HOUSTON - Houston's 'tiger tale', which caught the nation's attention, came to a peaceful close when the animal was turned over to authorities, this weekend. The week of intrigue was resolved with the help of a well-known name in the community.
On the city's west side, 'Mattress Mack' Jim McIngvale's wife, Linda, runs the Club Westside fitness facility, where she keeps a collection of exotic animals. She is a reluctant 'hero' in the missing tiger story, but it's clear she has a love for the animals in her care.
Walking around the open-air displays, a tropical bird calls, "Hello."
McIngvale knows all the animals by name, and they clearly know her. She also knows, by an acquaintance, the owners of India the tiger. When Houston animal welfare officers asked, McIngvale started making some phone calls to see if the tiger could be found. "They were, like, we don't know where the cat's at," she describes the first calls, "I continued to have conversations that 'Well, I think it would be a good idea if you turned the cat in'"
India was turned over to police Saturday night, at the westside club to receive the kind of care that McIngvale's exotic collection receives on a daily basis. There are primates, birds, even a growing family of giraffes, that are under the supervision of trained professionals.
What started as a store novelty, years ago, has grown into a nurturing home for animals that had no other place to go, and an opportunity to teach and learn. "They're awesome animals, and it's great to be able to have conversations about conservation and animals in the wild," says McIngvale, "You give some people the opportunity to see animals they might never see in their lifetime."
Meantime, in India the tiger has been moved to an animal sanctuary in North Texas, where he will have the same opportunity to grow like the wild animal he is.