Tonawanda News

Features

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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    Tattoos can be a touchy subject. Of course, people have heard they shouldn’t judge a book by its cover; still, people continue to report being denied jobs and being judged harshly for proudly displaying their ink.

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    At 35 years old, I may be the oldest person ever to record an out in a kids’ T-ball league.

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    This past week, our lovely neighbors went to the beach for their annual weeklong vacation.

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    More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).

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    Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.

    "I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.

    Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.

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    As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.

    “They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”

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    Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.

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    When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.

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