Lions and Tigers and Hamsters: What Animals Large and Small Taught Me About Life, Love, and Humanity

Lions and Tigers and Hamsters: What Animals Large and Small Taught Me About Life, Love, and Humanity

by Mark Goldstein DVM

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Overview

From the time Dr. Mark Goldstein was a little boy—even before he had his first dog—he was fascinated by creatures both domestic and wild. After graduating veterinary school at Cornell University, he became a veterinarian in clinical practice, then director of zoos in Boston and Los Angeles, then head of a progressive humane society where he advocated for animal welfare. During his extraordinary 30-year career, Dr. Mark has accrued a lifetime of experiences working with all sorts of animals and the people who care for them.

Dr. Mark's life with animals taught him more than how to be a great doctor, it taught him how to live life. The stories in this book reflect those lessons; they will make you laugh and cry as they entertain and amaze you. Each real-life experience sheds light on the challenges and hard work of the talented individuals who work in the world of animal welfare. These are stories that illustrate the tremendous impact animals have on our daily lives—they are hallmarks of the sacred importance of the human-animal bond.

On your journey through the exhilarating life of Dr. Mark, you'll meet some of the finned, furred, and feathered animals who offered him invaluable insights—Harold the hamster, Sasha the Siberian tiger, St. Francis the German Shepherd, Ralph the buffalo, Gus the stallion, Frank the goldfish, and many more fascinating creatures!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780757321863
Publisher: Health Communications, Incorporated
Publication date: 05/07/2019
Pages: 240
Sales rank: 397,689
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Mark Goldstein, DVM, has spent over 40 years caring, advocating, and fighting for the welfare of animals. The institutions he worked at are all recognized leaders in their respective fields and the variety of animals he worked with and his responsibilities were unique. He was a senior staff clinician in the medicine department at Angell Memorial Animal Hospital in Boston. After being hired to head the Boston Zoos, he led a turnaround for the failing inner city Franklin Park Zoo. "Dr. Mark" then moved west with his wife Kristine and their two daughters when he was appointed to lead the Los Angeles Zoo. He followed his heart to shine a light on the importance of the human-animal bond and took the helm at the San Diego Humane Society and SPCA where he oversaw the design, development, and completion of the "San Diego Campus for Animal Care." Many aspects of the campus, its programs and its unique partnership with the municipal animal care department have been copied numerous times both nationally and internationally. He has a BS in Animal Science and a DVM degree from Cornell University.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

DONIA

Without warning, I felt a solid leathery wall propel my body forward with such enormous force that I was lifted off my feet. It was futile to push back against such power, and I next found myself thrust high in the air, soaring forward an astonishing thirty feet before slamming into the ground at the edge of the island.

As a small boy it had irritated my mother to no end when a fly or mosquito innocently wandered into the house, and I would turn the lights off so she couldn't see to annihilate it with her swatter. Now in an ironic twist, I had become the annoying pest, and the swatter was the muscular trunk of an irritated elephant named Donia.

On the island, home to a small herd of elephants, Donia was the dominant matriarch. And although the crumpled "pest" she had so easily flicked away presented no real threat to her, she still came at me with her 12,000 pounds driven by the same nonchalant ferocity as my mother with her swatter, intent on ridding her space of an uninvited nuisance.

As soon as I landed, charging footsteps shook the ground, filling the air with a thick cloud of dust. Before I could even begin to process my dire situation, a tremendous weight came down on top of me, squeezing the air from my body.

Thanks to my training, I knew that when an elephant attacks, it will instinctively put its head down on its antagonist and raise its back feet, tipping all its weight forward and crushing the life out of its victim. This natural behavior is often used by circus elephants performing headstand tricks as a part of their act. Unfortunately for me, this was no circus trick, and I knew that, unless I managed to free myself, my veterinary career would be over before it started.

"Elephant Island" was located in Section 5 of Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida. Loxahatchee was officially a suburb of West Palm Beach, but to me as a young adult from New York, it appeared more like a suburb of the Everglades. The safari park had opened just five years before, in 1967, as America's first drive-thru African wildlife preserve.

The grounds consisted of a 640-acre park in which hundreds of exotic animals roamed freely among visitors safely "caged" in their cars as they drove along a scenic eight-mile safari trail. Of the preserve's six sections, four were inhabited by over a hundred lions living in prides and a herd of elephants on an island, while the other sections were occupied by zebras, giraffes, ostriches, white rhinoceroses, chimpanzees, and a dazzling array of other animals.

After completing my second undergrad year at Cornell University, I made the long drive down from New York and arrived in Florida for the job early in the summer of 1972. I couldn't have been more excited to have landed a three-month summer job there. Miraculously, I had gotten the job after writing a letter to the head ranger on a whim, and he subsequently interviewed me over the phone.

On my final approach to the safari park, I drove the one-mile stretch of road to the entrance, barely able to contain my enthusiasm as I passed signs like "People out of their cars will be eaten."

At the end of the road was a line of huts with palm-frond roofs and signs directing either to the left for the offices or to the right for the visitors' entrance. I followed the signs to the left, walked into the offices known by the employees as "Lion Base," and explained to the front desk staff who I was and why I was there. If I hadn't been sure about my decision before, the friendly greeting, the smell of the animals on the breeze, and the squawking of the African Gray parrot behind the desk reassured me that I had made the right choice.

I was escorted into a back office where a weather-beaten man dressed in safari clothes sat behind a desk. He introduced himself as Charles Durr, the park's head ranger with whom I had spoken earlier that year. We shook hands, and he introduced the man next to him as Bill McGrath, the assistant head ranger. Like Charles, Bill was dressed in a khaki safari outfit, but he was nowhere near as weathered as Charles. As they asked me about my drive from New York and began introducing me to the basics of the job, their casual style and their kind, easygoing attitudes put me at ease, and I immediately felt comfortable around my new coworkers.

As I took in my surroundings during the meeting, I was awed by the vast collection of wildlife books in Charles's office, and I couldn't help but admire the array of equipment he had on display. There was everything from walkie-talkies and firearms, to tranquilizing gear and an assortment of animal restraints, as well as a variety of medical instruments, much of which I had seen in books and on TV, but never dreamed I'd see, let alone handle, in real life.

The three of us briefly chatted. I asked to have two days to find a place to live for the summer, and then I'd be ready to work. As we finished talking, the radio on Charles's desk chattered out that some assistance was needed on Elephant Island.

"I'll go out to help," Bill told Charles. Then, turning to me, he said, "Mark, come along and I'll show you the park and how we work."

At this point, I was convinced I had died and gone to heaven. I was actually going to get up-close-and-personal with the animals on my first day! I also felt an immediate connection with Bill; he was easy to talk to, and I knew I was going to learn a great deal from him.

I followed Bill out the back door and into a zebra-striped Jeep. As he started the engine, Bill updated me on the plan: we were going to Section 5 to help a man named Mike secure the elephants for the night. I smiled and nodded as if I knew what he was talking about although, of course, I didn't. "Great!" I said, and I genuinely meant it, even though I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

We drove into the park through the front gate on a service road, passing by the cars that held visitors slowly entering the park. A twenty-foot-high fence towered on each side as we rumbled over a cattle guard (a shallow ditch with bars or slats across it that are spread far enough apart to keep hoof-stock from crossing over, but not people or vehicles). We had now entered Section 1, and, in my mind, it seemed like we had somehow been transported halfway around the world in the blink of an eye. I was suddenly surrounded on all sides by animals typically confined to an African savannah or the two-dimensional pages of a book. Giant elands, delicate gazelles, and scores of other herd-dwelling animals roamed freely just outside our vehicle.

We continued forward, and as we crossed the cattle guard entering into Section 2, Bill pointed to an elevated cabin on stilts about thirty feet above, and said, "That'll be your new home for the next while." I would be on assignment in the watchtower to look out for the safety of the park's visitors and animals.

The first thing that I realized about Section 2 was that instead of appearing like the plains we had just passed through in Section 1, this was lush with a vast variety of plants.

As we took the next turn, I was again in awe to see in person something I had only seen in books and movies. There, crossing the road right in front of us, was a majestic pride of lions. A very mature male lion was in the lead, followed by two beautiful lionesses, and lumbering after them were a number of cubs. Bill pointed out that the two females before me were the actual lionesses used in shooting the widely acclaimed movie Born Free.

As we waited for the lions to pass, Bill briefly checked in with the ranger on duty to care for the pride that day, and then we moved on.

"Mark, look over to your right," Bill said while pointing to a row of huts off to the side of the road. "Those huts are where the lions spend the night. Each evening they're rounded up, so they'll be in a safe place during the night."

Plus you'll know the other animals are safe from them! I thought with a half chuckle.

We continued moving forward and came to some thick hedgerows, very dense areas of foliage that were natural to the landscape and added to the scenery.

"See those hedgerows?" Bill asked.

"Yes, they're beautiful."

"Yes, they're beautiful to us, but I think that a lion must see them as the perfect hiding place. There's been many a night that the team and I have spent looking for a runaway lion hiding in those hedges after it's gotten away from the pride."

I wondered at both the dangers and excitement of such a task.

Before I could ask Bill about his hide-and-seek adventures with errant lions, my attention was commandeered at the sight of more prides of lions as we passed through Sections 3 and 4. Like the first pride I spotted, these were just as exciting. For me it's like seeing a sunset; it's never mundane.

We then arrived in Section 5, and for the nth time that day I saw something I could only have dreamt about seeing until that moment — a small herd of elephants roaming free on an island. We drove down a dirt road not meant for the public and came to a gate where a man leaning against a post was waiting for our arrival. It was Mike, the man who had called Lion Base asking for assistance.

We parked the Jeep, and Bill told me to wait in the vehicle as he was both safety-conscious and was unfamiliar with my skill set since I was new. He pointed out the dominant female, Donia, who was unusually large for an Asian pachyderm, as well as another Asian female elephant named Sabrina. He mentioned that if I ever had the chance to work with the elephants, I should be especially careful around Sabrina as she had recently put a very experienced ranger in the hospital when he got between her and a wall. Seeing the elephants this close and hearing his story, I had no problem waiting in the Jeep to observe.

Every evening the elephants were herded into a shelter for their protection overnight. This process required two people to do so safely, which is why Mike had called Lion Base for help. I watched as he gently guided the elephants into the barn by holding onto Donia's ear and letting her take the lead. Sabrina followed, and then all the other younger elephants went in with Bill bringing up the rear. The herd was secured for the night.

Over the coming weeks, every day I went to my job mindful that I was living my dream. The past two summer breaks I had worked on a thoroughbred horse farm in Ocala, Florida. Now I was learning and working with wildlife in an environment that was as nurturing to me as it was to the amazed visitors and magnificent animals in the park.

As a new employee, I did my time in the tower watching the daily scene of people and animals coming and going. This position tended to be incredibly tedious, so, to say the least, I was delighted when given opportunities to take on other responsibilities.

I was also fortunate to have found a lifelong friend in Bill, who, along with his wife Linda, kindly rented me a room for the summer. Linda also worked at Lion Country Safari with responsibilities for the petting zoo, the nursery, and the educational programs. As I was a pre-veterinary student, it was heaven for me to live and work with people who shared my love and passion for animals.

Six weeks into the job, like many other mornings, our communal home smelled of freshly brewed coffee and toast competing with the very distinct smell of the lion cub we were caring for. Over breakfast, Linda talked about the program she was going to present at the school where she was taking the lion cub to visit that day. I shared that I was looking forward to seeing my parents who were in town visiting from New York. They were planning to take me on a short vacation to the island of Nassau the next day, so I was excited.

By this time, I'd been lucky enough to be given a chance to assist Bill with some duties in the park. On this morning, we finished breakfast quickly so we could get to the park early. We were eager to see whether a waterbuck had given birth during the night. If so, that would mean walking the section she was in to find the new calf.

A waterbuck is a large antelope whose natural instinct in giving birth is to hide the calf so that predators won't find it during the daylight hours. Shortly after birth, the first milk that a waterbuck calf gets from its mother is referred to as colostrum. Browner than milk and excreted for only the first forty-eight to seventy-two hours after birth, colostrum from a healthy mother is loaded with antibodies, something a calf critically needs to fight diseases that can be fatal to them.

At Lion Country Safari, once a newborn calf was located, a physical exam and many tests were performed. One was a field blood test to ensure the newborn had absorbed the life-protecting antibodies in the colostrum. If an infant calf was located and had not been able to ingest colostrum within the first seventy-two hours, then it could be supplemented with frozen colostrum kept on hand for just such an occurrence. So it was important that we find the calf in its first few days of life to check its health status, administer its first vaccinations and medication for parasites, and ensure the newborn calf was nursing, and if not, provide the frozen colostrum substitute.

The drive to work ushered Bill and me through the perimeter of the Everglades, while on the radio the news debated the various possibilities and outcomes of the Watergate story, which was gripping the nation. Washington, DC, felt like a different world than the one I was living in.

We rode into Section 1 of the park and spotted the mother waterbuck. It was immediately obvious that she had dropped — or given birth to — the calf. It's referred to as "dropped" because with waterbucks, as is the case with most wild hoof-stock species, the mother gives birth standing up. The calf drops to the ground and stands up almost immediately, ensuring that both the mother and baby are standing as quickly as possible to be able to spot or escape predators at a moment's notice.

We knew that since the waterbuck had already calved before the sun was up, the chance of us finding the newborn on the first day in the seventy-five-acre field was very slim. The mother knew instinctively to hide the calf before the sun came up, and the calf knew not to move a muscle in its hiding place to avoid attracting the attention of predators. It usually took many people and many hours to find a new calf, especially in a field that also contained an assortment of other animals, including herds of wildebeest, black buck, ostriches, hornbills, and other assorted African plains animals, including one large Cape buffalo by the name of Ralph.

Having spotted the new mother, and knowing it would be better to search for the baby waterbuck in the evening hours, we headed into Lion Base to start the day's work. I followed my routine that morning and went to the locker room/gun room to find out what my assignment was for the day. I picked up my radio and a twelve-gauge shotgun that would ride in the gun rack in the Jeep I was assigned to. My responsibilities would include the care and feeding of animals in Section 6 and assisting the head elephant keeper as needed.

I was excited by this assignment because it meant I wasn't going to be bored stuck in a gate tower. Now I was responsible for Section 6, which came with having my own vehicle and the freedom to get work done on my own schedule, except if called upon to help the elephant keeper. It also meant that while caring for the needs of herds of giraffe, rhinoceros, gazelle, impala, kudu, one solitary hippopotamus, and a variety of birds, I would have the opportunity to watch the chimpanzees on Chimp Island, located in the middle of Section 6. The chimp troop had been involved in one of Jane Goodall's studies, and was cared for by a very experienced keeper, Terry Wolf. Watching the chimps as Terry tended to them was something I always loved to see.

"Come in, Bagel," the call came over the radio in my Jeep sometime around midmorning. My radio name was Bagel, which I'm sure had a lot to do with the fact that I was from New York and Jewish.

I answered the radio call; it was the elephant keeper, Mike. "Bagel, I need you to go out to Elephant Island in Section 5, pick up a feed pail, and bring it back up to the kitchen."

I replied, "10–4," — radio code for "understood" — and drove my Jeep over to Elephant Island.

Along the way, I passed my coworker Fred, who was taking care of a pride of lions. The magnificent patriarch of the pride was Massif, a regal 550-pound male lion. Somehow Fred had developed a relationship with Massif such that he could feed the great cat while standing on the other side of his Jeep.

I waved to Fred and moved on. Soon I parked my Jeep, headed to the gate, and unlocked it, then walked across the bridge over to Elephant Island.

In walking onto the island, I was entering Donia's realm. As the herd's matriarch, anything that happened on the island was done strictly with her blessing.

I had learned the protocol for entering the space was to approach Donia and let her smell my feet. In this way, she could tell people apart and know who was in her home. After the olfac "handshake," the next step would be to take her ear and let her walk with me to the hut that contained the food pail I had come to retrieve. This was a routine I had become familiar with.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "Lions and Tigers and Hamsters"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Mark Goldstein, DVM.
Excerpted by permission of Health Communications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Donia 3

Vignette: Close Encounters with Ralph

Chapter 2 Thoroughbreds 17

Chapter 3 Gus 27

Chapter 4 Israel 33

Ask Dr. Mark: Why Are Antibiotics Often Ineffective Against Bacterial Infections? 43

Chapter 5 George 45

Chapter 6 Frank 51

Chapter 7 Mexican Boy 59

Chapter 8 Charles and Carol 63

Ask Dr. Mark: What Drives the Costs of Veterinary Care? 71

Chapter 9 Oscar 75

Chapter 10 Francis 83

Chapter 11 Harold 91

Chapter 12 Tolerance 97

Chapter 13 Sasha 101

Chapter 14 Betty 113

Chapter 15 Gigi 123

Chapter 16 JoHarre and Babirusa 137

Ask Dr. Mark: Why Do We Have Zoological Parks and Aquariums? 145

Chapter 17 Sam and the Rhinos 151

Chapter 18 Mrs. Harpst 161

Ask Dr. Mark: Should Homeless People Have Pets? 167

Chapter 19 Samuel 171

Chapter 20 More than Adoptions 175

Chapter 21 Angel 179

Chapter 22 Katrina 195

Chapter 23 Wallis 203

Ask Dr. Mark: In These the Future of Animal Welfare? 213

Chapter 24 Ren 219

Chapter 25 My Life of Living the Bond 227

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