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December 28, 2007

Guest Commentary: Remembering Tatiana

The more I watch and read the news, of course, the more questions I have. After listening to the interview with the deceased boy’s father, I think it is clear he was every bit a typical 17-year-old boy, with mischief being a middle name. And as I listened further and learned of the theory that one of the boys had possibly climbed the barrier wall and dangled his leg over in a teasing manner, I wonder what exactly it is that is unclear about the chain of events.Again, I don’t know the layout of this particular zoo, but I do understand animals and immature kids enough to have an educated guess about the truth. Animals bred and born in captivity are still animals inside. I have seen enough documentaries to understand that what others consider predatory or unpredictable behavior is simply an animal staying true to its own nature, which has been somewhat (seemingly) curtailed through captivity. I am sorry the young boy had to die, but I am not surprised by the course of actions. I believe those boys are far guiltier than they will ever let on. I also feel for the San Francisco Zoo, because I know it will carry the brunt of this no matter what.And I do understand that this is a situation that had become completely out of hand, with no other option besides regaining control immediately to protect and save the lives of others. Tatiana was angered and clearly defending herself. Without a doubt, finishing off those boys was at the top of her agenda. But, what brought her there? What put them at the top of her list? They themselves? I get so frustrated with the collective limited understanding of animals — any animal, domesticated or captive. As is standard, people often do not take responsibility for an animal’s current state of existence, which, subsequently, is their current state of being. However, we think it’s cool to own a dog, so we buy one and put it in a cage or on a string in the yard. There. We can say we own a dog. We enjoy boasting the privilege of financially supporting our local zoo, but we throw food at the animals in their cages, to the point where signs have been erected specifically directing us not to. It’s so convoluted it’s practically comical, but sadly actually not.I believe that in most — or hopefully many or all — zoo facilities, the zoo officials do all within their power and budgets to give the animals all they can to simulate as true-to-life existence as possible. But regardless, I also believe that within all of those animals, at one point or another, they have a place in their inner being that longs for the freedom of their natural habitat. They may not recognize that absence as what it is, but the vacancy remains and does affect the animal’s behavior. Tatiana, being young and obviously very strong, opted to throw her weight around, and I cannot help believing it stemmed from pure frustration. You know, a straw that broke the camel’s back sort of thing. People so easily fail to use any form of cognizance for the simple reality that there is a life — a living being — involved, regardless of how many of his/her legs they use to get around. Think outside of the box, people. See the big picture. Deal with a situation as needed, not with what you can get away with. Take a murderous spirit, which in this case is no different than hers, and execute it in a manner that serves the higher good. We are supposedly the sentient beings, right? Don’t murder the animal that was drug or bred out of the wild just because you can, just because you are licensed to kill. Don’t forget you put her in that cage to begin with. And, in this case, you may very well be the one who let her out.Or maybe I identify with animals far too much. I’m not Cesar Millan, after all. But, either way, I will name my next female dog Tatiana in her memory. Contact the writer at