Tiger helps wife make her husband’s wish come true

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 30, 2003

FERRIDAY &045; As Craig Perry brought four-and-a-half-month-old Savannah around the corner, George Ables could not hide his excitement, even if it was only an &uot;awww&uot; that came from his lips.

The smile that spread across his face Saturday morning while playing with Savannah was like that of a father or grandfather playing with a baby.

But this was no ordinary baby. Savannah is a 40-pound white Bengal tiger.

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Ables always wished he could have a Bengal tiger and has loved them ever since his wife, Angela, can remember.

&uot;He just loves them,&uot; Angela Ables said. &uot;He thinks they’re beautiful animals.&uot;

Angela Ables saw Savannah on a Monroe TV station’s morning show Sept. 18. The tiger was in town with an Iowa-based exotic petting zoo that was in Monroe for the city’s two-week-long fair.

As she watched Savannah roam around the TV set, she knew she had to get that cub as a special surprise for her husband.

She called the TV station, which got her in touch with numerous people who worked to get the tiger to Ferriday.

&uot;If he’d had any other animal that day Š that was God too,&uot; Angela Ables said Saturday as she paced by the door, waiting for the tiger to arrive.

It only took 10 days to get the cub to Ferriday.

&uot;God has worked many miracles in the last year,&uot; Angela said.

It has definitely not been the easiest of years for George and Angela Ables or anyone close to the family.

It was a little more than a year ago when George was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

It was the first Friday in September when he first had symptoms. He was walking across the parking lot at work talking with a co-worker when he tried to say something, but the words would not come out of his mouth. He stuttered and his vision was blurred.

He then visited Dr. Leslie England, the doctor Angela Ables works for, who works in internal medicine.

An MRI done that Monday revealed something on George Ables’ brain. That Tuesday, a neurologist in Jackson confirmed there was a tumor. That Wednesday, he had surgery on the left side of his brain; that Saturday, he was home.

The doctors told Angela Ables her husband’s tumor had only been present for six weeks.

&uot;The oncologist told us to do what she says and take treatments and hopefully she could buy him some time,&uot; Angela Ables said. The oncologist has some patients in remission for six or seven years.

George Ables had radiation and chemotherapy pills.

But in May, another MRI showed something else on his brain. Since you cannot effectively re-radiate an area of the brain, they decided to do surgery. But an MRI before surgery showed the tumor was completely gone.

So there was no surgery &045; just chemotherapy, now by way of an IV.

By July, the cancer was in remission.

Angela Ables said her husband was totally independent then. He could drive himself places and many times would go fishing, one of his favorite hobbies.

On Sept. 2, Angela Ables left for work as usual. But when she came home, her husband was lying in bed, could not move his right side and was unable to speak. He had had a stroke.

Now, almost four weeks later, George Ables is at the Professional Rehabilitation Center in Ferriday, where is undergoing speech, physical and occupational therapy.

&uot;He doesn’t have much expression lately,&uot; Angela Ables said. &uot;If I can get a smile out of him, I’ll be tickled to death,&uot; she said as she waited by the door of the rehab center for the tiger to arrive.

Angela Ables was ready to see George’s wish come true, adding that they should have a Make-A-Wish Foundation for adults as well as children.

&uot;Adults are just kids at heart,&uot; she said.

At about 10:30 a.m., an hour and a half after the expected arrival time, a blue Toyota Camry pulled into the rehab center. In the back was a pet carrier with Savannah inside.

After hearing George’s story, Craig Perry, owner of the petting zoo, said, &uot;We’ll make it so it’s a good surprise for him.&uot;

When Susie Swillie, George Ables’ sister, rolled his wheelchair onto the side patio, Perry finally revealed the surprise that piqued the interest of the workers at the center.

With a few family and friends gathered around him and an audience viewing from the back door, Perry placed Savannah in George Ables’ lap. He and Savannah hugged and played and even shared a kiss or two.

&uot;I never thought I’d see this day come,&uot; Angela Ables said.

&uot;I couldn’t get you one to own, but I got you one to pet,&uot; she told her husband as he played with the cub.

A bit of energy and a glimpse of a smile came across George Ables’ face while he played, even if it was only for a few minutes. He said he liked his surprise.

&uot;I got what I wanted,&uot; his wife said.

Wishes can come true.