clearing the ice so gates can open and close

As it does every year, this week sneaks up on us. It isn’t that we don’t appreciate our crew of incredible individuals here, but what we do isn’t about appreciation let alone keeping track of when we should celebrate and show our appreciation. Being a Zookeeper is the embodiment of dedication and hard work. Keeping track of special dates and holidays sometimes falls by the wayside of our day to day. In looking for the right way to show our appreciation for the people who put forth that dedication and hard work here at Cat Tales Wildlife Center, it can be more efficient to share the words of those who have already captured our world in writing, rather than to re-invent the wheel. Besides, we have poop to scoop, den boxes to clean, and health records to record so trying to come up with the words that capture all we do has to come second to the daily MUST do tasks and responsibilities.

We have selected a few of our favorite write ups, found and reposted throughout the online groups and forums dedicated to zookeepers, to likewise repost via our blog post here. While similar, each of our shared Zookeepers posts this week has found the perfect words to capture what we do and why we do it. Don’t worry, we will include photos of this year’s crew of students, graduates, interns and volunteers that keep the cogs of our facility running, providing the quality care for the animals that call Cat Tales Wildlife their forever home. Enjoy the shared reads and peek into our world, and as always, THANK YOU for supporting the animals here at Cat Tales Wildlife Center.

***sharing from an online Zookeeper group***

It’s National Zookeeper week … so when you go out and just thank all the amazing people who care for animals first ask yourself this… what does it mean to be a zookeeper? As a visitor to a zoo you don’t truly get to see how hard these caregivers work. They don’t just pick up shit or play with animals all day. So here is my opinion of what a zookeeper really is and what it means.

Sacrifice, we put so much of our lives on hold to care for an animal. Plans with family and friends often get canceled because we feel the need to care for something that we have developed a strong bond with.

Dedication, our work doesn’t end when we go home, often we are trying to come up with new creative ideas for our animals enrichment. We maybe planning an educational program. Many of us bring animals home like babies that need round the clock feedings. You work outside no matter what the weather is doing. Natural disasters happen and you still leave your home to go to work and make sure the animals are safe. The animals don’t care if it is your birthday or a major holiday, you give up those special days to work.

Frustrating and stressful, one of the hardest things is trying to figure out how to help and animal that can’t communicate what’s wrong. It takes such an emotional toll on us.

Destruction, animals destroy everything! There is a never ending task of repairs to an animals area.

Dirty. You are never clean, you smell bad all day long. No matter how much you scrub your hands there will always be dirt in the cracks of your skin.

Joy & heartbreak, Animals can’t speak and say thank you, but they show it. When you work so hard to earn the trust and they acknowledge you, that is a great feeling. But when you lose an animal it’s like losing a family member.

Hard work and Pain. Zookeepers are more physically fit then you would think. Hauling bales of hay, hundreds of pounds of food, shoveling hundreds of pounds of dirty, wet bedding for compost. We walk miles a day back and forth. Or bodies are pushed to the limits and we ache all the time.

Knowledge and learning, we not only know all the facts about our animals but we know the individual. We can tell you all it quirks, pet peeves, and favorite things. We can identify the individuals sounds. We learn new things almost everyday, not only do the stats on an animal change but new discoveries are made or our animal presents a new behavior we’ve never seen. They teach us patience and humility.

There is so much more to being a zookeeper. But at the end of the day no matter what animal we care for we all agree on two things … we love what we do and we have a deep passion for animals.

So to ALL the keepers out there happy national zookeeper week. You are all amazing!!

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