My Pet Lion
All my life I’ve had a lion for a pet. Some of my earliest memories are of us playing together. When I was a kid we’d play all day together, digging in the sandbox or stacking blocks in the basement. I’d build a tower and he’d knock it down with a roar.
As I got older he grew with me. Now our games became grander. When I got sick of my small town, or felt crowded by my big family, he was there. He and I were never bored. Training my pet lion was my favorite escape at home and I wanted him to be the best in the world. So I’d read about lions all over the world, whether the newest on the scene or the all time greats, and I’d compare. At first my lion looked young and gaunt in comparison, harmless even. But gradually he began to look as fierce and strong as any lion out there.
As high school ended all of my peers chose a local college to attend, but not me. I was invited to attend the most elite lion training academy. Admission to the academy was nearly a guarantee that one day we’d get to perform at the greatest circuses in the world. The life I’d always dreamed about was right around the corner!
I could tell you that I was surprised to find my lion was the envy of my peers at the academy—but I wasn’t. This is what we’d worked so hard for all those years. In fact, my lion was so talented that the nearby circus couldn’t wait. They begged us to join them even though he and I were still students at the academy. So we did. At first for a summer, then for a year. We bounced back and forth between the academy and the circus. It really seemed like the sky was the limit!
But then something went awry. My lion began to misbehave. One night he clawed a friend of mine. A week later he shoved a child out of the way as we made our way to the stage. He was proud—no wonder—but worse, I don’t think he understood his own strength. It wasn’t long ago that he was just a cub and I was just a boy, but things were different now. If he flashed his teeth people got worried. And if he ever attacked in a fit of rage it would really be very serious.
I began to feel hopeless. I worried that my lion would never be well-behaved again. Even worse, I feared some day he might do something unforgivable and I’d be forced to put him down. I was devastated by the thought.
But then I had an idea. All my life I’d thought I wanted to perform with my lion on the circus stage, but now I felt a new calling to tame lions who couldn’t behave. My lion had been too emboldened by our success and he’d gotten out of control. My first concern was taming him, but a whole path seemed to appear before me. My lion wasn’t the only one that needed tamed. They’re wild beasts after all! As I read more—the sort of anti-lion horror stories I’d always skipped over when I was younger—I realized the world was filled with lions who’d been allowed to get out of control and torment innocent people. We needed to reclaim our lives and retrain these lions who’d gone astray.
I returned to the academy with a newfound enthusiasm for my studies. I took as many courses on lion-taming as I could. I was so pleased when my lion began to respond to my efforts. He quickly went from fierce and mean to docile and refined. We were no longer performing on stage like we used to, but I didn’t mind. The pet lion I thought I might lose for good was back at my side, and I was enthralled in the new sorts of challenges that I encountered in lion taming. Then, in my final year at the academy, I tamed one of the oldest, nastiest lions around. The greatest lion trainer in the world read about my work, and in a letter told me how impressed he was.
I loved my time performing with my lion on stage and I was surprised to find that I loved taming troubled lions just as much. But when I left the academy I didn’t go back to the circus and I didn’t start working full-time as a lion tamer. I put all my effort into a long-shot and found a horse racing league willing to let me and my pet lion compete. It’s been fun trying to fit in on the racetracks. My lion’s faster than nearly all the horses, and almost as well-behaved.
Maybe you’ll see us on stage again some day, but for now we’re both content to stay out of the circus.