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The sadder parts.

They told me not to get so attached, and honestly, I didnt think I would. Kangaroos were never my favorite,  and as novel as it was to bottle feed joeys, I never thought I could love one as much as I love her.

Jojo, a western grey kangaroo. Been an enigma of stomach problems since they day she was pulled from mom. It was love at first sight. So small, so sweet, such bright eyes. She never kicked anyone, she didnt fight the bottle like every other joey we’ve started. She just ignighted something in my heart like a match to a dry forest. No matter how bad the day, no matter how bad the ache in my heart, just a moment alone with her could make it melt away.

She’d take the bottle for me when her belly hurt, while she refused for everyone else. She gives kisses, she loves to snuggle, and I have even sang her to sleep.

The little joey who allowed me to love this much and be loved in return….and I still have to say goodbye.

Its how things go in the life at a zoo. Animals are born, they grow, they go to other facilities to breed and better the species. Then their babies continue on that path. I knew it was possible and I ignored it.

So now I am having to endure one of the biggest heartaches I’ve ever felt, to say goodbye to my baby girl before she is even full grown.

Any zookeeper or caretaker will tell you to not get attached…but how can you when you have to put so much heart, soul, and time into the care of a beating heart?

I’m going to miss you like crazy Jojo bean. Nobody will hold my heart like you have.

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Walking on Cloud 9

Eventually the dreams become goals, the wishes become suggestions, and the maybes turn into yesses.

Almost ten years of putting in thousands of volunteer and intern hours, research papers, book research, presentations, and an absolute passion for the animal world….i was offered a job at Sharkarosa.

The first big step towards my future. The foot in the door that says i’ve paid my first set of dues to this career. The everything i’ve been wishing for since i was little.

And it’s real. Its all real. I get to see my joeys everyday. I get to hear the lemurs, work with my muntjacs, teach the guests about what i’m so passionate about…i can’t remember the last time i smiled this much and this big about something.

Hell, maybe even Reckless and i can make peace with each other.

It’s all in good time. For now, here starts the biggest and most exciting chapter of my life.

“Hi, my name is Caitlin, and i’m a keeper here at Sharkarosa.” 🙂

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Unreiquited.

Some days i really wanted to punch you in the nose.

Other days i wanted to kiss you. More than i had wanted anything before.

But now you’re gone. It doesn’t matter now. Back to the swing of things.

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Fear

I’m not afraid of much. I can stare down the male kangaroo who has it out for me. I can scream at a half ton animal after it kicks me and still push it out of the way. Lemur teeth don’t deter me anymore. The rampant Texan spiders that are immune to bleach and a good stomping aren’t even that bad anymore.

What does scare me is the unknown.

The wide open spaces in the dark. The shadows and silhouettes of everything familiar shifts into something more menacing. What lurks in the tall grass. What stalks behind you. Who’s eyes are glowing? What satanic frog makes that noise? Moreso, who lives through the night. What bond will break or hold strong. All of the ‘i don’t knows’ and the ‘what ifs’ eat at my brain as i slowly sink into the comfort of the same blackness that makes my heart race.

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As the world turns.

So the chaos of the day starts. The quick-paced morning of cleaning before another field trip full of hyper-energetic children. The slight frustrations of their lack of attention or ability to keep voices hushed. But then the little surprises happen. The sun peeks through the clouds and you get to see the new baby kangaroo climb out of mom’s pouch for the first time. You stress the little ones to stay silent, and for the first time they do. In awe over the same moment you are witnessing. Everyone snaps back to reality as you gather them up for the last few presentations and activities of their fieldtrip, and before you know it, the day is almost over.

There are a few more chores to be finished, and a few more animals to have arguments with before it is time to start prepping everyone’s dinner. A fellow intern notices one of the Black and White Ruffed Lemur females is acting weird. She’s making a lot of noise and isn’t staying in the nest box with her 5-day old infant. The creak of the lid of the nest box mirrors the slight cringe on both of our faces as we fear for the worst. It’s happening. This little tiny baby is having trouble breathing. In those moments, nothing else in the world matters. Dinner can be postponed for a few moments. The discomfort from the hot day and hard labor is ignored. This little baby, who has only peeked out of the nestbox once, is now looking through the veil between life and death.

Calls to our Animal Care Director are made in a panic. The ranch owner is called down as well. All of your senses are on overdrive. You swear you can hear the irregular heartbeat from a foot away. You can hear the clock ticking in the barn across the pathway. Your heart is screaming on the inside for this delicate little baby, but your face shows only focus and concern. Few words are spoken. In an almost rapid-fire manner, the director gives us directions and walks us through what to do. Towels, heating pads, pedialyte, water, syringes, chest compressions if necessary. In comes the dextrose injections. Wait 20 minutes. See what happens.

I dont think the other intern and I ever looked each other in the eye for the whole process. We were staring down this baby, trying to telepathically send him some strength. 30 minutes later, the breathing evens out, and the heartbeat becomes more steady. Baby sleeps for another 10 minutes before opening it’s eyes. It’s gripping our fingers. It’s making noise. It’s trying to suckle on our fingers.

The first smiles in an hour start to crack the concentration on our faces. The director finally walks through the door after rushing home from an hour away. We take our first breath of relief. We saved this baby. This tiny little creature, who stared death in the face. Watching the director pack up this baby and take him home was like watching mom walk through the door after having a bad day as a child. An overwhelming sense of comfort seeps back into the barn as the director starts the long and tiring process of raising this baby lemur. 

Finally, the familiar noises start to creep back into the barn. The lemurs call back and forth to each other. A horse whinnies. The starlings continue to fight over nesting materials. The steady chop. chop, chop of the knife on the cutting board, preparing the animal’s dinner.

Steady and strong, like this baby’s second chance.