Cheetah Love Our Message to Gracey after Four Weeks

This entry is part 6 of 16 in the series Messages to Gracey








  cheetah profile

Meeting Savannah at the Cincinnati Zoo

Joanne, Savannah, Paul

When our friend Linda Castenada heard the news that we had lost you, she quickly sent a message telling us she was heartbroken and extended an invitation to come visit her at The Cincinnati Zoo for some cheetah love. Linda runs the Cheetah Encounter and this past year, she has been raising a beautiful cheetah cub named Savannah. This was such a sweet and thoughtful gesture.  Your dad and I were really touched and thought this would be a fun and interesting thing for us to do together.   Linda and I were in Kenya together while you and your dad were here taking care of everything at home.

Joanne and SavannahWe had a great time watching the cheetahs chasing the lure during the show.  The cheetahs have a large area where they can run and play outdoors.  The Cheetah Encounter is where National Geographic and a Hollywood action movie crew  filmed  the cheetahs running in a way that had never been done before for an article in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic magazine.

After the show, Linda met your dad and I and we were given a behind the scenes tour.   We stayed safely behind the yellow line and the front of the cheetah enclosures and were able to meet Sarah, Chance, and Bravo.  I forgot that your dad had never been this close to a big cat before and he was fascinated with just how loud cheetahs can purr.  We learned all about the love and care that goes into their daily diet and enrichment programs.

Then Linda introduced us to Savannah.  I have to tell you that your dad’s eyes were as big as saucers.  He was trying to pretend to be calm and collected but being up close to a big cat, even if it is a young cheetah, can be daunting.  They are long, lean and strong. And Savannah stayed alert, keeping a close eye on us. Your dad was trying to be brave, but I could tell when he reached out to pet her, he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to.

Savannah kept licking my arm.  And I have to tell you, it started to hurt a little bit.  You little guys have rough sand paper tongues and the big cats have Savannah likes the cell phoneeven bigger and rougher tongues. Their tongues are designed to help lick flesh off of bone.  My arm was getting red and roughed up but I didn’t mind too much.  Your  dad was content to give her a few scratches behind the ears.

Then Savannah became fascinated with your dad’s cell phone case. She inspected it and left a little tooth mark in the case as a souvenir.  You would have been proud of him, because he was very brave by then and  began to pet Savannah.  This was a great experience for your dad and for me too, but I was super happy that your dad was able to experience meeting this amazing cheetah.

I’ve been fortunate having amazing experiences in Kenya and Namibia as well as at the Cincinnati and Columbus Zoos.  My zoology studies gave me the luxury of being able to spend hours reading, observing and  writing about big cats. I got to spend time with cheetahs at The Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia and track lions in Kenya  and all of this started with you.  You came into my life and I was changed for the better.

On the drive home, I remembered watching the video Cheetahs on the Edge-the Directors Cut.  I was holding you on my lap and we were  mesmerized watching the slow motion video of the cheetahs running. Their movement is so fluid.  The music Be Dark Night by Phosphorescent is haunting. You can’t help but appreciate if not fall in love with the cheetah watching this seven minute film.

So this is for you Gracey, our amazing little cat.  Your parents are doing a bit better.  We love you.

 Cheetahs on the Edge- the Director’s Cut


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  1. Judy Simon says

    Joanne, thank you for all the posts about Gracey! I am so sad she is no longer with us, but she will live on forever in our hearts. You and Gracey have made a spot in my heart i will forever hold dear. Thank you for all the work you do for the small & big cats alike! I am Honored to have you as a friend xo

  2. So neat you got to see the Cheetah’s behind the scenes. I like to think that my kitty that passed last year is always with me and I bet Gracey is with you too.
    Sue B

  3. Vicki Stringfellow Cook says

    Joanne – it’s so hard losing your heart cat. I know I grieved for Jasmine for months. I’m glad the Cheetah love gave you a small bright spot in your world. Gracey will always be with you in your heart. xo

  4. Oh Joanne, such a sweet message to Gracey! Also, so thoughtful of your friend to reach out with this gift! I remember the many times Gracey reached out to hurting friends here on fb, with love, memories, and care, during all our hard times…Thank you and Gracey! Special love to you all, and of course, Gracey l! xoxox

  5. So beautiful!

  6. Ingrid King says

    These messages to Gracey touch me deeply, Joanne. Just beautiful. I’m glad you and your husband got to have this healing experience with the cheetahs.

  7. Your messages to Gracey are so heartfelt and touching. I can’t help but be moved to tears when I read them. I rescued my first cat in 1992 and have not been without 1 or 2 (or 14!) since then. I understand, all too well, the pain you feel. There is no measure of wealth that could ever buy the unconditional love given by these wonderful creatures! Love is energy and energy never dies. We are all threads woven into the blanket of energy that is the cosmos. When threads intertwine, the bond is forever.
    I am completely taken by the big cats, as well. I visit CCF’s website daily, and am familiar with both the Cincinnati and Columbus Zoo’s. I’ve watched every video I can find about the cheetah, including Savannah, and I want so much to be a part of saving these magnificent animals. I am devoted to all cat’s, big and small, but especially to those in danger. Whatever kind of danger it may be. I’ve been the first human touch for 7 tiny kittens and at one time, had 14 cat’s of various ages in my care!
    The loss is great. The pain is deep. It doesn’t ever get ‘easier’. With time, it get’s ‘different’. I’m grateful to have found your blog. It has helped me. “Love and whiskers” to all those devoted to the great cat’s, the lesser cat’s and the tiniest cat’s!