As a zookeeper your life revolves around the animals in more ways than one. Your friend circle mainly consists of zookeepers, your holidays consist of zoo visits and your pets are just an extended arm of your animal collection. What I had realised I was forgetting was that that in itself is not exactly “normal.” I don’t mean weird or strange in a bad way but just different. I had forgotten that others view of animals, nature and wildlife could differ so hugely from my own until I left that closed circuit.
Whilst travelling we have encountered people who would walk past a dog without acknowledging its presence or not even bother to learn the name of an animal which they would find themselves in close proximity to for several days. Whereas myself and Peter often greet the pets of the family before the humans, others would find this a strange way of prioritising. And because, historically, everyone around me acted in pretty much the same way then I completely forgot that not everyone in the world does.
Of course in our travels we’d also come across those morons who wouldn’t know how to act around wildlife if they took a lengthy course on the subject full of bribery and achievement awards. But the less we talk about them the better.
What I realised was that what I felt about animals was special. I had completely forgotten that. And it was inspiring to realise it once again. I had been reminded that, to feel so impassioned about animals (enough to turn them into a career and follow them around the world) was actually quite unique and others just don’t feel so strongly. These people may not make everyday decisions with the animals they love in the forefront of their mind and they certainly wouldn’t break their bodies for very little money in order to work alongside them every day. But when you surround yourself with others that do exactly the same then you forget just how “different” these kind of behaviours are.
And then you come across the people that are exactly like you. We came to a farm whose owners told us they spend their days off at other peoples farms. I was ecstatic to be working alongside those who are so similar in their passion for their vocation as we are, and, not surprisingly, we are all connected by a love for the animals we care for.
This farm has billions of sheep (and some cows), grazing a living from the undulating hills across the Wairapa valley and one evening we were invited to herd them to a new pasture. We boarded two quad bikes alongside a plethora of working dogs so eager to get to work they were practically salivating at the prospect. Setting off across the paddock we crested a gentle hill to see where we were heading. This involved a massive slope on a very steep gradient through a beautiful valley of autumn trees followed by an equally steep climb up to the next crest.
We experienced several of these spectacular examples of steep topography and every single one was covered in Sheep. They were flocking together, rounded up by the dogs in a mesmerising pattern. The noises of them moving en masse sounded like the rustling of very loud trees in the wind as they were guided through various gates, valleys and hills. It was truly a spectacular experience.
And the best thing was sharing it with people that appreciated it just as much as we did. Whether it was the first time or the 50th time it had been seen we all stood on the crest of the final hill, watching the Sheep meander up to their new grazing pasture and appreciating that special zeal of working with animals and being reminded of just how special it actually is.