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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 


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,


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: 




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