and have never forgotten the feeling of it's paws :) ( thankyou African Lion Safari ) How amazing to wash a tiger!!!

Jane said...

So happy to hear that you are out of the hospital and feeling better! If anyone was ment to hold a tiger by the tail it's you :-) I will say that the washing of Cormo is a much more passive event and not nearly so wonderful as your washing and caressing of tigers. What a wonderful experience for you both. Enjoy the rest of your trip and keep us posted!

WendyKnits said...

Gotta say, this is the most wonderful blog entry I've seen in a long time. Thank you so much for the amazing tiger pix!

riaknits said...

That must have been such an amazing thing to do! I only hope that at some point in my life, I can do something similar. There's nothing like snuzzing big kitties!

missalicefaye said...

I'm glad to hear you're doing well! And thanks for brightening my morning with adorable tiger cub pictures! :)

coral-seas said...

I've been catching up, so first I am sorry to hear that you have not been well and pleased to hear that you are now on the mend.

Wow, what an incredible experience. A wild tiger and her 3 cubs walked within 10 feet of our vehicle in India last year. Looking her in the eye was awesome, so I can imagine cuddling those kitties was simply breath taking. Apparently stroking animals is very theraputic. I hope it does you the world of good.
CA

Teresa said...

How amazing! Thanks for sharing. Glad you're on the mend and enjoying your journeys.

gjabouri said...

Hi Fleegle,

I'm so glad you are up and about! But why did the tigers need washing???
Gabriele

Shea said...

Wow! First camels and now tigers. I am so insanely jealous! It's one of my life dreams to play with a tiger. I'm glad to hear everything went well enough that they let you go play with wild animals that have big teeth. I was worried after not hearing from you for so long!

Nik said...

You're my hero :D

I want to frolic with the tigers.

Carol said...

I will keep the tiger washing instructions in mind for any opportunity I may come across. Perhaps it's time for me to get a job in a feild?

As for 'grab the head and shoulders and push firmly" advice, Ihave on ecaveat, "be sure the tiger's mouth is closed"....

GailR said...

Washing tigers - memories for a lifetime. Enjoy your time recovering!

fleegle said...

Dear gjabouri--
THe swimming hole was a bit muddy.

sarah said...

Definitely good to know that you're up and about and seem to be feeling better. Not to mention feeling tigers!

Take care, and have a lovely time.

The Chickengoddess said...

I am so glad to see that your surgery is over. You look fantastic! Continue having a wonderful time, have a beer or two in Japan for me, and thanks for sharing such an incredible experience.

maryelvis1 said...

Unbelievable but cats are the best medicine for sure cause both Roy and you look fabulous! Say hi to all at KK! I am so glad you are doing so well! Love to you both MA

Judith said...

glad to see you're doing so well!

what an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience you had with those tigers. I wonder if you were one in a former life? Be well!

Opal said...

omgosh! that's amazing! it's so good to see that you're up and about and looking so good too. :)

judy said...

Thank you, thank you. Seeing your pictures and reading your story absolutely made my day.

z's momma said...

Too awesome for words.

btw--love the pink in the hair. Very Shear Genius!

Heather said...

Glad to hear that you are doing better. I would love to wash a tiger. Must put it on my to do list. hjm

Aim said...

Whoa. Scary.

Can't wait to see Japan photos! Glad you're done with your treatment, and I hope you continue to feel improvement!

Anonymous said...
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Laughingrat said...

Wow, what an incredible post. I hope you're feeling better now and that you don't have to revisit the hospital any time soon--been away from blogland a long time so not sure what had ailed you, but I hope it's routed!

Gosh, too bad you didn't have any little hats or similar ready for the tigers to model. That would have made quite a photograph.

madonnaearth said...

You are one brave woman!

"Walking" a 150-lb. tiger and keeping it from leaving the water? Thanks, but I will have to leave that one to anybody else but me.

If I was Harry I'd be running away as fast as my 8(?) legs could carry me.

madonnaearth said...

Wait--there was a minibar in your hospital room? That explains everything. lol

I totally missed that; I've got to reread this one.


Renee

Shea said...

Hey Fleegle! Just wanted to let you know that I finished my lace project! :)

Anonymous said...

What wendyknits said.

juliet said...

I've just found your blog, and just wanted to say I've been wonderfully entertained for the last 1 1/2 hours! Thankyou! I must now drag myself away and deal with darned kids, but I shall return.....

Anonymous said...

I followed a link on Ravelry for a K2Tog tutorial and found tigers! That's priceless.

India is on my must see list of places to go someday.

juliet, again said...

Oh, no, I'm not in your league!!I'm just a fledgeling blog person,and am still at the tentative 'people I know might read this - eek' stage! However, give me a year or so...... Poor Hanabi, and Lester on holiday had me clutching my sides! :D

knitabulous said...

What a superhuman being the fleegle is! Fresh out of surgery and she's playing with tigers the next day.

I know exactly how you must have felt when you accidentally stumbled upon the Kway bridge - the realisation and then the emotion - Oh my god this is it! moment. I actually 'stumbled' upon the Grand Canyon in a similar way (bad map reading - among other things) when I was doing my grand USA road trip in my early twenties. (I'm from Australia).

But the best thing about this post is that I got to see the fleegle in the flesh, so to speak.

The second best thing was your commenter 'India is on my list of places to visit'. India. Thailand - same same. Heh.

knitabulous said...

I forgot to say - I of the age where many, many of our grandfathers worked on the Burma Railway - some returned (with malaria), some did not.

Lamzie Divy Woolens said...

It looks like you had a great time in spite of the hospital stay. I'm so glad to see you having a fun time with the big kittys.
Good health to you,
Gay

Batty said...

Wow! Now that's a wonderful post. And... I think about how it takes 300 pounds of human to give a pill to a tiny little kitten, and the tiger is so much bigger.

TutleyMutley said...

oh my, not only do you make saartje's booties a seamless experience, but then I find posts and pics of tigers in thailand: I swore I couldn't possibly read any more blogs but I've added yours for sheer entertainment and education value. thanks from a new fan.
PS you look blissed out holding that cub.

Cheryl S. said...

Oh wow - what an awesome experience that must have been!

Silvia said...

Amazing experience. I think you are ready now for taking the next step, and that would be trying to wash an ordinary cat :).

Helen said...

I got in an animal-handling session at the zoo once, but we didn't go up to tigers, how wonderful. I've always had a thing about tigers (see http://chronicknittingsyndrome.blogspot.com/2008/01/monday-monday.html ) so if I had a To Do list, this would definitely go on it.

Hope your health continues to improve and that the Orient can provide the help you need.