by Lisa Butler
Published in the Spring 2006 AA-EVP NewsJournal
Shortly after his return home from a modeling job in Europe, Teri Daner introduced her son, Geoff, to Kay Rosaire, a famous animal trainer who provided homes for unwanted lions and tigers. Teri thought it would be a good photo opportunity. Geoff met three of the young tigers during that meeting and fell in love with them. That was a turning point in Geoff’s life and Kay became Geoff’s second Mom while she taught him how to train big cats.
Geoff began performing with the Shriners Circus and had two performances on April 14th. The tigers in his act performed exceptionally well that day. Teri wrote, “He was extremely close to the cats. They were like his kids.”
On April 15th, 2005 at 2:10 AM, Geoff was killed in a tragic automobile accident. That morning at 2:10 AM the tiger, G.G., that Geoff carried on his shoulders during his act, began to cry as if she knew that something had happened to Geoff. Soon all the other cats were crying and they cried all night. They knew that Geoff had passed.
On April 21st, after the memorial service, Geoff’s Dad, Dave, and Teri were walking through the Tiger and Lion Barn. Teri writes, “Dave was carrying Geoff’s ashes in an urn. I had a small J300 recorder. We were giving the cats closure. I recorded as I stopped at each set of cat cages. I recorded the cats puffering and talking to me. Tigers are very personable if you have been around them since they were young, and if they know you as a caregiver. After recording the cats on more than one occasion that day, I put the recorder away with some jewelry that my son was wearing the night of the accident. I did not listen to this recording until I returned home to New Jersey.
“Geoff was our only child, and we are having a very difficult time. After returning home I was having a bad day and I got out the little recorder and listened to all the cats puffering and roaring. To my amazement, I heard, “Hi, Mom.” It was Geoff my son. I was so excited. Happy would not express how I felt. I called everyone that knew Geoff to have them listen to the recording. I guess it was too much for me to take in as I ended up in the emergency room that day. My husband and my best friend came to the house after hearing me on the phone; they knew something was not right. I had a mental break and did not remember my trip to Florida or the memorial.
“I know now that if I had not received the gift of “Hi, Mom” I would have had an even more difficult time coping. As it is now I am having an extremely difficult time coping. I love my son so much. He was the stars and the moon. I know now that he is in a good place and that one day I will join him there, God willing. I hope this helps those who have lost a loved one.
“Geoff’s tigers are at The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota, Florida. They are there with many other tigers and lions that Geoff knew and loved. His dream was to help the wild tigers and to make The Big Cat Habitat and Gulf Coast Sanctuary a success and a home for unwanted tigers. The tigers in Geoff’s act were unwanted and given homes at the Habitat by Kay Rosaire.”