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He calls himself Big Cat Derek, and he makes some of the Internet's most addictive Vines.

Meet the man who made a cougar Internet-famous. Like, an actual cougar.

He calls himself Big Cat Derek, and he makes some of the Internet's most addictive Vines.

In 2014, a cougar named Cassie started an Internet trend when, despite being told not to, she just couldn't keep from squeaking.

Cassie gives zero flips and doesn't even try. All images and Vines via Big Cat Derek.

Big cat and not-so-big cat lovers everywhere followed suit, making Vines to show off their cats' cheeky lack of cooperation and using the hashtag #trynottosqueak.


Big Cat Derek is the man responsible for Cassie's fame. He lives at a cat sanctuary and keeps a three-legged llama in his backyard.

Nearly a million people follow his hilarious Vines of animals who live at the Center for Animal Research and Education. Derek Krahn — known among social media as Big Cat Derek — has loved tigers since he was little, so when the opportunity arose to volunteer at CARE, he was floored.

“I fortuitously stumbled upon an opportunity to become a volunteer at the facility, and they couldn't get rid of me after that point," he said.

An aviation meteorologist by day and a badass volunteer big cat advocate and caregiver by night, Derek has been with the foundation since 2006 and is now on their board of directors. He even met his wife — human, not cat — there.

Baby lions really love Derek. And not in the "love him for dinner" kind of way.

Upworthy asked Big Cat Derek to share some of his stories about the totally #dorbs cats he interacts with every day.

You've started a lot of trends on social media. Which of your videos went viral first?

Derek: It was our tiger, Levi, and he was just walking around in the snow, and the snow was muffling his steps, and how he was moving and how he approached the camera was a beautiful shot. I remember thinking to myself when I first shot that video that it was a special one.

This is one freaking majestic animal.

And then you had your biggest trend, "Try not to squeak."

Derek: Cassie was quickly becoming one of my biggest Vine stars — I call them the “celebrikitties." Almost every single squeak ... in a Vine is taken within the first 40 seconds of me approaching her enclosure because that's when she's excited. So I walked up to the enclosure and said, "Try not to squeak," and of course she did. And it was a hit!

It's adorable every. single. time. #cassie #trynottosqueak

I try to capture the different personalities of the cats because I've been working with the cats for almost a decade. Pawi (Kannapalli) has this kind of Lenny from "Of Mice and Men" air about him, and he's a little bit derpy and a little bit feisty.

Derp.

Each cat is very different. When I do Vines of them or I do posts of them, it's not just like, "Hey look at this beautiful tiger," but rather, “Hey, look at Chompers, and here are moments of Chomper's personality," and people relate.

Luca's always been a bit of a shithead! The jokes kind of capture him perfectly.

Ba-dum-tssss. #LucaJokes

It's a cool thing — you aren't just seeing this generic animal; you're seeing this creature with its own personality.

So ... big cats in the middle of Texas? This isn't a natural habitat for lions and tigers. How does this happen?

Derek: Many of the other cats have been rescued from … less than savory circumstances. A lot of them come from people who had them as pets that obviously shouldn't have them as pets. People have these romantic notions about a lion or a tiger living in their house, and they don't really think it all the way through; they don't know exactly what they're getting into. Our organization is set up to provide a stable, permanent, and loving home for these animals.

Happy big cats, livin' in Texas, roamin' around.

Can you tell me a story about how one particular cat wound up at CARE?

Derek: I can tell you about Tabula, she's one of our lionesses. She actually came in 2008.

There was a private collector up in Midland who had about a dozen or so lions and tigers living in these really ramshackle cages out in his backyard, and they were these really small, tight spaces. She was declawed when she first came over to CARE, and she was accustomed to living in a cage of about 10 by 10 feet, and she'd been living in that cage for close to a decade. ...

When she first got to CARE, the enclosure was spacious and big and there was grass and there were blue skies and it was overwhelming, and she lost her cookies. She hid underneath a wooden housing unit for about three weeks.

Eventually, she started to come out of her shell, lose weight, and approach the fence to actually show affection. She's a lot better off than she was, that's for sure.

Derek + Tabula = <3

People who get these animals as pets and then they declaw them, that's pretty brutal. That comes from the idea that it makes these cats safer, and in a lot of ways, it actually makes them more dangerous. Anyone who works with big cats should know the phrase “claws hurt, teeth kill," and if you take away the “hurt" set of weapons, the only thing that's left is the “kill" set of weapons.

And then the added detriment to the well-being of the animals themselves — you're talking wild animals that weigh 400, 500, 600 pounds that now have to hold themselves on portions of their paws that aren't normally being utilized for sustaining lots of weight like that. … I've seen a lot of cats that have experienced difficulties as they've gotten older; they've become a lot more arthritic too, even, with some of the cats literally having years shaved off of their lives because of the way that they're holding their bodies. We've never declawed any of our cats. The only cats that are declawed are the ones that come to the facility already declawed.

Any final thoughts?

Derek: I'm going to keep on doing this as long as my body will let me! You look at a lot of these Vines on social media. There are a lot of people on social media who have a tailored approach. Yes, my content revolves around big cats because, you know, I'm called Big Cat Derek, but sometimes it's going to be funny, sometimes it's going to be educational, sometimes it's going to be condemning things that I find to be bad, sometimes it's going to be me putting my heart and my feeling and my emotions out there.

NOTE: While these cuddly lion cubs and baby tigers are adorable, remember that a 500-pound wild beast with dangerous #peets and giant teeth does not make a good pet. Instead of taking in a stray leopard, why not try virtually adopting one of CARE's cats?

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

4-year-old New Zealand boy and police share toys.

Sometimes the adorableness of small children is almost too much to take.

According to the New Zealand Police, a 4-year-old called the country's emergency number to report that he had some toys for them—and that's only the first cute thing to happen in this story.

After calling 111 (the New Zealand equivalent to 911), the preschooler told the "police lady" who answered the call that he had some toys for her. "Come over and see them!" he said to her.

The dispatcher asked where he was, and then the boy's father picked up. He explained that the kids' mother was sick and the boy had made the call while he was attending to the other child. After confirming that there was no emergency—all in a remarkably calm exchange—the call was ended. The whole exchange was so sweet and innocent.

But then it went to another level of wholesome. The dispatcher put out a call to the police units asking if anyone was available to go look at the 4-year-old's toys. And an officer responded in the affirmative as if this were a totally normal occurrence.

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