What's Jay Doing

Mar

28

Shekinah

 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018 | Jay Owenhouse

 

Our beautiful white tiger Shekinah had a terrible accident five weeks ago. My family and I were shocked and devastated.


I will never forget the Sunday morning in June 2010 when we received Sheena and Shekinah, they were just 12 weeks old and weighed about 25 pounds. They lived in our house for the first six months, and like welcoming a new child into your home it takes awhile to get to know them and understand their personalities. We learned fairly quickly that there was something very different about Shekinah, looking into those beautiful blue eyes there was a depth and soulfulness about her. I had never seen that before in a tiger. SHe was very quick to bond to our family. 


On the evening of February 15th, my family, crew, and I were about to leave on tour from our Montana facility, then I realized something was up.


Shekinah was in her rock cave and she didn't want to come out. It was very unusual because they're always very excited to go. We always give them a choice if they want to. We never force them.


Finally, she stepped out of her cave and was limping.


I immediately talked to our vet and initially thought she had pulled a muscle in her leg. Tigers tend to heal pretty fast so we kept an eye on it for a couple days. She didn’t show any signs of being in pain.


Our vets evaluated her again and because of her excellent bone density their consensus was the injury was muscular.


After another week, Shekinah wasn't getting any better. X-rays were done on Shekinah's right leg; the scans revealed she had shattered her femur.





Being twin sisters they like to play a lot and we think what happened was Shekinah was up on top of the waterfall in the sanctuary - there's  an area to lay up there - and her sister came up and wanted to get a game going and somehow knocked her off. It was just a freak accident where she had to have landed and hit her hip.


After talking to several experts, the consensus was that repairing a femur on an adult tiger had never been done before and would be too expensive. She probably would have to be put down. We weren't going to accept that because she's part of our family. If her femur could be repaired and she could live a life without pain then it was worth any cost to fix it. My local tiger vet Dr. Sarah Lavelle of Ark Veterinary Practice agreed and immediately got a team of local experts together that searched far and wide for the best veterinary surgeons in the country. Fortunately, we didn't have to search too far.


The best option was Sun Valley Animal Center in Sun Valley, Idaho.  Owner Dr.Randy is regarded as one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the country and has done some pretty rare surgeries on wild animals, but never a Bengal tiger.


He knew he had to use a specialized interlocking nail to fix her femur, but the dilemma was they didn't make parts big enough for a tiger in veterinary medicine.


So Dr. Acker connected with Boise Hospital Saint Alphonsus director of orthopedic trauma, Dr. David Zamorano who, prior to this, only worked on humans.


Dr. Zamorano told Dr. Acker  that he was reluctant to help because he didn’t know much about tigers, but after Dr. Acker sent him the X-rays, he t told him it looks just like a human femur and realized  you can fix it just like you would fix any human.


Within a couple days, Dr. Zamorano got a team together, stocked a pickup truck with medical equipment from Smith & Nephew and headed to the Sun Valley Animal Center.


Dr. Zamorano explained to me the process. It's called a META-TAN Nail. They make a little hole in the top of the bone and screws come out, they put the rod all the way down the femur then we put a screw at the bottom and a screw at the top. It's made out of strong titanium so you can't bend it, this allows the tiger to walk on it from day 

one.




An unlikely combination: human surgeons and equipment, representatives from Boise, an anesthesia team from Montana and a veterinary team in Sun Valley all uniting to save our beloved family member who also happens to be a rare, endangered white Bengal tiger.


The surgery was difficult because the fracture was three week old and had partially healed in a bad position.


For the Idaho surgeons, it was a race against time, and they finished in about three hours.

I stood by her side during the surgery, praying without ceasing and resisting the need to hold her paw for the entire three-hour surgery. It was a tough day but it also was a good day because I knew if it weren’t for the surgery she wouldn't have had a chance to survive.  It would have been inhumane to let her live without having reconstruction.


As of this writing it has been 3 weeks since the surgery, Shekinah is in great spirits and is healing and resting in a makeshift hospital bed in her private climate controlled trailer. She is away from her sanctuary and twin sister to avoid the risk of hurting her leg as it heals.

They've spent eight years together so it's the first time they've been separated since Shekinah's surgery.  Sheena seems to be concerned about her sister. I can tell she misses her.


Thank You! All of you who have said a prayer for Shekinah! It has been such a blessing to our family to have so many people wanting to be a part of giving her a second chance!


We really feel like it was God’sdivine intervention that this incredible medical team came together with such enthusiasm to take on this very difficult challenge of rebuilding a tiger's femur.


As many of you know, we only take our tigers on the road 6 to 10 days per month. We allow our tigers  to take part in our shows to help educate people about conservation and show them first hand how special they are. It's always their choice if they want to go with us and do the shows. They can go or they can stay. I've never had a tiger not want to go because we make it fun for them and get to spend a lot of quality time together.  What they do in the show is by their choice, they're not coerced to do it, they do it because they love it. For us they're not props in our show, they're not working animals. They are part of our family and they have been since the day we adopted them.


Tigers are a species in crisis! A famous conservationist once said, “We will only conserve that which we love.'' I believe it is so important for people to get an opportunity to be around these magnificent animals. It changes their life and heightens their awareness of the plight that the tiger along with a lot of other animals are fighting.


Again, thank you to all who have joined us in our efforts to stop the illegal poaching of wild tigers, because of you we have increased the wild population by over 400 in the last 3 years!


We will keep you updated on Shekinah’s progress!


Take Care and God Bless,


Jay 


My Special thanks to NBC TV KTVB's Morgan Boydston and photojournalist Mary Kienzle, part of the content of this blog post was taken from my interview with them and the incredible news story they did on KTVB TV.


Here is the link to the video story: 

https://www.ktvb.com/article/features/only-on-7-idaho-doctors-operate-on-save-famous-bengal-tiger/277-530451713


 

 

 


Aug

14

Our Life with Tigers | Part 2

 

Friday, August 14, 2015 | Jay Owenhouse

 

At every show we have a VIP experience where we offer audiences the opportunity to meet our tigers and learn about them, part of the proceeds from these tickets go to tiger protection and conservation. Specifically, the money goes to the Corbett Foundation to support the tiger reserves in India. www.corbettfoundation.org


The most common questions I get asked at the VIP experience  is “How did I get interested magic?” and “ What made me interested in raising tigers?”


It all started when I saw a magician perform at my sister’s birthday party when I was just 4 years old. I don’t really remember much about the show he performed, but I remember feeling an incredible sense of wonder. From that moment on I was hooked. At age 11, I watched a magician levitate a woman in midair on T.V.  I was so impressed, I urged my Mom to take me to a magic shop in a neighboring city to purchase some tricks and a magic book. For the next four years I sought out all the information I could find on magic. My free time was spent practicing sleight of hand and other tools of the trade. After perfecting my skills in front of friends and family I performed my first magic show to a third grade class at age 14.


Perhaps more interesting is how I became interested in working with tigers. When I was just a toddler my parents purchased a very large and beautiful painting of a tiger and displayed it over our family room fireplace. To this day they are still not sure why they purchased the painting (as they never had a strong affinity for tigers or cats in general). I think they just liked the colors of the painting and felt it matched the décor of the room. Since the age of 3 years old I remember staring at that painting every day.




I have had a deep lover for animals for as long as I can remember. As a child I played on the floor day after day for years, always being mesmerized by the painting of the tiger. Somehow I knew my future would involve tigers.


After high school, I had the privilege of meeting and becoming friends with Rick Glassey (who many would agree is one of the greatest tiger trainers of all time). Rick became my mentor and has taught me almost everything I know about working with tigers. This year marks my 20th year of raising and training tigers and 2nd only to my family, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life!


As a child it never occurred to me that my daily focus on a painting would lead to thoughts and day dreams of tigers and that someday those thoughts and day dreams would become reality!


My parents picture of the tiger is now displayed in my house and every time I look at it, I smile and think about the wise teaching in the book of Proverbs.


Proverbs 23:7 -“You are what you think”


Proverbs 4:23 –“Be careful what you think about because your thoughts run your life”


Our hope is that everyone who attends our show will not only leave mesmerized with a renewed sense of wonder but also a greater understanding and love for one of God’s greatest creations - the Bengal tiger.  

 

 

 


Aug

01

Our Life with Tigers | Part 1

 

Friday, August 01, 2014 | Jay Owenhouse

 

"In the end we will conserve only what we love.
We will love only what we understand.
We will understand only what we are taught.”

-Baba Dioum, Senegalese Conservationist.


I came across this quote the other day and it really touched my mind and my heart. The quote is derived from a 1968 speech made in New Delhi, India by the Senegalese environmentalist Baba Dioum.      

 

In 1900 there were over 100,000 tigers in the wild. Today there are less than 3,000 tigers in the wild. Animal bans and restrictions have not been effective in saving the tiger population.





However, as the quote above suggests, people care about conserving what they love. It has been an honor and a privilege for my family and I to share with our audiences an up close experience with the magnificent Bengal tiger. At every show we offer a VIP ticket and the proceeds from this ticket go to tiger protection and conservation. Specifically the money goes to the Corbett Foundation to support the tiger reserves in India. www.corbettfoundation.org


We believe that in order to grow and nurture love for an animal species (like the tiger) we need to have an understanding and knowledge of that animal. In the VIP experience at our show we offer audiences the opportunity to meet our tigers and learn about them. Our hope is that everyone who attends our show will not only leave mesmerized with a renewed sense of wonder but also a greater understanding and love for one of God’s greatest creations- the Bengal tiger.   





 

 

 


Feb

12

Don't Stop Believin'

 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 | Jay Owenhouse

 

In High School, I became a Journey fan. I remember building illusions on the weekends and listening over and over to the songs “Faithfully”, "Don’t Stop Believin'”, and my favorite “Who’s Crying Now”. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, I had the privilege of seeing Journey perform live twice while I was in High School. In 1983, the Journey music video “Faithfully” came out and It showed the band touring in their brand new 1982 Eagle Model 10 tour bus. As a young magician, I would watch that video over and over again dreaming of someday touring the country in a bus just like the one Journey had.



After High School, I struggled to work as a professional Magician. (sometimes at inception our dreams are tested, and sometimes they come before we are ready) In my case, I wasn't ready for the test, I got discouraged and decided to go to college. In 1987, I met and married Susan the woman of my dreams. I graduated from Montana State University in 1990. With an Amazing woman at my side I was ready to pursue my dream. It was a magical time. A few years later in 1995 I was touring the country with my family in a 1982 Eagle Model 10 tour bus. (just like Journey and just like my dream 12 years earlier)

            



The bus who’s name was “Rainmaker” was an amazing blessing to our business and our family for 18 years.This last Summer in August, after many faithful years, Rainmaker just wore out. She left us stranded on a canyon highway outside of Missoula, MT. It was a frustrating day. But I couldn't really be mad at her - she had endured 3 million miles! (and as my son Peter reminded me, 3 million miles was equivalent to traveling to the moon and back 6 times!)

               


 

As I stood out on the highway that hot August day - waiting for a tow truck with my family, my crew, my dog Bobby and two tigers, I thought about 1983 and the Journey video "Faithfully", It made me smile, God had been Faithful in allowing me to fulfill a childhood dream.

 

I thought about fixing her, so many great memories. However, I finally realized Rainmaker was worn out. It was time to let her go.

 

A week later, I happened to watch the recent Journey documentary “Don’t Stop Believin'” It showed the band touring in their new Prevost Mirage XL2 tour bus. I was amazed! I hadn't realized how much the technology and comfort level had increased in the modern tour bus. I now had a new dream!

 

In September, we went back on the road without a bus and spent the next 3 months traveling in Suburban’s. It was a tough transition with a lot of all night drives. And it seemed almost impossible to fulfill our tour commitments without a bus.

 

Again, God was faithful. In December, through a unique set of circumstances we were able to buy the perfect bus for our family and crew. In fact, it was Journey’s bus and the exact same one I had seen in the documentary a few months earlier.

 

Every time I hear a Journey song it makes me smile! They helped inspire me 30 years ago to dream. Now every time I have the privilege to get on our new bus and go back out on tour I will think about Journey, the memories they made on the bus before us, and how important it is for all of us to look past our circumstances, trust God, keep moving forward and……Don’t Stop Believin'.

                





 

 

 


Aug

10

Welcome to my new website!

 

Saturday, August 10, 2013 | Jay Owenhouse

 

I am so happy and blessed to be back! A lot of people were wondering what happened to me, some of you know of my circumstances and struggles these past 4 years. For those of you that don’t, I will share briefly what happened. 


2008 was a great year for our family and we completed an extensive tour in Asia. In April of 2009 my beautiful wife Susan passed away after a long battle with a rare autoimmune disease. She was an incredible mother and a great business partner. She is the love of my life and for 22 years we had an amazing life together. 


Since that time my children and I have been trying to heal, lots of tears, late night talks, and prayers to God trying to understand! We took time to raise and train 2 baby tigers to adulthood (which was good therapy) and we have performed a minimal number of shows each year (mostly benefit shows helping out charities in the U.S.) Next month we premier our new show in Spokane, WA. We are excited to be back on the road and working together as a family. As we enter in to this new season in our lives, we hope our story will encourage others who have faced adversity and heartache.


Talk to you soon,


Jay

 

 

 


 

About Jay

Jay and his family currently reside in Montana. “My happiness comes from my beautiful family”, says Jay, “and my satisfaction comes from the opportunity to bring a feeling of wonder to the next generation of young people, with what is nearly a lost art-the live magic show”. Read Full Bio