In 1974 two of my friends and I went to a cat show in Minneapolis, MN and it was nothing to get very excited about…until we went up the stairs to see two cougars! There were folding tables, signs describing a fund raiser, and a few people taking a dollar if you wanted your photo taken with a cougar. The Minnesota Zoo in Apple Valley, MN opened in 1978 but prior to its opening they were raising money for its construction and we just happened upon one of those fund raisers.
I handed over my dollar (my friends didn’t, I wonder why?) and I went behind the tables and saw the cougars were about 20 feet apart and each on about a 6 foot long chain. I looked to the right and thought that the cougar didn’t seem very happy and looked to the left and saw a cougar with a puppy-like expression (friendly and wanting to play), so I walked over and sat on the ground with it! I sort of pet it and it started kind of lightly mouthing (chewing) my upper arm! I know it sounds crazy and maybe not so safe, but I was sure he wasn’t going to maul me – and he didn’t! The photo was taken and sadly later lost, but it was a fun experience that I’ll never forget.
At the event I was told that the cougars were used for commercials – some of you might remember “At the Sign of the Cat” commercials for Mercury Cougars. Later I learned that they were bred in captivity. You can learn more on the web about these cougars. Chauncey was the first Cougar in the ads and the successors were Chauncey Jr., Jimmy and Frisky. I was likely with Jimmy or Frisky…Frisky is my bet.