Thoughts From the Intern

My internship with Carolina Tiger Rescue is almost over, and I am sad at the idea of leaving the amazing family of Carolina Tiger Rescue. I have benefited in so many ways through working here the last eight months, and in ways I never thought possible. I set extremely high standards for myself, and this means that I am constantly concerned that I am not doing my best or that I am not learning enough to be the best. I have done a lot of learning while at Carolina Tiger Rescue. For example, I have learned that throwing 15 lb chickens is extremely stressful when they get stuck at the top of the fence and you have a manic tiger ready to jump that fence in order to get to you or that chicken (whichever comes first). I have also learned that if something can go wrong, then it probably will. You will forget to shift a tiger, or you will spray water all over yourself in 25 degree F weather. You will also always be the girl to get a rack of ribs hooked at the top of the fence (this was last week). You will totally forget to keep up with logging your hours (oops),  and you will most definitely be at the bottom of the compound when you need the knife or shovel you left at the top. And you will absolutely leave work every day covered in chicken guts.

I've loved it.

This organization has really shown me how humans and animals can really be a family. While these animals ARE NOT pets and would most likely eat you given the chance, the bonds between the humans and animals here at Carolina Tiger Rescue are strong as well as inspiring. I've grown to know and love each of the animals we take care of, and it has been such a joy learning with them.

I remember being in middle school and going out to eat with friends and having to choose the table we sat at was stressful... I mean, how do you pick the right table for a group to sit at when you are 14? What if you end up in a crowded corner or you can't get away from that screaming baby? How do you decide that? While that seems like such a silly concept, I compare that young insecurity to the beginning of my internship. What if I mixed up the medication between cats? Will I always forget that stupid knife? Can I really go out and feed tigers all by myself? What if someone thinks my questions are silly? Being new to working with big cats was a little daunting at first because there is so much to learn. It's hard to be independent when you don't know what you're doing, and even more frustrating when you are chomping at the bit to catch up with those who already know so much. I've grown so independent in this internship: although I still forget that stupid knife sometimes, I rarely have to ask questions and I can make a lot of decisions easily and confidently. It's a really cool feeling to graduate to that level because you know you really are capable of taking care of these animals. Obviously skill comes with practice, but I didn't anticipate that this internship would make me feel so self-assured in all areas of my life. I can now pick the table to eat at with ease!

What won't be easy is leaving. I have no desire to leave any of the animals, but in particular the ones I've had bonding experiences with, from fence chats to near-misses of being clawed to watching animals recover from serious illnesses. I'll also desperately miss the insane and fun-loving staff and volunteers I've bonded with through these cats. As summer approaches, Carolina Tiger Rescue will be welcoming eight new interns, and although I'm jealous that they will be taking over, I'm confident that they too will learn and develop new passion and skills for these animals.

I plan to return for summer as a volunteer, so I'll be around pending I don't get accepted for some research assistant positions I've applied for. So in reality I'm not leaving yet, but my days of proudly boasting the Intern title are drawing to an end. I'm finishing my intern project and have more posts to put up here, so don't quit reading on me yet! There are plenty of funny stories as well as great pictures I'll be posting soon.

I'm graduating college in three weeks and I'm looking into the next steps for my career as a cat conservationist, but Carolina Tiger Rescue will always be home to me. Check back in the coming weeks for more photos and cool stories!