Running is my life. I may not be as outspoken as the lion or as large as the tiger, but I am fast. As a matter of fact I am the fastest land animal on this planet. My head is small and round; it is set atop a long neck which is attached to a flexible spine. My chest is deep and my nostrils are large, each of these help with increased oxygen intake. My eyes are set high giving me a two-hundred and ten degree field of view. Even the pads on my feet are specialized for traction. My tail is long and powerful, acting as a rudder providing maximum balance when I run. My claws are always ready for action and I never retract them, this helps me maintain readiness as I accelerate from zero to sixty miles per hour in just three seconds. I have been clocked at eighty miles per hour for a short span. The distinctive black marks near the corners of my eyes reduce the sun's glare when I hunt during the day. My name is Mahdi the Mighty; and I am a cheetah!
I am a legend but not for the reasons you might think. I am one of only fifty three cheetahs left in Iran, of which forty to forty-five (depending on your specific source) live in the Touran reserve. The remaining few, including myself, were scattered throughout the rest of the country working tirelessly to survive against all odds.
On a particularly warm night in the desert plains my father led me across some farmland to a small lake for a drink. He spotted a goat separated from its herd, we had been almost seventy-two hours between meals so he decided to strike. The goat was faster than father had anticipated, but not fast enough. In just a few moments my father caught him and pounced. A precision strike to the throat and the fight was over. The kill was closer to the herd than my father liked, so he quickly began to drag the meal toward me and the lake. The dogs which watched over that herd must have smelled fresh goat blood.
There were six in all, three of them broke away and ran at my father. They were large and strong, he dropped the goat and led them away from my direction. I watched helplessly as they chased him around the lake. He began to tire and slow down, eventually they surrounded him. He paced back and forth searching for an opening to squeeze through. It never came, the dogs struck tearing into my father. He was down in the hard clay, I could no longer see him through the mass of dogs. The shifting winds wafted over the lakeside breeze; they must have gotten a whiff of me too.
With no time to mourn the fate of my father, they darted in my direction. I ran as they approached me, my tail swayed as I ran keeping me balanced as I pulled away. The barking faded in the distance, I had evaded them for a moment. I circled around some trees on the other side of the small lake and rushed to be near my father.
Maybe he was still alive, maybe I could help him escape. He was alone, I could see him. His large chest rose and fell, he gasped for breath. I nudged him and he raised his head. I was small, but determined to get him out of there. I bit down on the scruff of his neck and began to drag him near the fallen goat. The goat had managed to wander off several yards leaving a trail of blood before falling again. I was so focused on getting him there that I didn't see it coming. The first dog hit me, knocking me away from father from. I rolled just in time to avoid a bite. A second dog bit down on my father and shook his body. His powerful chest ceased all movement. They surrounded me; I closed my eyes played dead and prayed.
My prayer was answered that morning in the form of Mahdi and a herder's cane. He wasn't supposed to rescue me, but he did. Khuda had answered my prayer. Mahdi tapped the dog nearest me on the back with the crooked stick. That dog quickly sat to attention. Mahdi yelled, commanding the other two dogs to sit. Tapping his stick on the ground in a circle all three were now under his spell. He tapped again and they rejoined the others with the herd of goats.
He looked at me for a moment before his soft gaze fell upon his slain goat. He paused, his calloused hands began stroking my father's head before gently closing his eyes. Maybe he thought there had been enough death for a day. I wanted to run, but something told me to stay. He picked me up and laid me over his shoulder. My claws dug into the flesh of his shirtless back. He paid it no attention and began to sing as he walked, his chant was exhilarating.
As Mahdi carried me we stopped twice, he gave me drinks of warm water from his goatskin 'bota bag'. We arrived at Naybandan a place of protection, the largest of it's kind in the country. He set me down and nudged me toward a well dressed woman. She gave him a couple shiny pieces of metal. A tear ran down his cheek, he wiped it away. He gave me a final drink from his bag and stroked my head as he had my father's.
"It's time to go Madhi the mighty, this is your new home. Run free. You have my heart, so I give you my name also."
Over the next couple months he would go on to find and rescue three more of my kind. Our population increased to nineteen in Naybandan. Run free I did; If only father could see me now!