Who is your favorite super hero? Mine has always been Aquaman, even before the days of Jason Momoa. And he certainly confirms it!
As a child, I liked Aquaman because he always saved the world with his ability to communicate with the underwater animals. Whenever there was a crisis, he used his under water sonar to call for help and the sea creatures always came to save the day. Aquaman would have been no one on his own. He relied on his animal friends. This was something I could relate to.
I also have always been drawn to undersea life. It fascinates me. Growing up, I made sure to watch Jacques Cousteau, Marlin Perkins and Jim on Wild Kingdom, and any other underwater shows I could find. Even Bedknobs and Broomsticks was intriguing with the bed floating through the underwater encounter. There is a whole plethora of organisms living their in the murky deep, and I wanted to know what they looked liked and how they lived.
I suppose it wasn’t that big of a stretch then, that my college major was Biology and my favorite part of my water treatment career was looking at organisms under the microscope lens and doing stream studies. You never knew what you were going to see there either.
My fascination with animals and iconic figures did not stop there. My favorite Saturday morning cartoon was Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. I never wanted to be Jane, the female character. I wanted to be Tarzan himself who swing from vines and talked to the animals and called on them in times of need.
The focus of my life has always centered around animals. There has only ever been a few years of my life in college when I did not have a dog. I was between dogs after the loss of my beagle-mix Captain Sizzle, until I got another dog as soon as I could rent an apartment in college that would allow pets. (That was when I got my first Shetland Sheepdog and the rest, as they say, is history).
My younger years were spent watching cartoon characters and television personalities who worked with animals, because I didn’t know any people who did this in real life. As I grew up and my world became wider, my heroes changed. I discovered that there were real people that I had been unaware of, who were making animals their life’s work.
My first role model, who I saw as a regular person who had a life with attainable goals was Jack Hanna. As a Kent State University graduate, I moved to Columbus, Ohio for my first summer out of school in many years. I was newly graduated and didn’t have a job yet, so I bought myself a membership to the Columbus Zoo. It was only three miles from my townhouse, so I went to the zoo several times each week. Some days I would pick an animal exhibit and sit there watching the same animals for an hour. I noticed that on the days I wore a khaki colored cargo shirt that the animals in some of the exhibits would follow me along the fence line. I later figured out that shirt was similar to what the zoo keepers wore and the animals were hoping I was there to feed them!
That summer was 1985. It was when I first heard of Jack Hanna who was Curator of the Columbus Zoo. That was before he went on to have his own television program. He had made some guest appearances on The David Letterman Show and others. I saw him walking around the zoo a few times. I was so impressed with the fact that he had taken a love of all animals and made it into a career. A career with the intent to educate about animals and improve their chances for survival. He is still one of my heroes.
The other real life hero of my adult life is Jane Goodall. What an amazing woman. She has loved animals for her entire life too. As everyone knows, she started her career studying chimpanzees in Africa. She has taken it so much farther. She has published multiple books and documentaries on saving our planet and the plants and animals that inhabit it. She even has foundations to promote these causes. And at her current age of 87, is still doing all she can to inspire hope and let us know that we can make a difference. She has taken a break because of Covid, but until then was still touring and speaking many days each year.
You can see a theme throughout the list of all my heroes, both fictional and real. They are defenders of animals and people. They know they were put on this world to make it a better place. Although my presence is small, I want to join them and follow in their footsteps to make a difference.
You have the ability to do the same. Won’t you join me in making a difference?