Sunday, November 15, 2015

Thanks, Merci, Spasibo, Gracias, Tak....

Thanksgiving is around the corner.  For my non-American friends, you may or may not know that Thanksgiving is a holiday in which we choose to do several things in the month of November, such as:

1. Posting stuff on Facebook about what we're grateful for
2. Decorate too early for Christmas


Only one of those days is spent stuffing our faces with insane amounts of food, sometimes with family and friends.  And while the actual historical goings-on during the "first" Thanksgiving are enough to turn me off of my appetite (a tricky feat, indeed), the modern-day symbolism of kith and kin celebrating what they're grateful for is something I absolutely love.

But it's not just Thanksgiving that makes me feel grateful.  Recent, horrific goings-on in the world, or the normal, daily personal crap that happens to us all definitely makes me call into light the things that can make me smile, no matter what is going on.

These ladies make me smile no matter what.

It made me realize today too that, wow, I'm pretty easy to please.  I mean, I think marine mammal wait, maybe just all zoo professionals...are easy to please.  We demand the best care for our animals, so in that way we are picky (which is good).  But it doesn't take much in any given day to make us smile.

I'm going to give you an example from this Saturday, because a TON of great things happened at work that seem simple, but are actually the easiest way to make our day the best.  Here is what I was grateful for on Saturday:

1. Dry Erase Markers

Oh, be still my beating heart.

Oh my god.  Any animal trainer can tell you that new dry erase markers are THE BEST.  Especially the multi-colored ones.  We go through those things like poop through an otter, and it is always ridiculously infuriating when you're writing up your daily schedule with a juicy seafoam green Expo and BOOM, it just dies on you.  Then you spend 67 minutes scouring heaven and earth to find another marker to finish up, only to find that the remaining markers also have approximately 9 atoms of pigment left but we love them so much that it hurts us to actually throw dead markers away.

So today, I walked into our locker room and saw a HUGE pack of brand new Expo markers in ALL kinds of colors.  It was a gift from our two incredible interns.  They knew.  They knew how happy those little pens would make us.  

2. Candy

Hope you ate your Wheaties this morning, pancreas.  Because you've got a long day ahead of you.

THERE WAS CANDY EVERYWHERE TODAY.  And cookies.  And a cake.  It was sadly our two aforementioned interns' last day, and they brought us not only markers, but a huge basket of candy.  This included mini Twix, which is of course The Best.  Also, Sour Patch Kids.  We brought cookies and a cake to thank them, so all of us wound up in a diabetic coma by the end of the day.  

You know that time right after lunch, when you're working really hard and you're like, a few hours away from your shift ending?  And you get SO HUNGRY?  Or you start to slip into that "I Could Really Use A 2 Hour Nap Right Now" situation?  You know what I'm talking about, because you get at least one of them 3/4 through your day.  

Right on the sea lion stage.

There is nothing better than experiencing either of those things and realizing that you have refined sugar in the form of delicious treats waiting for you.  Just waiting to spike your blood sugar to give you that little pick-me-up that you need, because you've already had 5 times as much caffeine as medically possible and/or you can't find enough change to get a Coke out of the vending machine.  I was so grateful to wander into the locker room today just before the 2:00 dolphin show and eat a chocolate chip cookie really fast.

3. Cheery Animals

An actual photo from this Saturday, on our Kids Free Weekend day.

We are all grateful for animals who are just having the best day.  There is almost nothing that can bring you down from that.  And on Saturday, we had this super wonderful, long play session after our last dolphin show*.  We spent ten minutes just playing with the animals, each one super into what we were doing.  It. Was. Awesome.  I'll never, ever get sick of that.  Everywhere I looked, there was a dolphin doing some crazy stuff with a toy, then racing it back to his or her trainer for more fun.  

I was interacting with our 6 month old calf, who is basically just into letting ice cubes melt on her tongue.  She took a few ice cubes to go and played with them by herself, so one of the trainers sent me Chopper (who you may remember from this blog, or this one).  Chopper swam over to me with a football.  I opened my arms wide for a big ol' dolphin bear hug, which he quickly obliged and solicited a good long rub-down.  Then we played with the ball a little before I passed him back to his trainer. 

Oh, what a little basketball can do to brighten one's day (thanks for this pic, Shannon!)

You can see why I'm grateful for that!

4. "Singing" At The Fish Kitchen Sink

Every trainer has a little Freddie inside.

This is especially best at the end of the day, when we're cleaning every bucket there ever was and the sun is setting, and it's starting to get chilly and we laugh about all the ridiculous stuff that we dealt with that day.  

The sink we clean our buckets at is outside of our fish house.  We are at the mercy of the weather.  And now that it's getting cooler, it's getting harder to wash buckets without being miserably cold.  But I'll tell you what:  On Saturday afternoon, we had a killer time at that back sink despite the cold.  Someone starting singing Bohemian Rhapsody and then we all broke into song.  Our particular collective singing level is slightly better than a '76 Gremlin trying to turn over, and it often prompts our male sea lion to start his barking.  But whatever.  We washed buckets and guffawed at various versions of the fantastic Queen song as we made lyrics that fit our day.  


Trainers of every level were there, doing the same job, singing the same song.  I don't think anyone in that moment remembered any of the problems they have in their own lives, or what was on the news the night before.  All we focused on was laughing and the falsetto.  Not a bad way to end a day.

5. The Ability To Get WARM


I love getting in the water with the animals.  I mean, it's awesome.  If they want me in the water with them, there's very little else I love more than being in their element and interacting with them.  

But............that doesn't mean it feels awesome when it gets cold outside.  Once the air temperature is below 70, being wet feels awful.  Especially wind.  You get permanently chilled and that's that.  While the animals and candy and brand new markers make you smile, it doesn't take away being freezing for 8 hours.

I'll hug this seal, but only because I have to.

But today after the last dolphin show, some of my coworkers who were dry insisted on the rest of us in wet wetsuits go back to the locker room to change, while they got ready our next sessions.  We ran back to the locker room, tore off our wetsuits and put on dry, warm clothes.  We were so grateful.  We were even grateful that we got to put on wind pants, which are virtually impossible to put on correctly when your legs are even just the slightest bit damp, because for reasons unknown to man, the material fuses directly with your leg and requires uncomfortable contortion and eventual capitulation of the situation as you walk outside with your pants 3/4s of the way on.  But I digress.

Getting into warm, dry clothes after being wet and cold for so long was one of the best feels of the day.  

6. LOLing

Dominic Decoco

I laughed so much on Saturday.  I LOLed when two of my coworkers, who used to friggin hate each other but are now BFFs, talked about how ridiculous their original beef with one another was.  I LOLed when we made up lyrics to songs, and when the animals did hilarious things.  I LOLed when one of our sea lion pups lost her mind and started sampling every behavior she knew before she dove in the pool and zoomed around and never came back to me.  I LOLed when some of us decided to try to spend the rest of the day talking to each other in an opera voice.**

This is from two Saturdays ago (Halloween, obvi), but you can see our team has a good time.

Those are just a few of the things I was grateful for on one particular day.  Did it permanently fix my own problems?  No.  Did it take away from the horrible things going on in the world? No.  And those things are important, and require loving attention.  But it is still good practice to take the time to appreciate the good things that happen in a day, knowing full well it does not undermine the not-so-good stuff.  However, there IS always something to be grateful for, even if it's a seemingly dumb little thing.  Who cares.  Big or small, something good is something good. In our job especially, we have a lot of opportunities to be grateful.  Let's not forget about the BIG things: like the fact we get to spend 40 to 60 hours a week with animals we absolutely adore (and we get paid for it).  

I am also grateful to all of you, the readers of this blog.  You guys are who inspire me to write every week, even on the weeks when I'm all like, "Ohhh man I really want to just sit on the couch and play Plants Versus Zombies and eat Chinese food, not write a blog right now."  I owe you guys!

So now you tell me, what sorts of things are you grateful for?

* This may be directly related to the cookies I consumed just beforehand.  However, more data is required for correlation.  So for reasons of science, I will eat cookies before each dolphin show.  

** We um, didn't last all day.

1 comment:

  1. The best things in life are the little things! Any animal care person knows that.

    I work with birds of prey, and there are fewer things that make me happiest then when I get a cheery greeting from a hawk, a new hose or bottle of bleach!
    But the best thing is a new bottle of Poop-Off bird poop remover. That is really the best.