Busy Day, But Boring Post

Gotta say, guys, I am hurting today.  Physically, for the most part.  I don’t have much time, because I have to head down to the first Canadian Screen Awards gala tonight, and a certain puppy dog licks my arm if I stop petting him while I try to type.  I got very little sleep last night, and I am sick. It’s all very distracting, so this will be short and boring.  I promise to try and do better next time!

So, last night ended up being really nice, despite the occasion.  I went out for dinner with the families and a few other of us close friend types.  The service was not the greatest, but the company definitely was.  As was the food, so really, no complaints.  Despite the fact that I had to get home to Brody and take him out for a walk, I ended up going with Kristi to meet up with other close friend types for post dinner beers, while the Boyers headed back home.  There were a few near tears moments, but mostly there was a lot of laughter, and it all actually made for a really nice evening all together.

I of course got home super late, but Brody is pretty much the best dog in the world, so all was well.  I got him walked and everyone fed and then I headed to bed.

I’d hoped I’d have a sexy voice when I got up this morning, but I did not.  At least I don’t sound as sick as I feel yet, though.

I was up at 6am because I had an early appointment with my neurologist this morning.  Just a regular check up kind of deal.  Once that was done, I headed to the zoo.  I had three animals I wanted to visit, but of course I ended up adding on several more and stayed a good hour and a half longer than planned.  A small part of that was Steve’s fault for being so fun to be around, but mostly I blame the animals.  They were in moods today and I was having fun.  Damn you, good times!  Always getting in the way of my going home to be alone!

I finally got a look at the panda cubs….oh my goodness.  They really are too cute to be real.  Seriously.  I was also happy to see their mama, Er Shun, because it’s been quite a while since I saw her last, and I missed her!  She seems to be settling into the role of mama bear quite nicely, and she looked great.  She looked content with her bamboo and her babies.  Made my heart swell with happy.

Headed to the polar bear area to see young miss Juno and the adult bears.  Aurora and Nikita put on a SHOW, especially for anyone who was watching from the underwater viewing area.  The sisters were both in the pool, and they started wrestling and playing, and just being giant silly fools.  I see where the cubs get it from.

Juno was adorable, but while she was asleep or out of view for much of the time I was there, I did get to hear her talking at one point, and that made my heart swell with the happy, too!  Man I love bears!

Finally, my gorillas of love.  I spent time with them last, just before I left to head home.  We walked into the room and the first thing we saw was baby Nneka sitting on a stump with a wad of cotton stuffing on her head!  I muttered something like, “Oh my dear sweet Lord” and reached for my camera but was too late to catch it.  The troop was being wacky overall.  Saddling kept pulling a big tree branch down, then letting it fly back up as he ran away.  For some reason Nassir and Nneka were a bit weirded out by a low-hanging branch on the other side, until Ngozi pulled the whole thing out by the roots and let her kids then run around with it for awhile.

It was interesting that Charles never felt he need to get involved and settle everyone down, but mama Ngozi had it all well in hand.  We saw Charles later walking along with little Nneka at his side.  So freaking cute.  He’s so big and she is so little, but she likes to sit like daddy does, and then she was rolling around in front of him to get his attention.

I love that family.  ❤️

Okay, I really need to start getting ready for tonight’s big event!  I just wish I could figure out when I’ll ever be able to get a bit more sleep!

More tomorrow!

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Two Years

Two years ago today – March 7th, 2014 – I had the day off work. It was a Friday, and while there was a very busy Mind Reels weekend lined up (Canadian Screen Awards broadcast gala and, I believe, Toronto Comicon, as well), I’d decided to go to the zoo for a while, before things really kicked into high gear. It was a nice day, and not only was there a handsome polar bear cub named Humphrey I wanted to visit, but there had also been a tiny gorilla baby born recently, and while I’d seen the top of her head, or a limb, and several photos of her, I’d not yet gotten a good look at her in person. I thought I’d give my luck another try that day.

I could never have guessed how impactful that day at the zoo would be for me, and in how many different ways my life would change – was, in fact, changed before I even left my apartment.

I think that was one of the first times I went to the zoo alone. I know the very first time was for Hudson’s birthday, because he was my bear and I wasn’t about to miss his first birthday, especially given that he almost didn’t live long enough to have it. But while I’d made my way out to the zoo on March 7th by myself, I did manage to meet up with a couple of people I’d recently befriended via our mutual love for the zoo and everybody in it. So there was that. I wasn’t completely alone.

I visited with Humphrey for awhile – and Steve, one of my new friends – and though I don’t remember much else from the first part of that day, I know I eventually made my way over to hang out with the gorilla troop. My other new friend, Laurel, was there, too, and because of her, I had the great honour that day of meeting Johari, the gorilla I’d seen as a baby on Zoo Diaries, but whom I couldn’t yet tell apart from others in the troop. I knew Charles the silverback, and Nassir (because he’s smaller than the rest), and Ngozi because she had a baby riding around with her all the time at that point. I was pretty sure I could tell Josephine from the others, but Sadiki and Johari in particular, I kept getting mixed up. I’d really wanted to meet Johari in person, so was thrilled when Laurel introduced us. As soon as I said her name, her beautiful eyes fixed on mine and I was in love.

Even though I still get her mixed up sometimes. Sorry Johari – I’m learning, I promise!

A couple of weird things had happened that morning, as well. A friend texted me out of the blue asking if I’d “heard about Alysia”, one of our coworkers, and one of my favourite people on the planet. My platonic girlfriend, we’d decided once day. I’d been texting with her the night before a bit as we sent each other selfies that our cats had taken with the Cat Snaps phone app her mom had discovered. After that text, though, I had a bit of an uneasy feeling, like maybe Alysia been fired, or something. I texted back that no, I hadn’t heard anything, what was going on?

When I didn’t get a response after a period of time had gone by, I decided to just go to the source, so I texted Alysia herself.

Are you okay? Is something going on?”

No response from that, either, which was extra weird, because she’d know I’d start to worry if I didn’t hear back from her. My uneasy feeling grew, but I pushed it aside. I was being paranoid, and I was at the zoo, so I turned my attention back to the present moment. I knew I’d be there for Alysia, whenever and whatever she needed.

So, as if getting to interact with Johari a bit wasn’t enough, I also finally got my wish of getting a better view of baby Nneka for the first time! Ngozi brought her over closer to the window while I was there, and despite some little kids being in the way, I still got to look on her adorable wee face for a few moments before moving out of the way. I went off to the side then, used my zoom lens, and caught a couple of sweet pics of the little one lifting her head up and looking around a bit more than she had before. Once again, I was in love.

Then my phone rang.

It was Tim. I figured he’d forgotten that I was at the zoo, and wanted to go over our plan of attack for the weekend, or something, so I answered.

It wasn’t what I thought. At all.

After some back and forth about whether or not I should sit down, he finally got it out: there’d been a huge fire. He didn’t need to say any more. My stomach dropped, and I spoke her name aloud.

Alysia.

In that moment I knew, and my heart exploded. She was gone.

A lot happened after that, but I don’t remember most of the details. Some I remember very clearly, but most not.

I told Laurel, and she hugged me and cried with me. She’d heard about the fire on the news earlier, and agreed that the kitten wouldn’t have made it, either. It was all too overwhelming to really take in. I texted Steve to tell him, and by then I was feeling really confused as to what I should do next, so when he offered to drive me home, I agreed. He asked if I wanted to leave right then, and I didn’t know. He asked if I wanted to see Humphrey again before we left, because the area had cleared out a bit since I’d been there earlier. I pictured the little furball in my mind and said yes. Yes, I want to be around him again for a few minutes.

I couldn’t breathe very well, and there seemed to be a huge hole in my chest that no one else could see, but it was hurting. A lot.

I got lost in the African Pavilion, and fought panic as I tried to find my way outside. I eventually did, and gulped air while taking stock of where the hell I was, and where the hell I needed to go to get back to the polar bear cub.

I finally got sorted out and headed in the right direction. My mind was spinning the whole time, trying to figure out how what I knew to be true could possibly BE true. I’d just been talking to her the night before. I’d hugged her goodbye when we’d parted ways on the subway, and told her to get home safe. Maybe there’d been some kind of mistake. But there wasn’t. I consoled myself with the idea that maybe they’d all slept through the whole thing; that the smoke had taken them before they could wake up.

That turned out to not be true, either, and it wasn’t really much comfort even when I hoped it was, anyway. I cried off and on the whole way back to the Tundra Trek, and as I got closer, a flash of colour out of the corner of my eye. A red-tailed hawk flew by, low, not much higher than I stood.

Alysia…” I whispered her name into the breeze and started to cry again.

Just then, the Arctic Wolves began to howl – the whole pack. It felt like they were giving voice to my shattered heart, and I stopped to listen to them a moment, waiting for the tears to take another break.

I continued on my way.

I found Steve, and moments later, young Humphrey wandered over, stood up and put his front paws on the fence, and just looked up at us for a few moments. Then he started to play, as though he knew being his entertaining self was exactly what was needed. It fixed nothing, changed nothing, but it did make me smile.

That day, the day the whole world changed, is now two years passed, and the Earth has continued spinning the whole time. The sun still rises and sets, I get up and come to work, I pay bills, I watch TV, I go out and laugh and have a good time. To all outward appearances, everything has carried on much as it did before.

But it’s not the same. The hole in my chest has taken up permanent residency, and while it’s settled into a general ache most of the time, there are still those moments that it blows wide open again, as though to remind me that it’s still there. Alysia’s dog, Brody, lives with me now, and is a bright shining light in my everyday life, just as she was. Her family feels like my family now, too. Her friends feel like my friends.

I’m sorry that I never met Jordan, Katie, little Frankie the kitten before they were taken in the fire, too. I’m sorry that I didn’t know Ethan before his world fell out from under him. I’m sorry that I didn’t know the Grahams or the Boyers as families before they were torn apart and forever changed by their unfathomable loss. I would have liked them, seeing them together, knowing who they were before this.

But I’m not sorry to know them now. I’m not sorry to love them now. And though I hate how I feel now, I’m not sorry I got to know Alysia as much as I did, even for as short a time as it was. Knowing her changed me a little, for the better. Loving her did, too. Losing her forever altered me in ways I still haven’t figured out yet. And as much as it’s a constant ache that I don’t think will ever go away, in a way, I embrace that, too. It means she’s a part of me, even now. Maybe especially now. And if getting rid of the pain means forgetting I ever knew her, then I vote no. Absolutely not. My pain and I shall remain forever entwined as I forge ahead through the world as this new me, whoever that is, and whoever that will be.

Until we meet again.

Alysia
Alysia

On Why Zoos Matter

I think there needs to either be a new category of zoos – with a new definition – or some of them need to have a new name created for them all together. There is a negative connotation attached to the term “zoo” that manifested a long time ago, but no longer applies to the accredited and regulated zoos of today. And that irritates the hell out of me, because once again, people base their opinions on things that aren’t true, and then apply them across the board, instead of taking each situation or establishment into account. It’s an ignorant way to go through life, regardless, but even more so when those uneducated opinions actually affect the things they think they are against in an adverse way.

Did that sentence even make sense? I am extra fatigued today.

People are against zoos for archaic reasons that are no longer reality, and espose these untrue “facts” to anyone who will listen, thereby affecting the good work that is being done, rather than support it and encourage it to grow and continue. You see, zoos are one of the only “businesses” on the planet that actually work toward their own extinction. They are a necessary facility trying to combat the damage humanity has inflicted on the planet and its non-human residents, while also having the end-goal of a day when they are no longer required. It’s actually one of the most un-selfish acts anyone could perform, and they do it every day, as best they can, by growing, sharing and learning as they go.  Most zoos have grown and changed over the decades – but for some reason, the public perception of them has not.

Contrary to some beliefs, they are not actually here for our entertainment, nor are the animals in their care. Their function and purpose is far, far more important and essential than that.

I’m sure one could argue that, if they aren’t here to put animals on display for the masses to gawk at, then why not close their doors and not let the public in? Why involve the public at all? Well, for starters, some places actually are like that. Not zoos, but most sanctuaries, farms, and even some wildlife reserves either allow limited or sometimes no public interaction with the animals in their care. Those are all different types of facility, however, with different mandates and goals.

I’m going to use the Toronto Zoo as my example for this whole post, as it’s the such one place I know best. One of the Toronto Zoo’s goals is to educate the public – about what they’re doing, and trying to do, about the animals in their care, about those species’ counterparts in the wild, about their efforts to keep various species from going extinct, about the ways in which they are able to re-introduce some species (like the black-footed ferret, for example) back into the wild! What?! Whoever heard of a zoo putting animals BACK into the wild?!

It happens all the time, guys. They are just careful about doing it, and try to do so in a way that will give the indivdual animals the best chance of survival once they get out there on their own. Because that’s what it’s all about. Survival. And not just of the fittest. In an ideal situation, the zoo wants not only for the vast majority of those released individuals to survive, but also for them to thrive. To reproduce. To build communities (if that’s what they’re into) and continue to grow into the important and in fact essential part of an ecosystem they were once a part of – before humans ruined everything.

Because we did this. Our species. We have made an enormous mess over the centuries, and facilities like the Toronto Zoo are working very hard every day to try and clean up our mess, and ensure we don’t make such a one again. Education is a huge part of that process, and it is the most direct route to something humans in general seem to lack – empathy.

Sure, there are pictures and videos and webcams and all kinds of neat technology these days. Why don’t they just use those to educate the public?

I’ll tell you: because it is not even remotely the same experience. I’d seen photos and video clips of Hudson the polar bear cub before I met him in person at the zoo. They were super cute and I was really excited to see him, but they had nowhere near the same effect on me as the moment I saw him with my own eyes. My heart skipped a beat, and from then on, I was completely in love with the little guy. Every time my big blue eyes met his so-dark-brown-they’re-practically-black, diamond-shaped eyes, I think I stopped breathing. We connected on a level photos and videos can’t touch. We knew one another. I never would have gotten him tattooed on my arm were it not for the experience of being allowed the chance to know him, either. That’s how much he affected me. He became a part of who I am, part of my core.

If you’re not yet convinced, because maybe I am just a crazy polar bear lady, go have a look at a photo of a human child. Then watch a video clip or two of the kid. Now go hold that child in your arms, look into its eyes, and tell me the experience is the same as when you were looking at the pictures and watching the videos. Tell me that connection you felt didn’t suddenly get a lot more personal and almost overwhelmingly real.

Not that I got to touch Hudson (I WISH!), but I am certain that would have made me even more of a crazy polar bear lady than I already am. 100%.

Another thing I learned from the Toronto Zoo is about the importance of enrichment for the animals, to help prevent boredom and depression. They are not out in the wild struggling every day just to survive, after all, and they have moods and emotions and thoughts, just as we do. It is important to note, however, that they don’t feel things the same way we do. Just because you don’t think you’d like napping all day in the warm sunshine, for example, doesn’t mean that African lions don’t freaking LOVE IT. They’re cats. Not exactly the same as house cats, but they have more in common with them than they do with you. Guaranteed. And not all of them are the same, either. Just because you read something about one lion doesn’t mean that same quality applies to every lion on the planet. They are individuals, just like you and me.

Anyway, I have cats living in captivity in my apartment. I keep them fed and watered, and pet them and cuddle with them and play with them, and they seem pretty happy. What I learned at the zoo is that it’s healthy for them to change things up every now and then; keep them on their adorable bean-shaped toes. It could be the introduction of a new toy or a new box, maybe break out some catnip on occasion, or even just move a piece of furniture over a few feet for awhile. It doesn’t have to be a huge change, just little things can make all the difference. My cats love the scent of mint, so I got them a box of peppermint teabags, and every once in awhile I’ll throw a couple of them on the floor and watch the cats start playing with them instantly. There’s a bit of a mess to clean up after, of course, but totally worth it. Same with bubbles. Sometimes they like those more than chasing the red dot!

For anyone who believes that housepets are not captive animals, you can go ahead and check your specist hypocrisy at the door. They are. The difference is that we believe we’re doing those animals a favour by rescuing them from the wild. We save them from having to hunt to survive and probably either starve to death or get killed by a vehicle or other animal, and instead give them a warm happy home to live out their years with their loving fur-ever family. That’s why no one is staging protests to Free The Housepets.

I, too, believe I’m giving the cats and dog in my care a better life than they’d have out on the cold city streets. It’s a responsibilty that I don’t take lightly. To me, it is my duty to do everything I can to give them the best lives possible while they are in my care. And that is an every day job, one I do gladly, and one upon which I am always looking to improve. For that’s how the keepers at the zoo feel about the individuals in their care. Each baby born is like one of their own, with the difference being that the parents, and families and other members of the species of each baby are also like their own. They care that much. They spend the night during particularly bad storms to make sure that the animals who depend on them for their lives – and for the quality of those lives – are safe and content. They work overtime, they work every day of the year – whether the public is there or not – and they want nothing more than for their jobs to not be necessary anymore.

To the better dead than captive bred camp, I can’t really pretend to understand where you are coming from at all. How is it even remotely humane to let a baby starve to death (one of the slowest and most painful ways to go, I hear) in the wild, versus giving it a home where it can grow up safe and cared for and live out the rest of its natural life in a not-quite-ideal setting, but at least be allowed to have a life? Is it really the better option for your high moral ground? Or maybe it would be better to kill the infant outright, so that it’s at least spared the agony of starvation. Brilliant. Except that should be applied to all non-humans, not just the ones you see on TV or the internet. Show of hands: how many people stop when they’ve hit an animal with their car to a) make sure it’s dead, b) ensure it wasn’t a lactating female with little ones waiting for her to come home, and if it is, then c) go out and find said babies to spare them the agony of a slow death?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and that’s actually my point. You have to take each example on a case by case basis. Stop treating every lion like he or she is the exact same as every other lion. Definitely stop assuming that they are the same as you or I. The animals we eat are more intelligent than the average human toddler, and yet they are living in unimaginably horrid conditions from birth to tortuous death – but that’s a post for another time. #factoryfarmsarethedevil

From what I can tell, the word “zoo” does not do the Toronto Zoo – and most places like it – any justice whatsoever. It’s not an accurate representation of what the zoo actually is. The Toronto Zoo is part Ark for species survival and renewal, part Sanctuary for animals in need, part Retirement Home for aging animals, part Orphanage for youngsters who lose their mothers in the wild, part Education and Research Facility to find new ways to do all of those things better – and all love.

YouTube

Betty White just turned 94 years old, and while I know we’ll lose her someday, there’s a part of me that just can’t accept it, and will probably refuse to let go. I’ll brace myself for the inevitable (unless, like her character Elka on Hot in Cleveland, she actually is immortal), but in the meantime, I’ll continue to love and enjoy the hell out of her as much as possible.

I put it on my buket list that I wanted to meet her, or at least be in the live studio audience for HiC, but the show got cancelled right after I realized how badly I wanted it (that and visiting Hudson the polar bear cub were what prompted the bucket list making in the first place), so apparently that’s not going to happen. At least not any time soon.

I’ll just have to continue watching her and getting to know her online, and through the experiences of others. I wish I could be half as wonderful at my age, as she is at her age now. I mean, geez! The lady has more life and zest in her than most of us, which is possibly why I have a hard time imagining her gone. I suspect she’ll hang out with all the animals and make people laugh in the afterlife, too. Maybe that’s where I’ll finally meet her, if I am good and lucky.

So what does all that have to do with YouTube, you ask?

Well…not much, to be honest. But it was Betty’s birthday that made me decide to write this post today. I made her a video awhile ago, to celebrate her lifelong love of the animal kingdom. I had visions of it going viral and her seeing it and basically allowing it to bring joy to everyone, so I posted it on my personal YouTube channel. It got some love, but not as much as I’d hoped, and I’m fairly sure I’m responsible for half the views, because I actually really freaking love it! I’d suspected that someone else would have thought to make it, and would have done it better and with the proper editing tools, but I couldn’t find one, so maybe I’m just that awesome, too.

You can watch it and feel the love here, if you want.

The first video I ever uploaded to this account was a clip from the Browncoat Cruise in 2007. I’d wanted to share it with friends I’d met on the cruise – and one in particular – so I posted it on YouTube and then just shared the link around.

After that, I started posting all of the Conjoined Twins of Terror videos – starting with the application video to the Evil League of Evil (Dr Horrible), the gag reel from that initial concept, and then a few others that we just did for fun.

From there, I started posting clips from high school performances I had on VHS so people could watch them and reminisce about our mad acting and music skills, and later decided to include my epic Valeditory Address.

Then, in February 2012, the zoo videos began to appear – mostly of Hudson. I remember it was my second time going to see him, and I knew before I got there that I intended to video the little goofball. I just kind of never stopped after that. There are a lot of Hudson videos…and some other zoo critters I love.

There’s the awesome Star Trek Screen Test my friends and I did when we were at Universal Studios on Spring Break one year. I’m the Vulcan, of course.

There’s a terrible quality recording of an O Canada video made during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics that still pretty much makes me cry when I watch it.

There are some promo videos for The Mind Reels Guinness World Record Attempt (posted before I made a separate channel for the event itself), a talking butt crack spotted in McDonald’s one day, and a fake audition reel for a role in The Hobbit.

All in all, there’s a bunch of little bits of me captured on video and assembled on my YouTube channel. Since this is an Inventory Of Everything, I felt maybe it was time to share some of the highlights with you before I end up adding more stuff!