1. How did you get involved with tigers?
I've answered this question at great length, I recall, several times, but the only answer I can find quickly in my own journal here. Since that's a friends-locked entry, I'll summarize here:
EFRC had done fund raisers where you could get a photo with a baby tiger a couple of times in Champaign, so I knew they existed, and I had visited the place a couple of times, but it never really made a deep impression. But four years ago this spring, I was feeling low one weekend, and kind of on a whim I decided to go visit the tigers. I got into a conversation with Jean Herrberg, the assistant director, and told her that I'd like to volunteer but I think I live too far away to be a help. She said that the time I could put in would be worthwhile, so I started showing up. And I kept on doing it, and somewhere along the line I went from being "some guy who showed up and said they wanted to volunteer" to someone they trust.
2. What kind of training is involved before you are allowed to "play with the big cats?"
It totally depends on the situation -- the actual kind of interaction involved, the animals involved, the rules at the specific facility, and what the government is requiring at that place and time. If the AR folks get their way with HR 5909, the answer will be simple: it's not allowed, period.
In my work at EFRC, I didn't get formally trained; I just started out doing simple zero-risk jobs where I couldn't touch the cats -- holding hoses, cleaning cages (after an experienced person had locked the cat out). After a couple of years, I was trusted to know which animals were friendly enough that I could touch them through the chain link fence. And I don't play with the adults closer than that. When the cats are behind chain link it is much safer than if they are behind something with larger holes, to say nothing of being inside the fence.
3. How are tigers like housecats?
Most of their body language and behavior patterns like how they stalk and play with toys are very similar. Understanding their behavior is tricky, because they do similar behaviors, but in different combinations, and they have slightly different meanings. But other than sounds, almost all of the behaviors of tigers can be seen in house cats.
4. How did you get into filking?
When I was in high school, we got involved with ChUSFA, the student science fiction club at the U of I. billroper was a member. He brought his guitar to a few events, and got me hooked; I started collecting songs, I started taping at cons, and when my father made the biggest sacrifice of his life and gave his permission for me to buy a guitar of my own, I started performing.
5. What skill do you wish you had that you don't have?
I could spend a week coming up with good answers to this. But I think the one trick I really could use to make me more effective at doing everything I want to do would be to organized and mentally together enough that when I have the thought that I need to do something, I actually remember to do it at the appropriate time, whether that's something I mean to do in 30 seconds when I walk into the next room or at the next con when I'm talking face to face with someone I see once a year.
If anyone would like 5 questions from me, just ask.