From my earliest memory, I loved animals. Growing up in the country we had cats, dogs, chickens, deer, rabbits, squirrels, pheasants and many birds that have long since disappeared. The kids in the family were taught to take care of our animals and be responsible for their well-being. As you know from my writings over the years, that I am in love with wildlife.
If I hadn't followed my current path, I most likely would have been a veterinarian for endangered species and be living in Africa. Either that or the Willard Scott on the "Today Show" dressed as Carmen Miranda!
Very early on I was assigned the task of getting the eggs from the chickens. Taking the task very seriously I would collect the eggs, put them in my pockets and then weary from the hard work sit down with the eggs still in my pants. What a mess! Besides I loved to watch them and their habits. Fell in love with baby chicks and was so excited watching them crack through the egg shells.
My brother Melvin had two beagles named Betty and Benny who he trained to be hunting dogs. He loved to go hunting with my grandfather and father. When I as ten my dad gave me a shotgun for my birthday so I could join them on their hunting trips. Terrified at the thought of killing wildlife, my mother caught me crying and convinced a not happy father to excuse me from hunting.
God, they should have known I was gay then!
My great love has been cats. My Grandmother Grove loved cats and taught me the love of them. My first one was named Igor and he as followed by Gigi. They were devoutly loyal and followed me everywhere and snuggled into my bed every night. If my brother and I would wrestle, Gigi would tear across the lawn and attack my brother.
My sister had a mutt of a dog named Judy and it was not allowed in the house. My sister demanded equality for Judy with the cats but failed in one of Patsy's first human rights ventures.
We even had a parakeet named "Mr. Peepers" (after the Wally Cox character on television) who would nose dive my sisters boyfriends. Mr. Peepers hated her boyfriends and really go after them. The parakeet never had a cage and loved to fly around the house. It would sit on my mothers shoulders as she worked in the kitchen.
Often at night we would go 'spotlighting' in the Pine Barrens to see the deer at night. We literally would see close to a hundred in a night. The back dirt roads of the Pine Barrens were desolate and foreboding and I loved every minute of it.
The wild birds were magnificent with Red-wing Black Birds, Goldfinch, Ducks, Woodpeckers, Cardinals, Blue Jays, yellow warblers, pigeons, doves, owls,etc. The colors were vivid and there were thousands of them. In South Jersey now, the marshlands have become a huge stop on migrating birds and it is a sea of birds at peak season.
Of course, there will always be my beloved Turkey Hollow years with my friends Attila and Kate the deer, Benny and Betty the bear and Franklin the Bald Eagle.
Over the years I have graduated to Africa and take well over a dozen safari's in a number of nations in Eastern and Southern Africa. The elephants, rhino, lions and others are on the verge of disappearing in a less than a dozen years. The thought that my great nephews and nieces might not ever be able to see them in the wild is devastating to me.
We all have to act now to save them before it is too late and it is almost too late.