Recently someone pointed out to me that stressed spelled backwards is desserts. How did I not notice this before? How appropriate since this is quite a stressful time right now AND I have a love of everything sweet.
It’s been months since I’ve last updated this blog, it really is hard to find the time. Tons of stuff has happened, and once again, both sad and wonderful things. Rewind to September…… I last posted after the beautiful Golden Eagle, Laramie, passed away. Still sad about that, and I still think about her every time I walk by her perches and her mew. A new semester started though and I got assigned to 2 more animals: Elliott the pygmy dairy goat and Hudson the beaver. I had so much fun with both these guys! They were both in a lot of shows and Elliott just loved being on stage, it was hard to get him to leave it actually. Walking with Elliott around the zoo became a highlight of my day, I just love him to bits. One of our classes was specifically to teach us how to do Outreach (Animal shows in various places like schools), and I really enjoyed this class. Each week we got to go to a different place with some of the animals and do shows. We went to the Los Angeles Center for Blind Children one week and we took Hudson (the beaver) to be in that show. (We let the kids touch him which was really cool). Before it was his turn to be inside the classroom, we let him walk around the lawn out front but he didn’t want to go inside after that. I had to pick him up and carry him inside (he is a heavy 40 pound awkward guy to carry), and just as we entered the hallway he peed and his tail started whipping around in a circle, spraying pee everywhere. And I mean everywhere. The walls were covered, one of my co-trainers who was in front of me got sprayed all up the back of her shirt, and my other co-trainer who was beside me got it all over her face. I got it in my mouth, yes lovely, I now know what beaver pee tastes like. But this is what happens when you work with animals, and because we were in a show we had to smile and just deal with it. It was a good 30 minutes before any of us were able to go rinse our hands/faces/mouth out. Good times.
In September we went to a Reptile show in Anaheim and we returned home with a few new little roommates: a 2 month old Eastern Box Turtle (Shelldon), a 3 month old Bearded Dragon (Kaia), and a Crocodile Skink (Raze). Yep, we’re all into the reptiles now. Oh and how could I forget, also at that show we got 2 adorable baby hairless rats. Yes they are odd looking, just like ginormous pinkies, but they are so sweet. We got 2 sisters, “Fuzzle” and “Evie”.
In October Steve’s parents and brother came to visit from Chicago so we got to spend time with them and that was a lot of fun. Right after that our entire 2nd year class went on a week long field trip up north. It was such a great time and we went to lots of awesome places: San Francisco Zoo, UC Davis Vet School, Monteray Bay Aquarium, Guide Dogs for the Blind, Happy Hollow Zoo, Discovery Kingdom….so much fun.
At the end of October we brought home another guinea pig that we fell in love with, a Texel kind (the same kind Fro was) with the fuzzy fuzzy hair. We named her WeeChee (after an Ewok cause she looks like one). Then a week later we discovered that one of our other piggies was pregnant. A little surprise there as we didn’t know. She had 3 adorable babies a week later. 3 weeks after that little WeeChee really surprised us as one morning we found another baby in the cage and it turned out to be hers! We didn’t know she was pregnant either and must have gotten pregnant at the pet store. She only had one baby, a little girl (Poonga), and she was a huge baby!
Yes, there were many surprises in November, it was a great month. The biggest and most exciting surprise of all was when Steve took me out for our one year anniversary and proposed. He did it in such a hilarious way too, I couldn’t imagine a better proposal! It’s not corny like a ring stuck in a dessert or anything like that. It was unique and funny and totally him! Thinking about it still makes me laugh… and smile, because that is our life together, we make each other laugh and smile every single day. So of course I said yes! We ended the evening with dinner at our favorite restaurant and the next day we spent it at Disneyland (which was where we had our first date). Something very cool that we got to do at Disneyland was have lunch at the very exclusive Club 33. It was AMAZING. The food, the service, the ambiance, all of it. We were celebrating 3 things, our anniversary, our engagement and my birthday. How many people get to have their 33rd birthday at Club 33? Very very cool.
A few days later my mom came to visit! It was such a great week! She came to the zoo on Saturday and unfortunately the weather was crappy so all the animal shows had to be indoors, but she watched them all and I took her for a tour to show her all the other animals.
So yes an absolutely amazing week followed by a sad week. Bennie, one of the oldest animals at the zoo, the little almost hairless capuchin monkey, passed away in his sleep on Nov 27. He was about 38 years old. He had not been acting his regular self the few days leading up to his death. He did not want to come out of his heated bedroom box at all so we put his tray of food right inside for him and then had to clean his box while he was inside, which he was not thrilled about. On Nov 26, right before the zoo closed for the night, I went to check on Bennie one last time before we left. I handed him some treats which he took from me, and I put my palm out and he touched my hand with his for a brief second. I then said goodnight and goodbye to him and closed the door to his box. It was goodbye forever. : (
In the morning when I got to the zoo, the first thing I did was head to Bennie’s cage. I had to be in a show with Elliott the goat in 15 minutes but I brought a special treat in for Bennie and I wanted to give it to him first. Steve backed me up and I went into Bennie’s cage, called to him like I always did so he knew it was me, and then I opened his box. I saw his little body curled up at the back of his box and I knew right away. I gasped and closed the box and turned around to Steve. I told him we need to call staff right now, that Bennie had died. Steve went and called the office and I went out onto the back road and saw my co-trainer (on Bennie) walking towards me. Suddenly I could hardly speak and tears were flowing down my cheeks. I managed to tell her what happened and we both went and waited in his cage for staff to come. I had gotten very attached to that little monkey. I knew he was special the moment I first saw him when I came for my meeting about getting into EATM 2 years ago. When I got to be a trainer on him, I fell in love with him. He had passed peacefully though in his sleep, holding a pumpkin seed in his little hand. The necropsy showed that he had possible heart issues and may have had a heart attack or a stroke. He did not have cancer or anything like that though, and they said he was nutritionally very healthy (even though he was super skinny!). I miss him so much. I look at his cage every time I pass and still expect to see him sitting on his shelf looking at me.
There have been so many great moments here at EATM, but one of my most favorites was during our Outreach class back in early October. It was an evening class and our instructor told us to each go out on the zoo and pick any animal we wanted, but to sit outside their cage for 10 minutes. Just to be quiet and sit there and think of 5 words to describe that animal. Now I love all the animals I’ve been lucky enough to train, but there has always been a special place for dear Bennie. I went straight to his cage, no question about which animal I wanted to sit with. The night was perfect too, it was warm and the sun was still out but was in that stage where it’s starting to set so the sky just looks amazing. It was around 7pm and the animals are not used to us being there that late. Bennie came out of his bedroom as he heard me come to his cage and he seemed so happy to see me. He was making his happy squeaking noises and he came right over to the bars as close as he could get to me. I put my fingers through the bars and he gripped my finger and then turned around so I could stroke his back. He then sat up and rubbed his hand in a circle above his stomach which is something he did to tell you he’s happy, and he smiled. Yes Bennie smiled, usually when monkeys smile they are threatening you, but Bennie smiles and it’s an actual smile. I didn’t want to leave when the 10 minutes was up, this was the best moment I ever had had with Bennie. Oh and my 5 words: Loyal, Happy, Wise, Special, and Sweet.
In December, we all left for a week to go on our first week of Projects. Projects is actually a class we take but we get to go to other facilities and work with them for that entire time. Some places that my classmates went to were: Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, Las Vegas (Mirage Tigers, MGM Lions), various zoos and outreach facilities, etc. I went to the San Diego Wild Animal Park to shadow the elephant trainers. However because of recent union rules, I wasn’t allowed to clean or do anything like that, so I spent my week mostly observing. It was very cool though, I learned a ton and I still want to be an elephant trainer.
After projects, I was home for 3 days then our entire class went on our next field trip for 5 days and back down to San Diego I went. We got to go to lots more cool places, see behind the scenes stuff and we got to touch a lot of cool animals too. We went to an elephant facility called Have Trunk Will Travel. (the elephant that’s in the upcoming movie “Water For Elephants” is from there. It’s an amazing place! We all got to help scrub one of the elephants during her bath, hehe. We went to some outreach places, a camel dairy farm, San Diego Zoo and Wildlife Park, and SeaWorld. We had a great time. I loved the area we stayed in as we were right on a beach and I went running along the beach in the mornings, it was fabulous!!
Back to Moorpark for a week and then the 2nd years started leaving for their vacation week. We each were given a week off, either the week before christmas, the week after, or the first week of January. Steve and I both got the week after Christmas, but we were able to leave on Christmas Day after we finished at the zoo. We flew to Chicago that night and arrived after midnight. Steve’s brothers picked us up at the airport but because it was snowing, the roads were terrible and it took us hours to get home! We celebrated Christmas the next day with Steve’s family and went out for a great dinner. We spent a couple days there with them in Chicago then we drove to Indianapolis to visit my family. How awesome it was that it worked out our families were only hours away from each other by car! My parents had just flown in the night before and were staying with my sister, my brother in law and my 2 nieces. Steve and I stayed with them all for the next few days before returning to Chicago. We arrived on my youngest nieces 6th birthday! I still can’t believe she’s 6 already! We got to celebrate Christmas again the next day. I hadn’t seen my sister & her family since before I started EATM. I hope that much time never passes again between visits cause it’s really hard. The girls are growing so fast, I don’t want to miss out on so much. But I know we will be seeing them again in May! The girls are going to be our flower girls in our wedding, and they will be such beautiful flower girls too! The cutest thing my oldest niece (she’s 8.5) said to Steve was when we were hugging them goodbye. She hugged him and said “I’m so excited you’re going to be my uncle!” and then she hugged him again. So sweet. He really liked the kids too and told me he hopes we have kids like them one day. : )
We had a great time with my family too and it was really hard for me to leave them. Only a few more months though and then I’ll be seeing them all again!
So now we’re in our last semester here in EATM, both exciting and sad. I got assigned to a few more animals for this semester but had to let go of Elliot and Hudson. Still have Rupee the porucpine, and now have Nick the miniature horse, Kiley the Military Macaw, Eleanor the vietnamese pot bellied pig and Rowdy the skunk. Another sad story here. a couple weeks ago poor Rowdy suddenly went downhill. He passed away of heart problems. : ( Laramie, Bennie and Rowdy. All incredible animals, I feel lucky to have had the chance to work with each of them. They are all missed.
Now for the stress….. well let’s see. Graduation is in less than 4 months, Steve and I are getting married the day before we graduate!! We have NO idea where we are going to move to after we graduate. Are we staying in the USA, or moving to Canada? No idea!!! Planning a wedding is stressful by itself but trying to do it on breaks during classes and the zoo is really hard. I am excited for the future though. Excited to be marrying my best friend and excited for the many adventures we have in front of us.