Monday, March 7, 2011

The Middle Flipper is... (Part 3)

...a black leopard chewing your keyboard.

Wait, what?! A black leopard giving a middle flipper? Have I lost my marbles? Have I forgotten that most (if not all) leopards LACK flippers?

Of course not, faithful readers.  Considering that dolphins are not the only animal to tell you to get lost, I thought I'd periodically give other animal care professionals the opportunity to share their story.
Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to one of my friends, Sara Childers.  Sara knows animals.  Don't let her young age (she's still in college!!!) fool you; she's had over a decade of experience working a variety of exotic animals, including big cats and whale/dolphin rescue.  She has snakes.  She plays with elephants.  She is awesome!

Sara and the author, freezing.

And so I give to you: Sara Childers!


I am never good at introductions. Just the same, I am never good at remembering people's names.  I am phenomenal at remembering the names of animals; I recently recognized an Asian elephant named Judy that I hadn't seen in about three years, after only working with her for a couple of hours for one day. Judy's owner was blown away when I randomly came up to him and asked about his elephant and got her name right. I was just as blown away when I went up to Judy and she gave me a low greeting vocalization.

Nevertheless, I was asked to become a guest author of this blog, so I guess an introduction is necessary, although I don't expect you to have the memory skills of said elephant.

I've decided that elephants have an IQ of 9999999999999.

My name is Sara Childers. I have been around animals for my entire life, and have been working in various husbandry positions (whether it be through my 4-H club or through an exotic wildlife sanctuary) on and off for over ten years. I have thousands of hours of hands-on experience with terrestrial and aquatic animals alike, and I am planning on attaining a career with them... somehow. I have recently switched my major from marine biology to psychology, however, and I will probably do a couple of years of dolphin training in about three years' time. From there, I will probably go attain my Masters of Psychology and begin to counsel Autistics like myself. I have also been featured on nationally broadcasting television channels for my work with animals and my autism; I hope to one day have my own television show promoting animals, environmental awareness, and autism.

Who am I kidding? Tocoi doesn't want to spend time with me, she just wants the toy.

Likewise, I am not good at transitional paragraphs. I could write about how I was asked to contribute to this blog: I was in the middle of my zoology class brooding over the now breeding colony of Hydra of which I am the sole caretaker of when Cat texted me and asked me to contribute to her blog. The alternative outlet for my attention was a slide of a barnacle penis, which my teacher was illustrating with elaborate arm gestures while explaining how “incredibly long” said penis is compared to a human's. 

Cat asked me to write about the misendeavours I've had with animals; basically, the times where the animals have said “up yours” to me and have strolled of in some various direction, leaving me to look like an absolute dunce in the given situation. I gladly accepted.

As somewhat previously stated, I have been working with big cats for about ten years now. As a senior handler for a wildlife sanctuary for about eight years (before I packed up and went to college), I was one of the ones responsible for the care of over twenty big cats of the genus Panthera, although my main task was raising the cubs that were occasionally rescued. I had the great fortune of being able to hand-rear these cubs at my home for several months at a time, to watch them develop, and to be able to socialize and condition them to some of the behaviors that they would need to know for the rest of their lives. I was going to high (and earlier, middle) school at the time, so I was double-teaming with my mother, who was also a senior handler and fully licensed and permitted to handle and care for big cats by the Fish and Game department. I absolutely loved being able to share my living space with a lion/tiger/leopard/cougar cub, although they had an uncanny knack at destroying things, which is where my story begins:

Don't let the cuteness fool you: this is DestructoKitteh Model 7429XX

I often insist that high school is way harder than college. I still believe it to this day. When I was enrolled in high school, I was taking seven courses (two of which were Advanced Placement in my senior year, which is when this event happened), versus the four classes I am taking in college. High school also was hormone central, where Mister Tough Jock, Mister Hardened Rocker, and Mister Academic Success all gunned it out for the attention of Super Pretty School Promiscuous Lady. As an autistic, I failed to understand the whole social structure of high school, and I made my fair share of societal mistakes.

Anywho, I digress. 

The highlight of my days was being able to come back home from a hard and stressful day of school and be greeted by, in this particular case, a black leopard cub named Icarus (affectionately called “Icky” or “Sticky Icky”). As soon as I came in the door, he would bounce down the stairs of my family's two-bedroom apartment and enthusiastically rub in between my legs before we migrated into my bedroom for a two hour nap. His innocence and love was decieving though, as he was notorious for destroying everything he could. 

My computer was no exception. 

While I was at school, I was naive enough to leave my computer (with all of the essays and reports that were due that week) out within reach of the little leopard. While I was at school, I really didn't think that such a sweet, loving, cuddly, and precious little leopard would dare think of destroying anything of mine because I thought he “loved” me too much (I must admit, this particular leopard preferred my company over anyone else's). Boy was I wrong. 

At the end of the school day, my mom picked me up with a grim look on her face. 

“How much do you love Icky?” she asked me. 

I thought this was a general question with no specific reasoning behind it, so I answered it earnestly. 

“Lots and lots,” I replied without a second thought. 

She reached into her pocket and pulled out a small bag with computer keys. Puzzled, I looked at the bag, and back at her. 

“What are these,” I asked. 

She grimaced and responded, “These... are your computer keys. Icky woke up, hopped up on your computer, and stretched. He stuck his little butt up in the air, and all of a sudden I hear 'pop pop pop pop,' as your keys were pulled off of the computer by the flexing of his stupid little claws. I'll call John and have him fix your computer within a couple days. I was in the kitchen when it happened, and couldn't stop him from stretching in time. I'm sorry.” 

This is a more accurate illustration of DestructoKitteh Model 7492XX.  Note the keyboard-popping claws, which come standard with this model.

My jaw dropped to the floor. I had two article summaries due that particular week for my Advanced Placement Environmental Science class, and a three page essay due for my Advanced Placement Literature class, among other things that I needed my computer for that week. I really didn't believe that the classic “my leopard destroyed my computer” excuse would work for a postponement of my due dates, but it was worth a try. 

I convinced my mother to accompany me, with Icarus, to school, to explain why my assignments will be late. I grabbed the culprit by the scruff of the neck (he was only about a month and a half old at the time) and paraded him to each of my teachers. I told them what happened, and along with the physical evidence of Icarus' claws and the computer-keys-in-a-bag, I was granted an extension on all of my assignments. 

I still think that it was Icarus' rolly-polly-cuteness that gave me the extension, instead of my broken computer. My computer was fixed in about seventy-two hours' time, and I was able to turn in all of my assignments the following week.

I also managed to not strangle the juvenile-delenquent-leopard-cub, despite the fact I was at wit's end and had to work ALL WEEKEND. His cuteness made up for his destructive tendencies, even though I found him peacefully napping on top of the refrigerator the day after he destroyed my computer. Of course, I'd NEVER harm an animal, unless it were a biting/stinging member of the phylum Arthropoda that decides to bite/sting me first.

Sara Childers

1 comment:

  1. That's a great story, Sara! Can't wait to read more of these. :P

    And I agree, college is sooo much better than high school. The hours are much more flexible and give you a lot of time during the day.