Sunday, August 27, 2017

LOLing: Guaranteed When You're A Zookeeper

Ahhh I am so sorry I missed last week.  I was on vacation in the middle of the northwoods (awesome!) but that also entailed a 16 hour road trip with a two year old to get there and then to get home.  After 5,007 rounds of Five Little Monkeys Jumping On The Bed, I forgot what time/year/planet it was.

Here I was on Sunday night

Also, there has been a lot of sadness in our community lately.  So today's blog is light.

Yesterday, I heard an interview on NPR with an author who wrote a novel exploring the concept of “BFF”.  She talked about how as kids, our relationship with our BFF is fairly non-verbal; we just play and have lots and lots of belly laughs.  As we approach middle school, this starts to change, leading into an adulthood where we may or may not have a BFF….and if we do, it isn’t the same as when we were young kids.

She specifically talked about the concept of laughter, and how in her experience, she just doesn’t have the daily gut-aching uncontrollable laughing fits she did as a kid with her group of friends.  That really made me think about zookeeping.

I think as animal care professionals, we are very lucky in the BFF department.  

Okay, I know that some of you work at places with tense or even hostile work environments.  Sometimes, our field has a lot left to be desired in terms of professionalism with staff management.  But generally speaking, even with people we really do not get along with personally, we share a very deeply-rooted passion that labeled us total PsychoNerds in primary school.

I mean admit it, guys.  If I told you that in fourth grade, I did an “extra credit” report on killer whales…, I just out of nowhere asked Mrs. Dusa if I could do a report and presentation on killer whales…..and the class just stared at me like my face was roughly sculpted out of diarrhea, you would probably say, “OH MY GOD I HAD THE SAME EXPERIENCE IN THIRD GRADE ON MY HOOFSTOCK OF THE AFRICAN PLAINS REPORT.”
I don't even have ONE :(

Or how about all of the books we checked out at the library when we were kids? How we would walk in and the librarians would wilt in dread as we perused their pitiful Dolphin (or Whatever Animal You Are Obsessed With) section, frustrated that we uhhhhh already read all of those books in like a week, and when will Walden Elementary curate their cetacean reading to meet the standards of my needs?!

Then we get our first zoo job or internship, and realize that every single person on the staff is basically a PsychoNerd just like us.  In fact, your insane devotion to animal species X is completely normal.  It is not even mentioned.  In fact, in the dolphin world, some places avoid the label as “Dolphin Hugger” like hepatitis (but the most fun, well-managed dolphin places usually are total dolphin huggers and don’t deny it!).  You just show up to work like any ol’ job, hang out with your Favorite Critters, and then go home and eat whatever scraps you could afford at the grocery store and/or Big Lots.

God can't they just call it underwear?! Seriously.

So the type of relationship you form with your coworkers is really special…even with those you wouldn’t necessarily consider a friend outside of work.  And if you are a part of a really great team, I know that you probably laugh your proverbial balls off on a daily basis.

So what makes us laugh so heartily?  Well, obviously the animals do hilarious things.  Like the time Chubby, an older dolphin with a heart of gold and a brain of a dandelion, sat up IN FRONT OF HIS OWN SHADOW like that shadow was his trainer.  Like, this dude just popped up at a perimeter wall, saw his shadow, opened his mouth in anticipation of snacks, and started offering behaviors.  Lots of us were doubled-over laughing on that one.

Cute AND confusing

Or realizing that the drain in the otter exhibit (you know, the one that takes the toxic-waste-otter-leavings to some other god foresaken place) is completely blocked and there is otter crap building up and smelling and attracting fire ants?  And you try everything to unblock the drain, but the problem is the exhibit is not well-designed from a maintenance perspective so you can’t actually get to where the problem is…….

…..and then you discover the otters have been stuffing rocks, like zillions of freaking rocks from god knows where…..into the drain.  And when everything is unclogged and cleaned, you can laugh (and boy, we did).
The most scientifically accurate meme of an otter, right here for YOUR viewing pleasure

Wait wait wait, how about when during a sea lion show, when the narrator wasn’t talking and the audience was dead quiet, one of the sea lions released the wettest fart known to man, almost taking down her trainer with the odor that can only originate from the deepest, darkest bowels of pinnipeds?
True story, cows broke into a woman's home and enjoyed themselves

But we deal with ridiculous stuff that most people at most jobs would never even fathom.  How about when I was doing an interaction program and random tampons started floating in the water?  Or when I caused the entire two-story wetsuit-hanging shelving system to collapse?  

You guys can probably spit out a ton of stories of when you and your coworkers had laughing fits that made you want to throw up.  That is one of the most special things about our kind of job.  It is something to remember when you are working with someone who maybe isn’t your favorite.  Or when you are going through a tough time with whatever you’re dealing with at work.  There are valid reasons to be frustrated or angry sometimes, but it is never a bad thing to remind yourself that, in spite of how crazy we can make each other, our coworkers are literally laughing their asses off with you.  Routinely.  That is pretty. Darn. Lucky.


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