Friday, January 26, 2007

June until now (Jan. 2007)

It has been a long journey since June 16th when I left the classroom. I actually did a blog updating my zoo experiences, and then blogger switched formats and all of my journaling was lost, so I will try to update you with the short version now.

We left Riverside, California on June 18th for our new home in the northwest. (My students, parents and friends know where this is, but I prefer to not give the exact location.) We had a long two day trip driving twelve hours each day, but finally arrived to our new home on Monday, June 19th. I was to start zoo school in about 10 days, so I was very busy getting the house functional during that time.

I began zoo school at the end of June. It was quite an experience. I quickly found out that the advertised 32 hour week was just about double that number. We most often worked 14 hour days and not allowed even a lunch break. It was very tough on me, being the age I am, but I was holding my own next to my twenty something coworkers. My day consisted of everything from weeding, to manning the entrance booth, to preparing meat for the big cats. But my favorite part of the day was at the beginning when we cleaned and cared for the big cats.

Even though I was only at the zoo for six weeks, I learned a lot about the operations of a zoo. The people who work in zoos keep long hours and there are many hours spent in other activities apart from animal care.

As far as the animal care goes, we did not clean the enclosures with the animals present (called an occupied enclosure.) As i learned, the majority of injuries and deaths occur when a keeper enters an enclosure that is presumed empty, when it is in fact, occupied. Because of this, keepers have a system of calling gates when they open and close them. Animals are shifted from one enclosure to another for the purpose of cleaning and observation. We observe any scat (commonly called poop) left, anything else unusual in the enclosure. We used a combination of bleach, dish soap and water to sanitize the living quarters. This actually helped me take better care of my own cats at home. We would also be required to observe the animal for general health, noting their coat, eyes and other concerns. This would be logged, along with the details of their scat, at the end of the day in their chart.

It was truly amazing to be so close to these amazing creatures. My time was short, but intense. In the end, my migraine syndrome got the best of me. I battled having a lot of numbness in my legs with the very real possibility that this could worsen into paralysis. I couldn't take the chance. It was just too risky. After a painful reflection, I felt I could not continue.

The thing I want my students most to know is that I do not consider this a failure. I suppose some people could look at it this way, but I choose not to. Had I tried this earlier in my life, I am confident that I would have been able to complete the program. I do not regret for a minute that I tried. I am grateful to have had the opportunity. Do not let the fear of failure ever stop you from trying something that you have dreamt about. Life is all about seeking your purpose, and it is not an end, but a process.

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