DAYTON, OH -- Anyone who has loved and been loved by an animal appreciates the remarkable bond that we humans develop with the four-legged creatures who share our lives. For David Raber, who in 1990 opened his heart and home to a tiny, mistreated mountain lion cub he named Cougar, the relationship between man and his feline best friend has been nothing short of extraordinary. Over time, the two have grown to understand each other profoundly - and respect each other immensely. In fact, in the past decade they have never been apart for more than five hours.
Raber and Cougar - who serves as "spokescat" for Eukanuba Cat Foods - have documented their unique story in a new book from St. Martin's Press, titled Through Cougar's Eyes: Life Lessons From One Man's Best Friend. In the book, Raber details the many joys and complexities of sharing his life and home with a 200-pound mountain lion. Through Cougar's Eyes will be available at major bookstores and Internet booksellers nationwide in early April.
Born in captivity and declawed by his original owners, Cougar was an eight-week-old cub on display at a luxury boat show when Raber first saw him. Cougar was confined to a cage no larger than a toaster, unable to turn around or avoid the poking and prodding of curious spectators. Raber asked if he could hold the frightened cub, and the moment he cradled Cougar in the crook of his arm, he knew they were destined to be together. Raber made a vow then and there to care for Cougar and to work with him to educate people about the importance of respecting and protecting wildlife.
Raber met Cougar at a crossroads in his life. A former Navy pilot and Blue Angel who made a comfortable living as a Lear Jet pilot, Raber had recently been diagnosed with diabetes and was no longer able to fly. His livelihood had vanished. Though money was scarce, Raber made the commitment to adopt Cougar and give him a healthy, happy life outside of a cage.
Raber is the first to point out that an impulse adoption of any animal, let alone a large, exotic one, is not a good idea. "The story had all the signs of failure," he admits. However, Raber vowed to devote his life to Cougar's care, and since then has spent virtually 24 hours a day, seven days a week with him. "Cougar has become my life, my job, my family," he says. "Wherever I go, he goes."
People often ask Raber, "How does a 200-pound cougar live with you in your home?" The answer is quite simple - very much like his smaller, domesticated brethren. Cougar has free run of the house, enjoys napping in the sun, hops up on counters, purrs when he's happy and takes daily walks with Raber both on and off leash (Cougar is the only large cat in the country that is federally licensed without a cage). He even uses a litter box, though long ago Raber replaced litter with absorbent pads, as one swipe of Cougar's huge paw would empty half the sand from the box!