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The Pet Lion

November 11, 2018

I always liked pets. But dog pets. I had a Collie Shepherd that was too big for me when I was small. Then two beagle pups when I was ten. I loved playing with them as they grew up. I thought that was it with me for pets. I was definitely a dog man.

Then when I was a junior in college the president of the fraternity I belonged to wanted to try something for rush week which took place the first week of fall quarter. He suggested we buy a lion cub he had seen at a zoo near where he lived. At our first chapter meeting of the quarter we voted to buy it. The president was happy. Some of us were unsure. I believe the lion weighted about ten pounds and was about six weeks old when we got him. I am not sure about the weight and age but he was a small cub. We got him just before rush started. We thought it would be good for rush  and would attract attention and interest. During sessions with rushees a brother would carry him around or walk him on a leash around the living room. It worked. The rushees talked about us in the freshman dorms while considering the different fraternities. We recruited a good pledge class.

Then rush ended and we had a small lion on our hands. A fast growing small lion. We had to figure out what to do with him. We had never gotten permission from the school to buy him. Our president had gone to see the dean before rush and told him we were thinking about buying a lion. The dean was a gruff, taciturn man.

“ You are thinking about buying a what?” was the response.

”A lion.”

”I will think about it?” the dean replied.

While he was thinking we went ahead with the purchase.

One of our brothers volunteered to be in charge of caring for him. A few brothers agreed to help. During the fall afternoons the lion and the brother were to be found in our yard on the grass under some pine trees. The brother reading his assignments for the next day’ classes. The lion by his side on a leash tied to a long chain which was tied to one of the pine trees. It was a great way to spend fall afternoons. Fraternity men walking by with their dates would stop by to look at the lion. They were all curious and had lots of questions about where we got him, what he ate and where he slept. Both the lion and the brother liked the attention. It was a lot of fun.

Cliff, which was what we decided to name him, was very playful. He was like a little puppy.  He liked to lay on his back and have his stomach rubbed. This was when he was small.

The news of the cub spread. A local television station called. They wanted to use the lion in a commercial. I drove to the station one sunny afternoon with a car full of brothers, and Cliff and his keeper in the back seat. The window was down and Cliff rode with his head part way out the window. He apparently liked the view and the breeze against his face. By then he was nearing forty pounds. Cliff grew fast.

As he grew problems developed. He became too heavy and strong for one person to control. We stared to worry about what were going to do with him. He started stalking people as they walked across the yard. That happened  to me one afternoon. I was walking in front of the house and suddenly felt a strange, eerie feeling. I stopped walking and looked around. Cliff was on the front patio about forty feet away and securely tied by his chain. He was crouched down, staring at me and stalking. I was an experience I have not forgotten. The stalking was understandable. I was wearing a camel colored sweater. Just the color of something in the wild that lions would chase. And catch. It was unnerving. A few days latter he lunged at a coed who was admiring him too closely. The keeper was quick and pulled Cliff back with the leash and no harm was done. The next week some brothers took Cliff to some open space on campus to let Cliff get some exercise. A off duty campus security heard was there with his two young daughters. Cliff started chasing the girls. It took two brothers to hold him back and control him.

The next day the dean called. He said it was time to get rid of the lion. We started trying to figure out how to to that. You can’t take a lion to a animal shelter and leave him off like an unwanted dog.  A few days later a football player from a nearby college came by and wanted to buy him. We quickly agreed. The player had been drafted by Miami to play in the NFL. He kelp Cliff in his apartment in Miami until Cliff started chewing up his furniture. Then he gave him to a zoo. We never heard any more of Cliff. We hoped he had a happy life.  He made a good pet, for about two months.



Partly taken from Emory Class of 1964 A College Story by Ernest Harben




From → Observation

  1. lmao. a few years ago, i was shocked to see that you could buy white tiger cubs for like 2 grand online. it reminds me of dalmations. after the disney movie kids want dalmations and then they got tired of them and the shelters fill up with them. i think we need to be better at thinking long-term.

    • I agree. I hope my post does not encourage more people to buy cubs. I meant it to show how quickly cubs have to be given away and how hard they are to take care of. And his little jugdment college students can have.

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