The Healing Power in the Animal House; Cancer and…

FB WALL (Zoo Peeps- Become A Fan):

I posted two news articles that covered stories about cancer stricken patients and their families visiting zoos. It’s a mere coincidence. I remember when I was in graduate school  and working full-time as an animal keeper when my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. She was a health professional herself, a very active community leader and an anchor for her family and friends. She was transferred from an Ohio hospital to the Mayo Clinic and I stayed at home to continue to work and go to school because she didn’t want her children to suddenly give up their lives.  My work colleagues were convinced that my coping mechanism was to immerse myself in my work to try to avoid dealing with the emotional distress. I still don’t know if that was the case. I think if anything, I wanted to hold on to something that was familiar, but it certainly put things into perspective.   My managers were most accommodating. It was healing to be around animals because they continue to depend on you and although I believe they sense intensity in someone’s emotional state they provide a calm and renewed sense of real-time and an appreciation for living in the moment. To them it’s another day. With that said my mom’s aggressive and terminal disease forced me to look at my life and evaluate some things. In some ways I immediately recognized my own mortality and decided that life was far too short to not take risks. In retrospect, I think I chose to give up working as an animal keeper to hurry through school to finish my degree, but to what end.  Although I was most fortunate to be  invited back about a year later for a new research position, I think I hastily accepted the job in an effort to get back into the field when I really belonged back in animal care. I’m still thankful for the opportunity.

I should be discussing the healing power or the spiritual benefit of bringing animals into our lives, but I wanted to point out to you that your colleagues who are facing similar life experiences need some support and guidance, especially the younger ones, because as much as the illness affects our loved ones it radically changes the career paths and personal goals of immediate family members.  It changes our perspectives about what we do and why we do it. It challenges our dedication to our career aspirations and our role as animal care providers. It makes us reevaluate big and small priorities. It entirely turns our lives upside down and clouds are minds at times.

It also changes our perspective on the quality of life in the context of permitting our animal charges to become competitors for longevity records when their quality of life may be compromised from age related issues. We look at those things differently as well as the limitations of clinical oncology both for humans and animals alike.

This is not the best resource for patients or health care providers, but it is user-friendly and concise, yet comprehensive:

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus

‘Zoophilia’ or ‘Philotheria’

It goes without saying that if you work in a zoo you are most inclined to be an ‘animal person.’  A gift from a zoo the other day, a publication of the institution’s history, reminded me of something that is not necessarily an important distinction, but it might reflect a cultural change or shift, if you will. I remember a time when there were more zoo historians among the cohort of animal care professionals and educators. There still may be, it’s just that most of the  classically diagnosed cases of zoophilia were reported in people who I know to be enjoying retirement right now. I categorize animal care and zoo educators as either ‘zoophiles’ or more general animal enthusiasts (philotherians). By my definition, ‘zoophiles’ are individuals who seem to be fascinated with all- things- zoo: History; exhibits; the evolution of living collections; zoo and aquarium culture; and the generations of personnel who have worked in these facilities. Others are not zoos aficionados per se. For instance, when on vacation they would be just as likely to be found eco-touring, horseback riding or playing with a local, domestic canid. Others would most certainly make it a point to visit the zoo first. Some would do both, but I think that there are two kinds of zoo people and they both are just as dedicated to their careers. However, one is much more interested in the zoo, beyond the living collection, while the other may be more focused on animals in general. Perhaps, the differences are not quite so discrete.  I found it interesting that people sometimes presume that because I found the zoo environment so enticing that I would feel the same way about a dog shelter or alternative livestock farm, or wholesale pet breeding facility. Hopefully some of you can relate to what I hope  not to be a novel concept. You can be a generalist, but it depends on the context.

Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus

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Video Blogging Tips for Zoo Peeps from Sandra Dee

Prefaced by Jordan:

“Sandra shared the following article with me this morning. It is posted on her own blog which caters to a broad audience of people interested in developing more sophisticated media savvy and a professional “on air ” presence.

As we talked with Nolan Harvey last night, I realized that people working around high-profile animals like pandas or celebrity orca like Keiko, can really help impress an audience if they convey a polished media presence and represent their institutions as confident and articulate spokespeople or even complement  their PR colleagues. Nolan is very media savvy, but he also has years of experience doing TV and radio work. And like many other people who worked for SeaWorld Parks, he is a natural with the public. In fact, I believe that a zoo keeper or any animal care professional should be just as well poised as communications staff such that one can not discern between the two.  A course it public speaking can never hurt.

Sandra noted how seasoned a communicator Nolan was, given his involvement in a very complicated and perhaps politically charged orca rehabilitation and release program that spanned over several years and at least four countries and included different players/organizations with different interests.

I’m well aware that many zoo professionals are featured on zoo websites while holding animal ambassadors as they talk about them. Your marketing departments typically work with producers and in-house videographers, but not always.  If you want to improve your own PR skills or have ambitions to audition for shows on Animal Planet or something local, Sandra suggests ways that you can enhance your media presence.  For instance, she mentions that “you may be shooting outdoors with the animals for your zoo’s blog, and so you will not be able to change much about your lighting, but it is still possible to choose the better time of day (12 noon is usually the worst and late afternoon or early morning can be more flattering).” You also have to keep the animals routine schedule in mind…..”

For many successful entrepreneurs, video blogging is considered an essential part of their marketing strategy. By using social media to send followers back to the blog, you can develop relationships that turn into clients and that equals increased revenue.  At the very least, if you are not selling product, you can gain recognition and establish yourself as an expert in your field.  Then, you might look forward to getting booked on TV as an expert guest!  Are you ready?

There are a few simple, but essential tips to keep in mind:

Find a good location in your home.  Shoot some practice video in the location at various times of day to know when the natural light is most flattering… of course, you can also play with additional lighting as well. It could even be a house lamp, or two; and remember, to angle toward the strongest light, it helps to keep shadows from showing under the eyes.   Do what you can to look your best!

Don’t forget to keep an eye on your background! I can’t tell you how many times I have seen plants seemingly growing out of people’s heads!  Placing yourself in front of a nice indoor tree is a good idea, just be sure that it is off to the side of you.

Be aware of reflections, as well.  I am not only talking about obvious problem of windows and mirrors but wall pictures with a glass protection can also cause a distracting glare.

Keep it close up! This is the easiest way to avoid visual distraction.  A closer shot has another advantage as well: since your blog will be seen on the web, it’s pretty safe to assume that it will be viewed in a small format, so the bigger you are in frame the better you can be seen, especially on an IPhone, or other smartphone type device.

Become the wardrobe department! On a TV show, this department is very important in the establishment of a character; they work with the director and the actor very closely, because the outfits chosen can immediately qualify the character as “good” or “bad”, “rich” or “poor”… you get the idea.  In your case, you are the star of your show… the main character in your blog.  Be sure that your choice of attire fits your brand and where you intend to go in your business or career!

If clothing seems like an insignificant thing to you, or it seems superficial, trust me, it’s not; 85% of what we experience when someone is speaking is the way they look. We are next influenced by the way they sound, and finally, what they are saying.

If you are not comfortable with your wardrobe, this is a great opportunity to evaluate your closet and make some changes.  Seek a professional stylist if you need to.  I have a friend that put it this way,” Get rid of everything in your closet that doesn’t

let you feel fantastic1” It’s great advice!

If you have these basics down, and have your content prepared, you are ready to get going with your blog! The possibilities are truly endless but start by having fun!

Sandra Dee Robinson

Sandra Dee Robinson: Actress, Media Trainer & Celebrity Co-Host of Zoo Talkin' Radio

From Beavers to Kodiak Bears & Everything in Between….

Zoo Peep, Serena Bos (Animal Trainer, Discovery Wildlife Center, Alberta, Canada)
[Sunday, May 2, 2010; 9:00 PM EST]

Serena Bos, Discovery Wildlife Center (Alberta, Canada)

Serena Bos has trained small mammals, as large as beavers, to the largest subspecies of bears for wildlife documentaries and feature films……..