Z is for Zoo

ZNo zoos are created equal. Some a large and some are small. Some are accredited and others are not. Some are privately funded, while the majority rely on help from the visiting public and/or government funding. Some zoos do an amazing job, while others make you wish they didn’t exist. The important thing to remember is you cannot judge all zoos by the example of just one. Especially when you view it as a world wide entity.

Whether you believe in having animals in captivity or not, the fact of the matter is, I don’t see a time when animals won’t be in captivity. There’s no going back on this decision. You can’t simply walk into every zoo today and release all these animals back into the wild. Most animals in captivity today, were born into it. They simply wouldn’t survive if you just threw them back into the wild.

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the retractable lead

retractable-cord-dog-leashRegardless if you’re not a dog owner, chances are, you’ve seen retractable leads. It’s hard not to these days. They’re everywhere. If ever a product was designed to tug at dog owner’s heart strings, this is it. The world is full of people who do things for animals because it makes them, the human being, feel better.

Let’s face it, if you own a dog, chances are it needs to be on a lead at all times and if not all times, most of the time. For the people who need to keep their dog on a lead all the time, whether the dog would run away without it, or it’s the law, or the countless of other reasons, the retractable lead appears to be the perfect solution.

Dog owners feel better using a retractable lead because it gives their dog more freedom while being on a lead. However, what makes you feel better, isn’t always better for the dog. We all have our opinions on how a dog should behave on a walk. Some of us feel a dog should be properly heeled beside you at all times, other people let their dog have more freedom. Then there are some people who don’t have well behaved dogs at all, that just charge forward the entire walk.

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swissplateTo say it’s been a struggle adjusting to life here would be the understatement of the century. It’s been tough. When we moved here, we were told it was going to be a two year thing and then we would be off to the states again. It wasn’t necessary for me to work, so I never went on a job hunt. We kind of lived our lives in limbo. We had a simple but nice apartment and lived with the bare minimums. Our social life was a bit on the unhealthy side, in that we didn’t have much of one and depended on each other.

Today, and 3 years down the road, some things have changed for the better and others are still a bit of a struggle. We now live in a beautiful and new home and I even have a car  to help me get around at a more timely manner. Let’s face it, public transport in this country is actually awesome, but it can be time consuming having to be on a bus and train schedule. The city I used to live in was very convenient for public transportation and getting to the grocery store and what not, but now I live in a very small village that requires much longer bus rides, especially to get to a main train station. Having the freedom of a car has made life much better. I’m now able to run some errands I wouldn’t normally consider just because of the long bus rides.

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beware of false truths

Winter on a walk

Winter on a walk

I follow a handful of animal organizations on social media. Some are organizations that I know have taken in some of the animals I have had to say goodbye to. From 2002 – 2009, I worked at a private ranch. While there, I was in charge of the care and training of well over 25 different animals. When the economy came crashing down, so did my job. I not only lost my job, but had to watch all the animals get rehomed.

Recently, one of these animals came through on my Facebook page and what I read left me feeling sad. Gentle Barn is a non profit organization in California that takes in abused animals. Taken directly from their Facebook page:

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adding a new family member

IMG_0666I’ve always had pets from the moment I was born. OK, of course the cat that was with me since the day I was born was not my cat, but the point is, I’ve never been without a pet. I’ve been through points in my life where I’ve had one pet and then I’ve had points where I’ve had many. Before leaving California, we had 1 cat, 1 dog, 1 eclectus parrot, 2 rats, 1 guinea pig, 1 fresh water aquarium, 1 salt water aquarium. To avoid stresses of a cross country move to upstate New York, I found loving homes for all of them except the cat, the dog and one beta fish. While in New York, the cat passed and we acquired one ferret. Today, in Switzerland, we still have the dog and the ferret and it’s been a small family for three years now. The beta fish stayed back in New York, where he lived an amazing life of 5 years!

Having pets is a responsibility I take seriously. Being an animal trainer and care giver is more than a career for me, it’s who I am. It’s my training, my education, and my background. It became very clear as I entered my young adult life, that having children was not for me. There just isn’t a part of me that desires having a baby and then raising children, but taking care of animals is something I enjoy very much. So it looks like my mommy gene skipped the primate species.

For the first time in a long time, I’m beginning to feel like I would enjoy adding a new member to our family. More specifically, I would love to add another dog … I think. It’s complicated of course. Adding a new member to our family affects many people and things.

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from the outside looking in

Outside_Looking_in_by_M_photographyOr in my case, from the inside looking out.

Today, as I stood in my home, I had a view of the neighborhood. Lots of parents were out blowing up balloons in front of one of the houses, while the children ran around. I couldn’t help but feel, that will never be me. I have chosen to never have children. There just isn’t a motherly instinct towards primates at all within me. I’m different that way and because of that, I will never fit in with most people. It’s slowly putting distance between my friends and I, as they begin having children and creating a family. I have very little in common with them now, as their interests are naturally more towards parenting and less about other things in life. When I want to go out on the town, they have children to tend. When I want to go out for a group social, the children need to come too. So, as I look at all my neighbors, they all have one thing in common that I do not, children. I will never be part of that group.

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pushing too far

travelYesterday, I boarded a flight from Zurich to JFK airport. On this particular flight, a woman brought her small dog along in its carrier. The flight was not a quiet one. I never saw this dog, but it annoyed pretty much all the passengers, in that it was yapping for almost the entire flight. Being an animal trainer though, this sort of thing doesn’t annoy me as much as the other people on the flight. I began imagining that this particular dog was a puppy and that it really just wanted to be in someone’s lap instead of in a small carrier under the seat.

My imaginings were a lot sweeter than what the reality of the situation was. While in line for passport control, I finally got a look at the dog situation and it horrified me. In fact, it nearly brought me to tears. What started out as a little annoyance on a flight, turned into pushing an animal too far and being cruel.

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Honesty and the Care of Animals

IMG_0666The fact of the matter is and what most people don’t realize, is that if you have an animal under your care, you have to be extremely honest with yourself. To be the best possible provider for another living being, requires an exceptional amount of maturity and with that comes the ability to be honest with yourself.

Naturally, as an animal trainer, the biggest thing I deal with on a day to day basis is behavior. I can’t do my job without an understanding of animal behavior and I can’t be any good at it, without a phenomenal amount of understanding it. What people don’t notice in the day to day activities with their own pets, I do. But, that’s my job, that’s what I was trained to do, to go well below the surface and seek answers where others didn’t even knew existed.


Most people who are pet owners, always run into a problem they need a solution for. “My precious pet has always been well behaved, but lately, they have been a complete nightmare and doing all kinds of things that is not normally in their nature.” As an animal trainer, I need to know all the details in order to properly assess the situation and find a solution. This requires a large amount of uncomfortable honesty, because who really wants to admit that they have failed their pet in one form or another?

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