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VTMAS No.48: Vaccinate the Tiger, Val

I have to admit, my first job was amazing. For three years, I got up close and personal with a wide range of animals that most only dream to at least see in person or at the zoo. Dr. Stephens was a talented veterinarian for both local foundations and residents. When I first came to work there, I started off at the “Kennel Worker” and it didn’t take long that my work experience with livestock made me a valuable asset throughout the office. By the time I left, I had aided in surgeries, ran the front desk, closed and opened the office multiple times, trained others, and lastly vaccinated hundreds of animals.

This particular day was something I was not expecting. As normal, I parked my truck, clocked in, and immediately went to work in the kennel area. It was my routine after walking and cleaning the cages to go ahead and give the whole building a good sweep and mop half way through its day. I was sloshing it back and forth when I hear the back door open.

“Oh! Valerie!” It was Dr. Stephens. “I didn’t hear you come in a minute ago and then I saw your truck out back. Can you give me a hand?”

“Uh, sure.” I propped the mop up and followed him outside. “What do you need me to do?”

“You work with large animals, don’t you?” I nodded in agreement. “And you vaccinate the cows and pigs for your FFA?”

“Yea..?” I was a little confused as to why this information needed confirming. “You need a second pair of hands?”

“Sort of.” He smiled.

We turned the corner and I noticed something that had not been in the parking lot when I came into work: a large trailer cage and within it a Bengal Tiger pacing. I blinked a few times, both excited to see my favorite animal in the whole world and the fact I will get to work with one today!

“So, here.” Dr. Stephens breaks me from my admiration by handing me two syringes. “We just need you to go in there and vaccinate the tiger, Val.”

“Wait, what?” I looked at the shots and then at the tiger who paused and rubbed his head on a bar staring at me. “You want me to go in there and give him his shots? Don’t we need to tranquilize him?”

“No, he’s very good, I assure you.” He chuckled, patting my back as we walked to the cage door. “But you see there’s one problem.”

“Problem?!” My eyes are still on the huge 600 pound male tiger whose ears perk up at me and starts purring. “What sort of problem are we talking about?”

“He’s declawed, so don’t panic.” He nodded to the owner to start unlocking the cage. “He just doesn’t like men, and well, you’re the only girl currently here.”

My mind blanks out and I find myself in the cage, the door behind shut, and the massive tiger head gut punching me as his purring rattles my insides. I stare at the shots in my hand, and then down at the huge feline head that easily is wider than my own body.

“Are you ok?” Dr. Stephens and the owner had stepped back off to the side. “You’ve been standing there for a good minute?”

“Y-yea.” I smile, patting the tiger’s head and he purred louder. “Figured I’d give him a moment to get acquainted.”

“See I told you she was good at this…” I heard him reassure the owner. “She works with her own livestock and takes animal science at the high school…”

Bravely I work my petting down to his shoulder. I do a pinch test, but it does nothing to deter his head rubbing into my chest and stomach.

“Ok, Buddy.” I hold my breath as I do the first shot.

He seems oblivious so I quickly do the second, laughing to myself that the huge beast is too busy purring and loving on me to care what I am doing to him. I cap the needles and shove them in my pockets. I take a moment to relish this moment and start scratching under his jaw. It was so large that both hands were working and didn’t touch one another.

“V-Val? Are you done?” Dr. Stephens realized he had heard nothing from me and had rambled on about my personal credentials for a while. “Did you at least give him one?”

“Oh, I finished a while ago. He didn’t even notice.” And I said my goodbyes.

It was scary at first, but in the end, one of my favorite moments while working there.

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