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A tiger, a probe and a test tube 

Ranger Rich

Today, in a mature and grown-up way, we will discuss a recent event at our village zoo in which a man with a giant vibrating electric anal probe collected semen samples from a 400-pound tiger.

And to answer your first question: Yes. The brave, brave man is still alive.

I, however, was also in the room and will never be the same, having witnessed the tiger make three, uh, donations in a short span of time in what's known as multi-sample collecting. (On a personal note, I have another phrase for three such events: All of September and part of November.)

Anyway, the semen collecting at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo was performed on a 5-year-old endangered Amur tiger, formerly known as a Siberian tiger, to determine whether he can reproduce or whether he is, in strict scientific terms, shooting blanks.

I was allowed to watch because my wife is on the zoo's board of directors and also, apparently, because the women in the room needed someone to point at while they chuckled and whispered.

The tiger who starred in the show came to our zoo with the actual name of Billy Ray, a sleek and beautiful cat who loves playing in his Asian Highlands exhibit, chewing on horse bones and, of course, NASCAR.

Today his name has been changed to Grom, which means, literally, "Hey, what's with the giant electric prob ... ROAAAAR?!!!!!!"

Grom was sedated and being carried on a stretcher to the operating room at the zoo hospital when we arrived, a magnificent cat stretching more than six feet from his nose to the base of his tail — the latter region where the majority of the action would take place.

Here, from a Colorado State University veterinary school website, is some background about the procedure: "Electro-ejaculation involves applying a series of short, low-voltage pulses of current to the pelvic nerves which are involved in the ejaculatory responses."

This gives us a scientific overview and, as a bonus, also gives us a pretty good idea of what I believe we're going to see in the next videotape of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.

After some preliminary blood sampling from the cat's front legs, the real work began. On a table near the tiger's rump area was an electric transformer box with a wire leading to the probe, which would be inserted into the tiger's anus.

Footnote: I have been writing professionally for some 40 years and that was the first time I have ever used the words "inserted into the tiger's anus."

To describe the probe itself I'd say that it was larger than a turkey baster and slightly smaller than the Apollo 13 rocket. Four copper electrode strips ran along its sides and soon the entire thing had disappeared into the tiger's hinterlands.

The man manipulating the pulsating probe with his right hand appeared deep in thought with an intense expression — not unlike the look on U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's face if you ask him to name five states and a bird.

In the man's left hand was a test tube and before you knew it, well, I don't think I have to tell you what happened next: That's right, there was a big stain on Monica Lewinsky's blue dress and the tiger was testifying before a House Judiciary Committee.

No, what actually happened is that Grom the tiger had successfully donated a sample into the test tube. I shouted "Eureka!" and for the next hour nobody in the room would make eye contact with me.

The man hurried the test tube into an adjoining room, placed a sample of the semen under a microscope and in a few seconds announced, "We have swimmers." (My doctor once surmised that at my conception my father's swimmers were wearing goggles and inflatable water wings.)

The whole thing went quite quickly, as I mentioned, with the tiger giving three samples in 15 minutes.

If you're keeping score, that's just two shy of the current 15-minute world record held jointly by Charlie Sheen and former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Rich Tosches (rangerrich@csindy.com) also writes a Sunday column in the Denver Post.

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