July 10, 2002 – February 10, 2015
Loving Adoptive Parent: Sandy Blakley
Loving Sponsor – Karen Helms
Lifetime Guardian: George Thompson
This has been the hardest letter I have ever written. I had started it in my head, in my phone, and on the computer what seems like a hundred times in the past week. I think about how many people love the animals of CARE. I think about how much I owe to the animals. I also think about how much I owe to you, to convey in words a life from start to finish with integrity and respect. Most of all I want to honor Arctic.
It is hard to see the screen through the tears right now because I know the realization is setting in for you, that sinking feeling in your heart is becoming overwhelming, that feeling we have all become too accustomed to in recent months. Another magnificent creature is no longer with us.
I don’t want this story to be one of tears, but of joy. Arctic first came to me as a wee little cub. His smell was as sweet as a field of flowers. His eyes were as blue as the summer sky. His heart was as big as Texas. Immediately my heart grew twice its normal size just to accommodate this little bundle of joy, as did the heart every person who came in contact with him from that day on.
Arctic was the most beautiful blessing I think I had ever seen. His fur so soft and sleek, and that tail! His tail was indescribable. He was the most athletic of the cats. He could jump from a standing position straight up to the 11 foot perch in his early years. His eyes were as deep and soulful as the sea. A person could get lost gazing into his eyes. I could talk about his beauty all day but there was so much more to him.
Artic was the highest maintenance cat at CARE. Although CARE had built him a wonderful 20 ft. tall enclosure with waterfalls and air-conditioning, it was really no life for a snow leopard. Arctic was loved by so many. We offered him all we could in captivity but he deserved so much more. He deserved the mountains without thaw. The hardened land that allows no bacteria to live. Of all the animals that have lived at CARE, Arctic was the one who we all wished to be free more than any other. We all fantasized about a giant snow globe for him. This is where I envision him to be now.
I think Arctic was most known for his ability to fight for his life. He was always fighting one antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria or another. When he got too tired to fight I would fight for him. I can’t tell you how many days and nights I spent bringing him back from the brink yet again. The last couple of years have been considerably harder than the past. I always knew that we were going to have to let him go someday but was always happy when we made it through the storm once again. The good days still significantly outnumbered the bad until 2 weeks ago.
It was different. I knew it was different but after fighting all these years how do you call it quits? A decision has never been so hard. Several tearful, sleepless nights holding his weak, non-responsive paw. Then the realization he was not coming back to us this time. The fight was gone from his eyes. It was clear is was time to end his time with us.
There was so much to be learned from Arctic. Beauty, patience, respect, tenacity, spirit and love to name just a few. Even in his death the learning is to go on. In the following months we will be explaining how Arctic’s genetics will be significant in the future of all snow leopards. Just as rare and exceptional as he was in life, his legacy will now continue to help others.
-Heidi Krahn, CARE Founder and Executive Director
Arctic is the pride and joy of CARE. His beauty and grace is unsurpassed. Unfortunately, he is plagued with the often normal challenges of a Snow Leopard outside of their normal environment. A weakened immune system due to the species' limited gene pool had led to several illnesses as well.
"High maintenance" is an understatement for him. Arctic is hand fed every day to make sure he gets all of the nutrition that he needs. He requires a specialized environment to survive the Texas heat. He has a 16 foot tall shaded enclosure with a waterfall, cooled housing, and ramps to climb.