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RIP Mr. Awesome - Phil's Rambling Rants
June 18th, 2008
10:40 pm

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RIP Mr. Awesome
Otis Lee, the big tiger at EFRC who lived with Baby the lioness in the enclosure with the pond, died on Tuesday.

I think this image, originally taken on April 22, 2004 (and later cropped and lightly enhanced) is the best photo I've ever taken.

Otis Lee with his reflection in his pond


Otie was never a friendly tiger; the best I could look forward to from him was civility.  I only got that when I learned to respect him properly, and a habit that I'd developed for that was to call him "Mr. Awesome".  Which was appropriate.  He was not the heaviest tiger at EFRC, but I think he was the biggest  before some of the young ones grew to full size.  Even though he never liked me (or, as far as I know, any human), I felt considerable admiration and some affection for him.  So when I saw how wasted he looked, and how dispirited he was acting, the last time I was there (Sunday, June 8), I was fairly sure he was dying, and I made a point of taking a few pictures of him.

I wish my impression had been wrong, but he did not get better.  He was anesthetized and examined in EFRC's clinic, and the vet found that he had an incurable, terminal fungal infection in his lungs.  He seemed to be suffering, so they euthanized him on June 17.

Tiger Otis Lee lounging

In this picture, he seems to be resting comfortably, but the fact that he's calmly watching me while I'm taking his picture is a sign that the spark has gone out of him.  He never liked people standing close to him and taking pictures.

half profile head shot of tiger Otis Lee

Here's a closeup of his face.

tiger Otis Lee obscured by weeds

This rather crummy shot is significant because it's the last photo I ever took of him.

Another bit of light is gone from my world.

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(11 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments
 
From:birder2
Date:June 19th, 2008 04:49 am (UTC)
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So sorry. RIP, Otis.
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From:pir_anha
Date:June 19th, 2008 06:39 am (UTC)
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sorry for your sadness. :/

that is a fantastic picture, that first one; it fits your name for him so well.
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From:catsittingstill
Date:June 19th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
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These are terrific pictures. I especially like the first one, but they're all cool.

I'm sorry for your loss.
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From:andpuff
Date:June 19th, 2008 04:01 pm (UTC)
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He really was very beautiful, right to the end. ::hugs and sympathy::
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From:shockwave77598
Date:June 19th, 2008 05:15 pm (UTC)
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Killer picture!
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From:kestrels_nest
Date:June 20th, 2008 01:51 am (UTC)
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HUGS. I'm sorry.

You're an amazing photographer, you know. Even what you consider a "crummy" photo is beautiful, for making him look as though he were a vision out of dream.
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From:tigertoy
Date:June 20th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
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A tiger is a vision out of a dream. 6 years of hard work at EFRC, and I still get a thrill out of being right there with real live tigers.
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From:kestrels_nest
Date:June 20th, 2008 02:09 am (UTC)
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Yes, but your pictures make me, who has never been that close to a tiger, see it through your eyes. That's a gift, and I thank you for it.
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From:tollers
Date:June 20th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
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Wow... he was a pretty boy, and your photographs of him are wonderful.

*hugs*

Thank you for bringing the tigers to the rest of us... and for the work you do to make their lives a little better while they're at EFRC.
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From:danebassett
Date:June 22nd, 2008 06:56 am (UTC)
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Wow, Phil, sorry to hear about the loss of your Mr. Awesome. He appears to have been a spectacular tiger and his death is a huge loss for us all. You do him proud with such a loving eulogy.

*hugs*
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