Why did I start training animals?

I was watching an educational video today by a successful online businessman. He was discussing living your dream life and one of the things he asked was, “What would your ideal day be?”

Funny, I was asked a similar question years ago.

The person actually asked me, “What would you be doing if you could do anything you’d like?”

I was thunderstruck and answered, “I’m doing it.”

The reason I was shocked was because that person had no connection with who I was or what my passion in life was.

I thought it was clear and so was stunned that he didn’t understand my motivation in life.

Fast forward to today and I am working on putting things in place so I can expand my lifelong goal.

Dr Oz recently wrote an excellent commentary on the Tilikum orca incident.

His commentary resonated with me because I’ve spent my life developing deep relationships with animals, not only studying about them, but also by directly observing their behavior, moods, habits, communication and by interacting with them in intimate relationships.

ark lady with orangutan


I’ve connected with them to see who they are and gleaned insights to their unique personalities.

I’ve mentioned that an early tag line of my business was “Training animals through trust, respect, and understanding.”

Now when it comes to animals, Dr Oz thinks those connections and understanding is a gift. He said,

Many of us love animals, only some of us can really connect with them.

But people want to connect with animals and working animal professionals strive to develop that deep understanding so we can help others understand them the way we do.

My early dreams of an animal career were motivated by some industry greats–many of whom I worked for or studied under.

Like Dr Oz, I used to watch Jacques Cousteau’s Undersea World. So when Mehmet Oz shared his story it reminded me of why I began training.

This tale triggered that memory.

Local natives have harvested these fish for thousands of years but never seen them in their natural environment because the water is too opaque. He caught some fish and put them in a huge glass aquarium for the villagers to see and swim with their prey. Their fascination was profound. Enlightenment occurred. Understanding ensued. For the first time, the natives had the ability to finally see with clarity what had been so close, yet so hidden from them throughout their lives. These epiphanies are the building blocks of our lives.

Today, affluence and education lead people to take stands on issues they have the luxury to ponder.

However, across the world people hunt and kill animals that others strive to protect or to be advocates for.

For instance, there are those who want captive animals released from captivity who have no knowledge of those who know those animals as a commodity simply because they can sometimes earn more than a year’s salary by trapping or killing them.

Their perspective simply sees those animals as a way to support their family.

Of course it is a little more complicated than that–but you get the idea.

Then there are the groups that raise the hackles of wild animal trainers and facilities housing captive wildlife.

They make emotional pleas and paint a picture that isn’t exactly true for everyone in the animal industry and they make money doing it.

So the upside is that they do catalyze change and awareness. But many of their supporters never ask, How much of that money really gets into the work of helping animals?

The reality is that lots goes to making more money by purchasing advertisements or sending you those fat envelopes soliciting funds.

Some of those funds pay the salaries of administration.

Now funds might get into a community to help a few animals or perhaps a specific cause but it is not as much as people assume.

Because they are sanctioned non-profit corporations, people get it in their heads that they are better than other corporations.

Ain’t necessarily so.

However, my point is in alignment with Dr Oz:

This world is too precious not to take an active role in understanding its other tenants.

Wild animals do command respect and reverence.

That is why when people call me an animal lover, I cringe.

I am an animal professional.

Yes, I do love animals but I don’t see them as anything other than the great beings they are.

Most people miss that. The wear these colored glasses that distorts the view.

Or perhaps it is the influence of television shows where animals connect with people in amazing ways–animated or not.

People forget that the movie industry’s epic films (showing human and animal relationships) are simply animal actors and human actors conveying a fictionalized story from the imagination of a writer.

The public wants to think humans and animals can live in a peaceable kingdom-even while we continue to pollute the world and drive those creatures into smaller territories–getting mad when they trespass into our terrain.

As he astutely noted, many animal professionals do devote our lives to furthering the boundaries of relationships humans can have with the animals in their charge.

My goal went from being a marine naturalist to being a trainer because the light bulb went off in my head one day.

“Wow, I can teach people that these animals are individuals and through close encounters of the ‘wild kind’ can motivate them to care.

Then that care can be translated into caring about the species, and then about the environment.”

My goal was to do outreach to connect people with animals so they see them from a new perspective, a perspective that only someone with intimate knowledge of animals can share.

Will I be able to do this in other countries and cultures?

I’ve done a lot of different things through my career but still think more needs to be done.

Hopefully, my work will bring understanding, appreciation, and enlightenment to others.

Perhaps I’ll be the one to captivate and motivate new animals professionals to take this mission forward.

That is why I started training animals and why I still love it.

If you are seeking an animal career, what impact do you desire?

What do you want your legacy to be?

What would your ideal day look like?

About Ark Lady

+ArkLady Enhances the Lives of Animals & Empowers the People Who Love Them! Join the armchair safari or connect via ARKlady website.