Tonawanda News


August 18, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: The greatest job in the world

“You have the greatest job in the world,” is a comment I luckily hear often after I hosted a bird show or finished handling an exotic animal at my full-time job of being an animal ambassador trainer.

Working at a zoo is quite unique and many visitors ask “How do you become a zookeeper or an animal trainer?”

Last night when I went to bed my cat Princeton jumped up on the mattress. He does this ritually every night. Last night was different, however, as he went under the covers for the first time.

Princeton entered the sheets cautiously and then quickly turned around so his large flat face was sticking out. I held the sheet up so it wouldn’t collapse on him. Surprisingly he laid down, a brave move for such a timid cat. I kept the sheet raised to keep Princeton calm. He laid there for several minutes purring noisily with his mouth slightly opened. He looked as if he was smiling.

I remember as a child reading a story of the Islamic prophet Muhammad cutting off his sleeve on a robe for his cat, Muezza, to not disturb the cat from its nap. After I learned of this story, I thought I would do that, it makes sense. If you adjust your actions to make your critter companions’ lives as carefree as possible, you might have what it takes to be a zookeeper.

Loving animals will not get you the job. Many years of vocational experience will.

For most it starts with a single pet. Pets allow us to connect with nature and they start the initial spark. Many zoos and aquariums have summer camps for elementary to high school students which also allow a peak into the workings of a professional zoological institution to make sure that road is the road one wants to take after college.

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