Paws for station identification


“Honey, there’s a tiger on the tennis court. Whom should I call?”

Actually, there is an answer to that question. Located in the Angeles National Forest, the Wildlife Waystation provides shelter to 1,100 wild and exotic animals. The organization held its fifth annual fund-raiser at the Rancho Sol Del Pacifico Estate in Malibu Saturday.

The tiger is a 500-pound male named Drifter, thought to be a cross between Siberian and Bengal, said his trainer, Neil Egland. Drifter was confiscated by the DEA during a drug raid in Illinois, said Founder and Director Martine Colette. De-clawed and raised in captivity, the animal could not be released into the wild. Animals like these would usually be destroyed without the Waystation.

Jim Riskas of Newport Beach is a board member of the organization. Employing one of the facility’s donation formats, he adopted Drifter. Riskas was at the fund-raiser and seemed to be hanging around the tennis court a lot. “Look at that, isn’t he cute?” Riskas can be forgiven for having said so as the tiger rolls over on his back and bares his four-inch fangs.

A number of celebrities were present to support the popular charity. Dyan Cannon, Drew Barrimore and Joanne Worley were among those who received public thanks from Colette for their active support. Colette also presented a plaque thanking Anne Fleisher and her husband Walter, recently deceased, for their longstanding support.

During the charity auction, Walter Smith of Sun Valley employed an unusual bidding tactic to secure his purchase. When no one outbid him during the auction, he outbid himself, a gracious gesture that somewhat startled the auctioneer and drew a laugh from the crowd. The most unusual item sold during the auction was seating for two on a float in the Rose Parade, which went for $2,500.

There was an army of volunteers on hand. Pete Vela from Arcadia wore a hat with a feather and a badge that announced him to be the director of Llamas. Jesse Dugan came all the way from Kansas City with her father.

The grand finale was Theatre of the Incongruous. Drifter was to go for a dip in the suburban backyard pool. Colette took the occasion to do a little educating. She pointed out that the crowd needed to give the animal plenty of turf because, as tame as he is, “he is a tiger, and you aren’t.”

As instructed, the audience crouched behind a ring of tables set up on the grass away from the pool. Drifter entered the yard with measured tread, looking inscrutably around at the crowd. It was not entirely clear who was in charge at that moment, but it was hot, so he sniffed the water and went in. Tigers like water, Colette said. When the water got to be over his head, though, he held onto the side of the pool and snarled disparagingly. From 20 yards away behind a sturdy table, he did look sort of cute.