Deep in the woods of Mt. Vernon, Maine, in a place most of us don't know about, there is a man in overalls and a trucker hat bellowing out, "TUNDRAAAAA," as he walks by a chain link fence. On the other side of the fence is a 650-lb lion named Tundra. She's been with the man in overalls, Bob Miner, and his wife Julie, for seven years now. Bob and Julie run the D.E.W. Animal Kingdom ("And Sanctuary" is in smaller letters on the sign, like a footnote), where they have rehabilitated hundreds of animals, from monkeys, to camels, to kangaroos. They have the largest collection of cats in New England. And by cats they mean: four lions, four tigers, three leopards, two lynx, and three bobcats.
Director Jack Schurman introduces us to this joyful mindbender of a world in his project video. He lives in Maine and says that one of the greatest experiences of his life is getting to know Bob & Julie Miner. We see a little kangaroo hopping through the living room, a toddler cuddling a baby lion, and multiple instances of very large tigers jumping at people through the fence.
But what is the perhaps the most compelling part about this story, the part that almost makes you burst with happiness, is Bob himself. It turns out that Bob started the animal sanctuary when he found himself back from the infantry in the Vietnam War — "Shoot 'em up, bang bang and that stuff." — and unable to deal with people. Caring for sick animals was a form of therapy for him, too. He explains all this with a thick Boston accent (where he lived before the war) interspersed with jokes ("I can go in every cage with every animal, including my wife. She attacks me but I love it."), bellows to Tundra, and little bits of wisdom about life and love. And all this through, it must be said, one of the best big, gray beards you've ever seen.
We love this project!
Because it's Friday, and just in case you need any more convincing, Jack sent us some photos of Makeena, a Bengal white tiger cub born on April 11th. Enjoy!